Film: “Warcraft”; Director: Duncan Jones; Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Callum Keith Rennie; Rating: ***
“Warcraft” is a fantasy, medieval-ish, sci-fi action drama. Though crafted for its video game fans, who are familiar with the Warcraft universe, the film begins in a straightforward manner, probably for the uninitiated.
It sets the tone of the conflict to follow: A war between a human soldier and an orc warrior with a voiceover which insinuates that the true enemy lies beyond this clash.
Then in quick succession, the narrative jumps from one location to another, introducing characters from the Warcraft universe. These verge on becoming an overload of information for those who are not familiar with Warcraft lore, but nevertheless it leads you the heart of the conflict which is complicated yet interesting.
As the story goes, Draenor, the home of the Orcs is dying. Gul’dan, the green-skinned leader of the Orcs, who wields a magic called Fel, promises his tribe Horde a new, lush world of Azeroth. But owing to Gul’dan’s evil attitude, there is discord between the Orcs, lead by Durotan, the chieftain of the Frostwolf clan.
On the other hand, the humans realise that they are attacked and that the Hordes would soon come and settle in their land. How they negotiate their peace with the help of Garona a half-human half-orc slave and Khadgar a young lad who has learnt black-magic, forms the crux of the tale.
The plot is not out of the ordinary. But it is the characters that enhance the viewing experience. Orc protagonist Durotan is a delightful balance of brutally vicious and honourable. As an orc war-chief, he speaks meaningfully and acts with a courtesy that belies his beefy appearance. The orcs may seem brutish, but they still respect and stick to their traditions. As a result, the film’s portrayal of the orcs is not only faithful to the lore, but surprisingly produces characters who feel much more relatable and likeable than the human compatriots they share scenes with.
The humans in “Warcraft” are not as interesting as the orcs. With too many of them and with no back story to boot, the script only convolutes their presence. Some of them jump in only to disappear quickly, teleporting away and serving little purpose other than to move the plot ahead.
Half-orc Garona has extremely weak motivation. It is a shame that the film reaches for such faithful portrayals of the Warcraft universe’s characters, only to have their existence feel stiff or boring in the overarching story. It’s hard to care about the plight of the humans when the orc war-chief is trying to save his clan, his newborn son, and has to face the exploitation of his own people at the hands of a corrupt leader.
Apart from the orcs and humans, other races also make cameo appearances in the film.
Visually, the film is brilliant. The production design is interesting and the action sequences are beautifully choreographed. The computer generated images, which include motion-stop animation and special effects, are absolutely gorgeous. But unfortunately these visuals don’t match the precisions of the “Hobbit” trilogy, “Harry Potter” series or that of the “Lord of the Rings”.
Ramin Djawadi’s score and Wylie Stateman’s sound design are noteworthy.
Overall, “Warcraft” does not match real-life expectations, but would definitely appeal to its fans.