Video game movies are a strange genre. While video games are growing at a huge rate, it’s still not quite at the cultural impact that movies hold. Video game movies need to tread a line that will appeal to mainstream audiences (because lord knows base fans won’t be enough to make back money) but remain faithful to the source in order to appease the fan base.
And here’s where Warcraft lies, a bit of a jumbled mess of a film, but far from the complete disaster many critics have been predicting and touting. Director and writer Duncan Jones has to balance a lot, and there’s so much lore in the Warcraft universe that two hours barely skims the surface, and it shows. Scenes jump from one to another without much depth, there’s clichéd dialogue and it really feels like a good 30-40 minutes have been hacked out of the movie in order to appeal to wider audiences who won’t sit through a 3 hour epic. Which is a real shame because with additional dialogue, scene exploration and character depth we would’ve seen the first truly, genuinely good video game movie. Instead we get something that’s just shy of ok.With a mass amount of fan appeal connected to the Orcs, it’s clear Jones and co spend a good amount of time humanising (for lack of a better word) the chieftains of the movie, with Toby Kebell playing Durotan with a surprising amount of depth. In fact, there is a good chance that walking into this movie an audience will connect more with the Orcs than the humans, which is pure irony on another level.
If there’s one thing the film gets right, it’s the sheer spectacle. The FX heavy fights look great for the most part, and the mix of combat between the two forces and the background elements of magic really makes the scenery pop and turns the brawls into pure pulpy fun. The FX crew really let loose during these fun action beats that establish both armies and mages as formidable foes. Unfortunately there’s little human elements supporting the action. Characters who aren’t established properly die, plot twists happen that will cause yawning rather than shock and outside of some neat easter eggs connected to the games, nothing really makes the film come alive. It makes the action fun on a surface level, but ultimately hollow.
The main problem is that there is clearly a good 3 hour film in here, but trimmed down to just over 2 it feels incredibly rushed and hollow. If there will be a sequel (and they’re certainly are building a franchise out of this), let it have a bit more room to breathe and develop. As it stands, Warcraft is possibly one of the better video game movies out there (sorry, Mortal Kombat is still king), but it lacks much else.