Warcraft: The Beginning by Legendary Pictures is ever-so-slowly releasing across the world. It made it to our shores on the 30th of May, and has so far managed to inspire some of the most wildly polarizing reviews ever known. Even aggregate sites are all over the place right now. Some place it as a 2/10, some an 8, and it's hard to find any written review that isn't loaded with hyperbole either way. So let me give it a go.
Before this review begins in earnest, I need to make one thing clear. This film isn’t Lord of the Rings, nor is it Game of Thrones. Yes, there’s a lot of high fantasy, and yes, there’s a lot of grit. But there’s also cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Cheesy lines, cheesy delivery, and cheesy names. If you can’t abide by cheese, you won’t abide by this. But if you don’t mind the corniness, you should be in for a good time, even if you’re not familiar with the source material.
To give a general outline of the plot: orcs from a dying world invade Azeroth, home of the humans. The kingdom of Stormwind must fight to defend its people while also uncovering a conspiracy from within their ranks. Meanwhile, tensions between the orcs arise as some of their number have reservations about the morality of their plans. As an outline, that’s very general, but to go into further detail I’d have to explain this character, and then that one, and what they’re doing and why, and how it leads into the next thing and the next. And thus lies one of the biggest flaws of the film. Even those who can handle their cheese may be alienated by the sheer density and pace of the story.
In just 2 hours, the film introduces us to a plethora of characters and places. It simply doesn’t have time to fully flesh all of them out. What we’re left with is pretty important parts of the plot reduced to little more than name-drops and quick references. So many characters would have hugely benefited from more screen-time. I can understand why – it would be far too easy to fall into the trap of endless exposition dumps that plagues so many films of this nature. However, 20, even 10 more minutes for the plot to slow down, take a breath and let things settle would have done so much to declutter the plot. As it stands, it can be difficult to grasp why certain characters are suddenly doing certain things. Reasons and motivations are sometimes reduced to simple barked lines of dialogue lasting less than a second. Even the characters’ names can be hard to grasp at times. For instance, Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), our “main” human character, is referred to as “Lothar” for most of the film, and then “Anduin” later on. With his full name “Anduin Lothar” never being spoken in the same breath, viewers could be forgiven for thinking his name suddenly changed partway through.
However, the film is not the disaster critics are clamouring to present it as. Where the script has failed to fully streamline and coalesce the many plot threads, it has more than made up for in characterization. Characters that were honestly pretty flat in the source material have been given a heart and soul that is easy to believe and even easier to like. On the human side, Anduin is a charismatic protagonist who quickly establishes himself as a headstrong, occasionally snarky cynic with an underlying thread of tragedy bringing weight to his character. On the orc side, Durotan (Toby Kebbell) provides most of the film’s heart. He and his mate, Draka (Anna Galvin) provide some of the film's most gut-wrenching scenes. Ben Schnetzer, Ben Foster and Paula Patton also give great performances as Khadgar, Medivh and Garona respectively. If you can forgive a few awkward lines, you’ll find lots to enjoy about the film.
Last but not least, the CGI and effects. They are fantastic. There are a couple of exceptions – the wolves look a bit incorporeal at times, and there are a few shots which don’t quite come together. But for 122 minutes out of the 123 runtime, everything looks believable at worst, spectacular at best. The magic effects are stunning, and the demonic “fel” magic in particular is gruesome. Some of the soul-sucking shenanigans that go on in this film really push the 12A rating to its absolute limit. Moreso even than the combat, which can get pretty crunchy at times. And I mean crunchy. And snappy. And stabby. Seriously though, a few particular fight scenes involving villain Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) and his fel magic are so brutal I can imagine 12-year-olds being absolutely horrified. That, or I’m just much more of a wimp than the average 12-year-old, which is a possibility I won’t rule out.
And that’s Warcraft in a nutshell. Not enough to satisfy anyone expecting the next Lord of the Rings, but more than enough to impress anyone looking for a good time. And that’s as objective as I can get because the straight truth is I’m a massive Warcraft fan, this film would have been my favourite of all time no matter what, and for me personally it was the most delightful thing imaginable and an instant 10/10.
For you people, however, I’ll settle for a solid 7/10.