Let’s start this review by looking at the resume of one of sci-fi’s best kept secret director, Duncan Jones. On paper, he would’ve been a great director to head this project. His debut sci-fi movie, Moon, with Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, is one of my all-time favorite indie gems, and racked up a huge number of awards, from BAFTAs to a Hugo award. The concept was so existential yet marked in scientific realism. His follow up film, Source Code, was less received but still enjoyable and liked by many fans and critics. The concept was also really unique, taking an action-packed dramatic take on Groundhog’s Day. Many of Jones movies were inspired by his father, the late and great (and my personal favorite musician of the olden days of rock) David Bowie. Jones is also a head over heels fanatic of the World of Warcraft games and was ecstatic when he was approached to helm the Warcraft film, boasting that “Here was a unique opportunity to take a game that I knew well and loved and try to craft something that would invite an audience to see what all the fuss was about. I wanted to give people a sense of why so many people play and care about the game.”
However, when it was time to transition from indie to a full blown summer blockbuster, it appears Jones’ vision for the movie might’ve gotten corrupted by the Fel.
So where did Jones manage to go wrong with Warcraft? Well, to start off, the pacing of this movie is terrible. Whether or not you know the lore of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, this movie flies around fast enough to make your head spin, jumping from Draenor to Stormwind back and forth without any really solid pacing or transitions. Next, his decision to create a cast of B-list actors may have backfired, with terrible acting popping up more times than not. The acting feels very scripted and bland, with no really personality to the characters themselves. At least on the orc side, the voiceovers have a bit of flavor to them leading to coexist with the character’s personalities. Occasionally a spark of passion would come out from one of the actors or actresses and in a couple instances, gave some life to the scene. Also, just a side note for future directors, casting actors who’ve worked together from a recent smash hit may not be such a good idea. Casting Dominic Cooper as King Llane and Ruth Negga as Lady Taria made me feel like I was watching an episode of Preacher with different characters.
On the good side, the story follows the timeline of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, the first RTS from Blizzard, very well. While watching it, I ended up a couple times saying to myself “Oh yeah, I remember that!” Unfortunately for Warcraft, the story is so large that in Jones’ attempt to cram all the background lore in, we end up with a movie that relies on lore, yet takes no time to stop and explain it. The movie’s sequel-baiting ending ended up leaving me feeling disappointed with the intense build up that the movie was presenting, especially if a sequel doesn’t follow. If Warcraft wanted to keep the ending as a way to hook viewers into the next movie, I would’ve let the pacing slow down and break the first movie up into two just for the sole purpose of being able to explore the rich story that the original RTS brings. While the story of the original RTS is the focus point of this movie, its transition to big screen falls flat in an attempt to fit all the lore.
However, this movie SERIOUSLY comes through with the CGI. Going into the movie, I thought that the CGI mixed with the human element was going to be one of my least favorite parts about the movie, especially after viewing the trailer online. The trailer showed a hodgepodge of human and CGI interaction and made me feel like it was too easy to spot the CGI versus non-CGI. When it came to the final product, someone seriously put in the time and effort to make this look truly wonderful and give it a rich fantasy vibe to it without creating CGI that’s harsh on the eyes. The colors of Azeroth pop and sparkle with life while Draenor looks like its supposed to, bleak and lifeless. The orcs look surprisingly realistic and fit alongside the humans, and the interaction between them in fight scenes is really well designed. Humans look like they’re fighting real orcs rather than a piece of CGI. The mythical creatures and magical spells look genuine and the way the environments of Azeroth and Draenor feel and look authentic to the lore.
Like previously stated, this movie is a blast for Warcraft fans, but I can see why the movie has been panned by critics with its poor pacing and timing. However, for Blizzard fanatics, this movie is a treatsince they’ll notice the addition of Illadin Stormrage, the Doomhammer, baby Thrall, the Murloc in the river, and that cheeky little addition of Hearthstone’s Polymorph spell casted by Khadgar, saying “It only works on the simple minded.”
Ironically enough, this movie only works on the fans of the Warcraft lore, and the average moviegoer will more than likely be disappointed as Jones’ transition from indie darling to blockbuster titan was too fast, and it may have swallowed him up in the end. I would not say this is the video game movie to end the streak of bad video game movies, although it is a very small step in the right direction.
Gamepadd Review Score: