Warcraft: The Beginning, directed by Duncan Jones, is a film that offers up some enjoyable action and a world that is crying out to be explored more – mainly because of how interesting of a taste it gives us is – but unfortunately this is a film that has been butchered in the editing room, and most of it has been left on the cutting room floor. This means much of the film is overlooked or missing and that results in a film that feels half-baked. But let’s dive a little deeper and see where the film goes wrong… and where it gets somethings right.
The story in Warcraft sees the realm known as Azeroth come under attack from a brutal horde of Orcs, who are fleeing their dying realm and who plan to rid this new one of its people and make it theirs. However there are heroes on both sides as, Durotan – played by Toby Kebbell – realises that the method for gaining a new home is actually what killed his previous one, and so he seeks to put his people back on the right path. Meanwhile, Anduin Lothar – played by Travis Fimmel – struggles to protect his people and his realm from the approaching Orcs. He however is thwarted by a traitor who seeks ultimate power, and King Llane Wrynn – played by Dominic Cooper – who is blind to the threat that freely walk within the walls of his kingdom. Both sides have their struggles and both must find a way to save their people.
The first thing I’ll drop into this review is that I did at one time play the game ‘World of Warcraft’ (of which this film is based upon) but that was a long time ago and I don’t really remember much of the experience. So take that as you will.
But onto the review of the film, and what is clear to see throughout is how much is missing from the film. Even to the untrained eye, it is easy to see that this film was cut to pieces in the editing room. Characters are as basic as can be, yet the film presents a hint of people with much bigger roles. The story jumps around from one poorly developed plot to another, while also struggling to reign in a story and make it cohesive, but once again there is a hint of something much more grandiose and epic in there somewhere.
Constantly the film would present things; whether it was a connection between two characters – who a few scenes ago where desperate to cut each other down – or an important plot point that just appears from nowhere but the scene that set it up and explained it didn’t make the cut. This is a film that just screams of an editing process that was brutal and misjudged. Now whether that was the studio or the director, who knows? But whoever was responsible, more than harmed what was a promising film. When I look back on ‘Warcraft’, it is a film that just lost too much cohesion to make some of the most important elements sync-up.
Diving a little deeper, I want to focus on the characters of the film and dissect what little is left of them. I don’t think a single character is given sufficient development (from main to secondary). Relationships between characters feel non-existent – the film telegraphs the basics of how people know one another – I never felt chemistry or a meaningful bond between any of them; people who are supposed to have known one another for years feel like strangers. It’s even worse for characters who have just met one another. The bonds that form between characters that have just met are ludicrously rushed and confusing. In one scene they barely know one another and a few scenes later they act as if they couldn’t do anything without them. It once again highlights how much was cut out of the end product.
Such a lack of development for the characters and their relationships means that, as an audience member, it is impossible to form any sort of attachment to the films protagonists. The loss of a loved one or the tragic killing of someone important to the greater battle is neutered by the fact that it is pretty much impossible to invest yourself in anyone or anything. There were a few moments where something tragic would happen, but I had no reason to care; the film didn’t make me care. I instead just sat there, completely detached from it all.
Another element that may turn people away from fully investing, is the heavy use of CGI. Quite a number of characters are completely CGI, which as always, makes it difficult to connect with them. Recently ‘Planet of the Apes’ has done a good job of overcoming this barrier, but they were able to succeed because they took the time to sufficiently develop characters like ‘Caesar’, and make you care for them. Warcraft isn’t able to do that because; as I’ve pointed out, there are large and very important elements missing from the film. But it also has so much to do, thus the time that is afforded to the characters is limited.
And of course there is also the problem that real life actors and CGI characters are never seamlessly going to blend with one another; and so your brain will continuously have those realisation moments where it knows one is real and the other isn’t. The film does a really good job of making the CGI characters look real when it is only them in a scene, but the moment a real life actor enters, it all falls apart.
But I do want to commend the film on its visual effects because they are impressive. The level of detail in the visual effects is something to see. I was blown away the first time I saw one of the Orc characters on-screen, because it came extremely close to looking real. So despite the disconnect between the real and computer generated, the film deserves recognition for what are some close to perfect CGI effects. What also deserves a little love is the brilliant work by the films art department. The armour/outfits that the actors wear look brilliantly crafted, and so do the props. It’s also refreshing to see such large and beautifully detailed sets; especially in a film that utilises so much CGI. There is a level of detail in the film that shines through and taking the time to look at it all is a must. Because even though a lot of the story and character elements of the film are broken, the artistry of how the film looks is still very much there to be admired.
Speaking of the story, I feel I need to explore it a little. Just like the characters in the film, the story is all over the place. Plot points appear from nowhere and elements that would have benefited from some set-up are instead thrust upon you, leaving you confused. While the structure of the story is basic, the building blocks that make it understandable in this foreign world are missing. From important characters with mystical powers to locations and objects that are in a deep need of explaining; Warcraft somehow takes something reasonably simple and makes it a jumbled mess. I don’t usually ask for it (mainly because I find it to be a hindrance) but some exposition would have really been appreciated and in the case of this film needed.
I want to finish on the action in Warcraft: which much to my surprise was good. I was expecting some messy battles scenes where nothing was follow-able or exciting. That ended up not being the case, as the film offered up some exciting and well executed fight scenes. You really get a sense of the power and the strength of the Orcs, especially when you see them crush a man with a hammer or kill some soldiers by throwing a horse at them. And on the other end it is interesting to see a man dispatch an Orc (who towers over him) by using skill and precision. I like that the film didn’t make it a completely one-sided affair and actually had battles that offered up something exciting.
I went into ‘Warcraft: The Beginning’ with low expectations and unfortunately came out of it having them not be changed. The most disappointing thing is that there is a nugget of something promising in it all. Had this film not being so butchered in the final edit and instead had the breathing room to grow and expand its world, I think the film could have been a success. Most interestingly is the fact that the ending of the film sets up a sequel that I would actually be really interested to see. But sadly, in the end, this film stumbled and fell into being another videogame to film adaption that fails.
I won’t be recommending Warcraft: The Beginning. This is a film with promise but it doesn’t do enough to deserve your time at the cinema. Maybe if there’s a directors it will be worth your time in the future, but right now it is certainly not.
What are your thoughts on Warcraft: The Beginning, or this review? Feel free to leave them in the comments down below. If you’d like to keep up-to-date on my other ramblings, feel free to follow this blog directly or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you for taking the time to read my review and have a great week.