In the 22 years since Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was released, the Warcraft video game franchise has developed rich, intricate lore to accompany its expansive world. Many have spent countless hours going on unique adventures as humans or orcs (or elves or dwarves or mages etc.) and still have yet to explore every aspect of the Warcraft universe. The immersive experience of spending hundreds of hours in this virtual fantasy can rarely be emulated through another medium, let alone in two hours.
However, that doesn’t stop Duncan Jones and his film from trying.
Based on the video game phenomenon, Warcraft chronicles the events that lead to an infamous war between humans and orcs over the world of Azeroth. When the orcs’ world is no longer habitable, they travel to Azeroth seeking a new home. They do not intend on sharing it with its inhabitants.
As someone who has never played the video game, I was worried that I wouldn’t understand the film. And to someone unfamiliar with the fantasy genre, that is a concern. Thankfully, I am not that someone. Although Warcraft is incredibly bloated with information, characters and story, I was completely game to be drowned in it. Warcraft is unapologetically fantasy; if someone has reservations about the genre, none of the film’s strengths will outweigh its weaknesses.
And there are several weaknesses. The film tries to do too much. The story is underdeveloped, confusing and inexplicably simple despite the source material’s intricacies. Audiences do not spend enough time with the numerous characters, so they appear to lack depth and clear motivation. From plot points and revelations to character development and relationships, Warcraft feels rushed. It doesn’t allow audiences to digest what is happening on screen, which is pivotal in order for them to feel invested.
Given the nature of Warcraft as the (hopefully) first film of a franchise, these weaknesses are expected but not unavoidable. Instead of portraying both sides of the war, focusing on one orc or one human could have allowed for a more focused narrative. One weakness that was absolutely avoidable was the decision to make the film a prologue. Within the first few minutes, the audience is blatantly told how the film ends, which makes the film predictable and takes away necessary tension.
Nonetheless, Warcraft has one job: set up a world audiences want to return to.
It does that.
The film is breathtakingly beautiful thanks to Industrial Light & Magic’s visual effects. The world is unafraid to be colorful in a time when dark and gritty are the trend. The depiction of magic is both hazardous and enticing. Anyone who has played a mage in a video game will squeal at the sight. The orcs are visual standouts as well; at times they show more emotion than their human counterparts. Except for an uninspiring golem, the film consistently awes its audience with its imagery.
Warcraft is highly entertaining and succeeds in balancing the thrill of fantasy with the gravity of war. Due to weak writing, some emotional beats fail to make an impact. However, fans of the games may be too busy relishing Azeroth’s cinematic debut to care. This film is first and foremost for them. Not for someone trying to get their Game of Thrones fix. I walked out excited at the prospect of future installments. Warcraft may have left much to be desired in terms of characters, but the world is too rich with story and potential to be left unexplored.
Warcraft may not be perfect, but it is certainly fun.
When did that lose its value?
Warcraft was released June 10, 2016.