REVIEW: Warcraft (2016)

Warcraft Poster
U.S. Theatrical Release Poster – Universal Pictures

The following is a review of Warcraft (also known as Warcraft: The Beginning), a Duncan Jones film.

I’m somewhat familiar with Warcraft. I think I’ve only played 5 to 10 minutes of World of Warcraft – definitely not more than that – but I did play Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos a lot. But while I’m somewhat familiar with the franchise, I don’t remember the story at all. To be perfectly honest with you, I haven’t been a fan of the trailers for the film, but I have a lot of faith in the film’s talented director, Duncan Jones. 

Now, while I’m only somewhat familiar with the franchise, I do love the genre. Fantasy films can be epic, they can be delightful, and they can be masterpieces. But they can also underwhelm you a lot. The Hobbit films, for example, aren’t worthy of being in the same cinematic franchise as the wonderful The Lord of the Rings-trilogy. But Warcraft, as a franchise, certainly isn’t as highly regarded as the Tolkien-stories or the first Peter Jackson The Lord of the Rings-trilogy.

I expected to like Warcraft a little bit more than I liked the Hobbit-films, and I definitely expected to like it much more than all other film adaptations of video games that have been made prior to 2016. I desperately wanted to be able to say that this is a great film, but, unfortunately, I can’t say that in this review. So while the film will probably make a lot of money around the world, I do think that the film should have been better.

Warcraft, for the majority of the film, takes place in the world of Azeroth. On another world, known as Draenor, a horde of orcs are planning to find a new home. An orc warlock named Gul’dan (played by Daniel Wu) has opened a portal to another world, and the orcs are about to invade Azeroth.

The orc Durotan (played by Toby Kebbell), the chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, is also starting a family with his wife Draka (played by Anna Galvin). Durotan has witnessed the power of Gul’dan firsthand, and fears what it may bring to the Orc horde and their new land, which the humans, led by Anduin Lothar (played by Travis Fimmel) and King Llane (played by Dominic Cooper) won’t let them take easily.

One of the things I was the most worried about, when I was getting ready to watch the film, was how well the CGI-orcs would work. I was worried about it maybe looking like nothing more than an expensive cutscene in a video game. I was also worried that it was going to be a giant CGI-fest that felt unappealing. But while there were some CGI-shots that didn’t look well, for the most part the orc characters looked great, actually.

Some might even say that Durotan is the very best part of the film. Kebbell definitely gives the best performance in the film. Kebbell had already been impressive as Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, so I wasn’t worried about him doing a great job. But Kebbell and Durotan are the main highlights of the film for me.

And the world of Warcraft is pretty intriguing, and more visually appealing than I expected it to be. You can definitely see how a trilogy or a cinematic universe could take place in a world like this one. However, and this is where i have to start being negative, it is a rather confusing film.

I’m sure fans of the games will love seeing these characters on the big screen, but people are who are only somewhat familiar, or completely unfamiliar, with the franchise will probably be lost at times. It wasn’t always clear to me what the characters were speaking of. I had an idea of what the ‘fel’ magic was doing, but not really what other magic was being used. I didn’t have a good idea of what Kirin Tor was, or if Karazhan was more or less the same place or not. It wasn’t explained very well.

Other than Toby Kebbell, and maybe Ruth Negga, the performances are pretty unimpressive. There were some important scenes in Stormwind that I thought were dull. Ben Foster was wasted, and possibly miscast, by playing a character named Medivh. And the forced romance between Lothar and a character named Garona (played by Paula Patton) felt pretty forced. Another thing that seems to happen often in world-building blockbusters is that there are too many things going on. There are just too many subplots in this film, and not all of them work well.

I really wanted to love this film. I think Duncan Jones is a really talented director, and I’m sure he’s pleased a lot of huge Warcraft-fans. But I thought this very ambitious film was dull at times, confusing, and somewhat underwhelming. It might be the best film adaptation of a video game that we’ve seen so far, but that isn’t saying much, sadly.

5.9 out of 10

– I’m Jeffrey Rex

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