“Cry havoc and let slip the orcs of war!” seems like a fitting bit of paraphrasing to describe director/writer Duncan Jones’ adaptation of Warcaft, the first entry in Blizzard Entertainment’s long running classic video game franchise. The film is often haphazard and a bit clumsy, especially in a particularly frantic and breathless opening half. It’s also about as subtle as a CGI Hulk-by-way-of-Burning-Man-attendee’s oversized meat tenderizer to the skull, with many characters being more a personified collection of cool scenes than actual fully realized people. But with all of that being said, I still enjoyed it. Zug zug.
Embracing the source material’s often absurdly colorful and gauche aesthetic with gleeful abandon, there’s an enviable sense of devil be damned filmmaking at play here. Franchise newcomers will either just roll with the punches of the extreme fantasy visuals and storytelling – boasting everything from gryphon-flying knights to weirdly coloured elves and giant clay golems – or be thoroughly put off by its in-your-face stylings. I have a feeling there won’t be much of a middle-ground on this one (Nick walked out of the same screening seriously disliking it), as what Jones and his co-writer Charles Leavitt have constructed here is very much a video game movie in every sense of the word.
The Warcraft video game lore is an epic tome, honed from nearly twenty years of games and extraneous content. And while Warcraft is only touching on the tale of the first video game, it still feels like it’s trying to tell too much story in the opening chapters of its 2-hour running time. Audiences are whipped between ever increasingly fantastical locations and characters with almost no time given to truly expand on any of them, as the movie often misconstrues the presentation of another piece of eye-popping digital architecture with a superimposed title card announcing the location’s name as actual world building.
As a result – and even more fitting with my previous description – it possesses all the character/narrative complexity and subtlety of most actual video games, with events mainly happening just to push impressively garbed characters into imaginatively designed places that allow them to do things in the visually coolest manner possible. But damn are those things cool.