Warcraft: Big Swords and Bigger Orcs

Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

Seven Murlocs out of 10

“World of Warcraft” is one of the most influential video games to have ever been released. Beyond the fact that it maintained millions of players for years, its raw cultural impact has only a few equals amongst other games. It dominated its genre for a decade after it released, and has influenced a countless number of people. Consequently, a “Warcraft” film would have massive expectations and pressure on it, which is the major reason it’s taken nearly a decade for one to finally be made.

Considering the habit of videogame movies towards mediocrity, the question on most people’s minds upon its release is “Is it bad?” My answer to that is a solid no, but in my next breath I’d tell you that it’s not great either. “Warcraft” has a lot of good stuff in it for both casual viewers and hardcore “World of Warcraft” fans, but the film has some glaring issues that really just sabotage it.

The largest issue with “Warcraft” is its pacing. It simply tries to do too much in too little time, and everything in it ends up suffering as a consequence. There are a lot of opportunities for great character arcs, but they just don’t take the time to get you invested in any of the characters in those arcs. A betrayal means nothing when you don’t know the betrayer, a romance feels unnatural if it doesn’t have time to grow, and the tragedy of a war between two races means nothing to an audience if you only spend 20 minutes actually building it. One of the main characters just heads off to a magical city in the sky that was only alluded to once in passing and after it’s served as a plot device it just disappears in from the plot. That’s the kind of thing that should be a major set piece in a film, but instead it just serves to demonstrate how cluttered “Warcraft” was. And it’s really unfortunate because two or three of the story arcs on their own could have made films with the potential to be really good. Hopefully we’ll get a director’s cut that makes for a more well-developed film, but as it stands “Warcraft” is just poorly paced.

“Warcraft” does however do a lot of things right. It looks great, between sweeping vistas and violent battlefields, and the orcs are handled incredibly well. They look and move great, lumbering like the hulking behemoths they are. When in combat they fight with the presence and raw brute strength they should, crushing ironclad knights with a single swing of an oversized weapon. This also helps out with the standout performance of Toby Kebbell as the orc Durotan. The opening shot of his face really sets the stage for the film, demonstrating the depth of character being applied to the orcs. On top of that you have a lot of fan service, done in a manner that doesn’t at all detract from the experience of casual viewers. If nothing else, it is a fun film to watch.

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7