Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
If you have not had the opportunity to watch Moon or Source Code, stop reading and watch them immediately. Still here? Then you already know what an incredible talent Writer/Director Duncan Jones is and are excited to see whatever the son of the late David Bowie cooks up next. I never imagined it would be Warcraft, an adaptation of a once immensely popular PC game series. And having only a passing knowledge of the series, I was skeptical to say the least.
Seeking a new world to conquer, the orcish horde emerge from a dark portal into Azeroth, a land of men, mages and mythical winged creatures. They wish to colonize the new land and capture the humans. But the human alliance will not go down without a fight, and thus, begin preparing for war.
Do not let this simple plot synopsis fool you – there is a lot going on within Warcraft, and it might take a few moments to wrap your head around all of it. The Film starts with an innocuous 1-on-1 human versus orc battle scene, before inexplicably dissolving to the horde invading Azeroth. There is very little explanation that occurs up to those initial sequences, and from there, the Film moves at a chaotic pace that only really slows down as it enters the third act. Where other movies would take some time introducing characters and conflicts, Warcraft dives right in expecting the audience to either have prior knowledge of the game or have the patience to figure out what is happening and how all of the players factor into the greater story – not to mention navigating through all of the hopeful franchise set-ups.
While the storyline is questionable, I can readily admit that Warcraft surpassed all of my admittedly low expectations. The look of the Film in the trailers never gave me reason to pause – but when it is blown up on an IMAX 3D screen, it looks simply extraordinary. Jones has always been a visual storyteller, and his work here is exquisite. If anyone had any doubts as to how accurately he would interpret the world of Warcraft, they can rest assured that he did a fantastic job. The minute details on the orcs, wizards and all the other non-humans populating this Film are astounding, making other CGI-heavy Films look archaic. Each character looks completely different than the next, and the level of detail is astounding. I just wish some of the makeup was a little better. Yes, it looks incredible on the absolutely stunning Paula Patton. But a last act transformation leaves one character’s makeup somehow looking worse than the home made makeup for the original Evil Dead.
With the look of the Film taking centre stage, it should surprise no one that there are no stand outs amongst the cast. Toby Kebbel and Daniel Wu do some impressive motion capture work as orcs, while Dominic Cooper and Ben Schnetzer (of TIFF favourite Pride) do well as two of the Film’s prominent humans. Ben Foster’s wizard Medivh goes sadly underdeveloped, but lead Travis Fimmel (who plays the lead on the TV series Vikings) suffers even worse under comically inane dialogue and very little charisma. Patton fares the best of everyone, really diving into her character with an emotional ferocity that goes completely unmatched.
What Warcraft lacks in a great story, it more than makes up for in its incredible visuals. Jones has done very well concocting this would-be franchise starter, and does his very best not to let down any of the fans. Even general audiences will be astounded just watching the Film in action. And any franchise Film that takes the risk of killing off significant characters is more than worth a watch in my book.
Universal Pictures Canada release WARCRAFT Friday, June 10, 2016.