warcraft 2016

Warcraft [2016]: Arguably one of the densest and popular videogames of all-time, the World of Warcraft takes a leap onto the big screen for the first time since its release in 1994. With over 20 years to develop and mature, the universe of Warcraft – Azeroth – has grown exponentially in size both geographically and lore-based; to this day, World of Warcraft has one of the thickest, fascinating and most intricately detailed lores I have ever seen. Therefore director Duncan Jones had a tremendous undertaking to stay true to fans, appeal to new audiences and also create a well-crafted storyline to reflect the density of Warcraft. In so many ways, he succeeds. But in so many other ways, he fails.

“Fear the might of Stormwind.” First off, the visual effects in this film are jaw-dropping. Seriously gorgeous. During the opening sequence, there is a medium-close up of Durotan – our Orc protagonist – where the audience are treated to a ridiculously detailed motion capture of his face – pores, wrinkles, and sweat droplets included. This sheer quality surprised and amazed me as I wasn’t expecting such a high production value for a videogame-based movie. It didn’t even finish there. Many establishing, panning shots of well-known locations (for enthusiasts) such as Stormwind, Elwynn Forest, and Khaz Modan are stunningly beautiful and act as a service for the fans. However, a large problem is raised from the vastness of Azeroth. Confusion – the characters irritatingly jump back and forth from locations as if no time was wasted causing a blur between them making you say; “Where the hell are they?!”  

Lothar and Garona’s Excellent Adventure. The threat of Orc army catapults our hero – Anduin Lothar – into his own questline along with newcomer Garona. Starting off as a mysterious investigation, I would feel more satisfied if we solely followed these characters without dipping into magic or a cut back to our enemy – therefore maintaining the enigma codes. With these characters however, we indulge into yet again more production costs for props effectively conveying the quality and quantity of various armors and weaponry. Even rooms we visit once for a short period of time are elaborate and convoluted whilst reflecting the talent of the production team. For this alone, the movie became much more enjoyable because the endless array of fantastically designed items stayed true to the games.

Heroes of Warcraft. The binary opposites for the film were Orcs vs Humans – both having different outlooks for the plot and advancing them in separate ways. We switched between them regularly so audiences could decide who to root for which is one of the main positives for the film. By doing this, Jones can introduce nifty references to many videogame characters whether cameos or larger effective roles. A Hearthstone favorite – Warlock Gul’dan – was introduced to new audiences with a ruthless attitude and devastating powers an instant villain into the franchise. Guardian Medivh was also thrown into the mix as “Protector of the Realm” whose powers are vaguely defined with little character development but is, again, enjoyable for long-term fans of the videogames.

“Quick, pull up a chair!” – Hearthstone Barkeep.  As said earlier, a 20-year-old franchise has had many questlines per character so identifying a single plot would be a challenge. Especially since it had to be straightforward for new viewers and enjoyable for solid fans. For this alone, I empathize with Duncan Jones. Such a responsibility can cause more than a headache. At the beginning of the film, there is a precise end goal and the foundations are set for each act. Unfortunately, the entire story falls flat during the middle act as too many characters and plot arcs are introduced. The weak storytelling traces back to the producers clearly trying to scavenge more revenue from future installments because the middle simply feels like a set-up. A confusing one. On the other hand, the final act firmly delivers a satisfying conclusion to ‘this’ story arc but is shunted by the poorly executed attempts at founding further ‘side quests’.

A must see for die-hard World of Warcraft fans. But possibly too daunting and complex for regular cinema-goers.