Movie Review: Warcraft (2016)

You cannot be a gamer without understanding Warcraft. It revolutionized the real-time strategy genre and had repeat success with online roleplaying. Before World of Warcraft, it was just Orks and humans until the sequels added Night Elves, Dwarves, and the Undead. Because the wealth of lore expanded a once small universe, I find it difficult to comprehend what Warcraft (2016) will do with the material. It is a classic adaptation dilemma: What do you include to maintain the spirit of the source while making the finished product a complete work? However it goes, I hope Warcraft (2016) is at least watchable.

When conquest brings the Orks into the realm of Azeroth, Durotan, played by Toby Kebbell, feels the need to carve out a home for his family and people. Lothar, played by Travis Fimmel, is then tasked with bringing an end to the invasion.

My knowledge or Warcraft is cursory to say the least. I played Warcraft 3 and then some of WoW before it got boring, but I was not interested in the lore. That did not help my viewing experience because I had absolutely no clue what was what, and that is not a good sign when you need to reach an audience outside of fans. I cannot even judge it as a proper adaptation because I don’t know if they are going off the first game or something original.

All I could infer was characters, culture, and things that did not matter in the end. I did not know the extent of the Alliance, the history of the Orks or Azeroth, and I did not understand the deal with the mages because none of it was explained. However, it is only partly the fault of the movie because there are obvious cuts in a lot of places. I think Warcraft (2016) was much longer and editing reduced it to a more manageable length. At the same time, most of the exposition was erased, leaving nonfans lost. Had nothing been cut, an extended runtime would be a fair exchange for actually understanding the world.

The film works best from an aesthetic standpoint. It is the videogame adaptation equivalent of the Marvel movies in how it transitions visuals of the source material to the screen. The armor is colorful and totally impractical, the weapons utterly beautiful, and the architecture could not be more true to the games. Most of the time I was ogling at all the props and set elements.

The best part was the Orks thanks to flawless CG work. They are tall and broad with the iconic tusks and huge braids of hair. Though I have a disdain for CG effects, this instance is justified because the effects fit the style. Like 300, Warcraft (2016) has a visual style reliant on bright colors and overdesign. The Orks epitomize this aesthetic proudly, regardless of how they are made on screen.

The performances were all right with the cast at least trying. I wished someone went nuts like Jeremy Irons in Dungeons & Dragons. Fimmel (the only good part about Vikings) brought a lot of charisma while Kebbell did much the same in the context of a guy trying to keep his family safe in the midst of war. They really stood out from a cast that was just wanted to get through it with their dignity. Ben Foster did not care all that much, Dominic Cooper was decent, and Paula Patton made a great Ork.

As a movie, Warcraft (2016) is best described as a fans only affair. The lore side of it was lost on me because I had no clue what was happening with all the things that are never explained. It also does not help that maybe an hour’s worth of content was removed in post. Furthermore, the aesthetic and performances are not worth the price of admission. If you are a fan, you already made up your mind. If not, rent it.

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