Ok, first and foremost, I will begin this review by saying that I am not, and never have been a Warcraft player of any sort; meaning, I have not touched the online game, board game, card game or any Warcraft product since its inception. So, going into Duncan Jones’ third directorial feature film Warcraft, I was a complete outsider amongst an army of loyal and very aware Warcraft users. Unlike most built-in audiences, each and every person who was in attendance of the early screening, possessed none of the typical geeky, fan-boy characteristics I have come to expect from franchises such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings film franchises. So, how did I feel finally being an outsider and what exactly did the audience I attended the screening looked like?
The thing with the Warcraft universe is that everyone at some point tried it and you would never know who is a Warcraft fiend. Young, old, men, women, Warcraft is the type of obsession that could be just about for anyone. So, while I am somewhat aware of the massive universe Duncan Jones was responsible for brining to life on the big screen, I had no idea how expansive and detailed this world really is.
Upon the opening frames, seeing humans battle off against Orcs, and beginning much of the story in a fantastical world of Azeroth, I was one of few audiences members who was just along for the ride, and not for the love of the universe, but for the love of cinema. Having been late to the party with Lord of the Rings (truth of the matter is, I have never seen any of them nor have any interest to), one of the biggest complaints with many of my friends now with Middle Earth is, thanks to the massive success of HBO’s Game of Thrones, violence, sex and exponential gore is what audiences want with fantasy films. The action solely isn’t enough anymore. And while Daenerys Targaryen actress Emilia Clarke’s newest film Me Before You, a romantic drama was playing in the cinema beside mine, I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that, fantasy doesn’t always sell anymore; but sex surely does. As I can assure you, I may have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones, but you can sure as heck bet I have seen pictures on the interest of Clarke’s bodacious naked bod.
With Warcraft, the premise is simple. Orcs, lead by a sadistic leader who possesses the fel, Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu), sucks the life out of other world’s inhabitants and uses their energy to open up a portal to a new world, inhabited by human, called Azeroth. To the dismay of Durotan (Toby Kimmell) an his pregnant wife Draka (Anna Galvin), they follow along with Gul’Dan’s plans only in hope of finding a peaceful life in the new world. Once through the portal, Gul’Dan wages war against the humans who inhabit that kingdom, putting him in a direct collision course with King of Stromwind Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), and as well as his trusty and noble military commander Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel). A fierce warrior and destructive orc killer, Anduin finds himself partnered with the fumbling Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), a young and inexperienced warlock whose powers have yet to be contained. Advised by the council due to the recent threat of the orcs, Anduin and Khadgar head to Karazhan to summon the Guradian Medivh (Ben Foster) and use his wisdom and powers to help defeat the army of orcs and Gul’Dan once and for all.
Fantasy isn’t my preferred genre of cinema to watch. Being able to capture these films on the big screen is something wonderful though, especially amongst all its loyal and faithful fans. While the world of the Warcraft universe is highly new and almost unheard of to me, I can honestly say that I was very intimidated by its great reach and length, along with its history. After all, the first ever sighting of the Warcraft real-time strategy game came in 1994, when I was only a child. Imagine how much the world has grown since then? Like anything fanatical and with such a rich history, the more you know, the better. Was I a fan of the film as a whole by the time I left the theatre? Maybe not the biggest, but, does that suggest it was a bad film overall?
I believe that audience members, especially ones for this fantastical, built-in audience, is important to consider, especially given the universe’s endless possibilities. But, what is the difference between a built in universe such as Warcraft, or, say, the cinematic universe of Marvel or DC? Comic book characters that have been around decades and whose worlds mix, blend and cross-over to other universes regularly? Nothing really. So with that said, as a whole, was Warcraft an amazing fantasy experience? Absolutely not. At times, the film suffers from straining and overwhelming special effects, especially during its action sequences, its action is brute and forceful, giving audiences a bit of a spectacle overload. Where does the film succeed most? In its glory and beauty of showing off the orcs by the firelight, in the dark or marvelling at the great narrative scenes of honour and glory, especially when the camera gazes against the massive arms and shoulders of its main orc protagonist Durotan.
It is reported that many of the cast and crew that were selected for the making of this film where HUGE Warcraft fans. From Robert Kazinsky who plays Durotan’s loyal friend and second in command Orgrim Doomhammer, was reported a always caught playing Warcraft on his mobile during the filming of another famous geek Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim. As well as Bill Westenhofer, the film’s lead visual effects supervisor, who was reportedly a fan since the strategy game came out in the nineties. Yet, while watching the film, some of the performances seem laughable, or, actors seem to be cashing in on a massive pay check with potential for many sequels. Then again, being so disconnected to the fantasy genre of filming, maybe the performances are just representations of these characters other-worldlyness. Medivh, played by Ben Foster, Paula Patton’s Garona, as well as Ruth Negga, all very promising young talent, deliver their lines half-heartedly and fill the roles just for the sake of filling them.
Maybe this new fantasy world will be a massive success on the big screen, or maybe it won’t. One of the very interesting observations one may make with Jones’ newest feature is how important films become for the international market. Just like another large release this week, Now You See Me 2, a film that has a very large part filmed in China, and starring world renown Chinese actress, as well as the new Independence Day, studios aren’t just reaching for Domestic reach any more. The international market, specifically China’s, is becoming just as impactful as the domestic. May Jones’ Warcraft be the next Transformers franchise and live fruitfully from its international haul? I guess, we’ll have to wait and see.
Night Film Reviews: 6 Out of 10 Stars.
Was Warcraft the next big fantasy craze to hit the silver screen? Did it amaze, awe and inspire you craft your own world? Will it succeed internationally? Domestically? Are you a fan? Leave your crafted thoughts below!