Despite impressive visuals, ‘Warcraft’ loses its way
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, and Daniel Wu
“Warcraft” – Life on the Orcs’ world of Draenor seems pretty difficult. Brutal wind storms plague the rocky and arid terrain, a place that makes the setting in “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) look like a tropical paradise. Draenor is a dying planet, and the Orcs need a new place to call home. Fortunately (for them), Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) knows some horrible magic tricks, and he summons energy - by stealing the life forces from thousands of prisoners in one massive swoop - to open a cosmic portal to a beautiful, green planet called Azeroth. This is the framework of an animated movie based upon a video game with the same name, “Warcraft”.
Admittedly, I never played “Warcraft”, but I imagine that fans of the game hold an abundance of anticipation and excitement over a feature-length film experience. For me, I blindly walked into this movie. My eyesight very much appreciated the effort expended into creating incredibly intricate set designs and detailed animated characters, and the overall narrative felt straight forward, but the individual subplots were very confusing and nonsensical. Clocking in with a runtime of 2 hours 3 minutes, the film unnecessarily meanders through about a half dozen threads that appear to be edited with a meat cleaver. As an unbiased, but also uniformed, viewer, the film feels like a four-hour story ratcheted down to 123 minutes, and several pieces in this cinematic puzzle seemed blatantly missing.
For instance, Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a battle-tested knight, falls for Garona (Paula Patton), who is half-human and half-Orc. In the movie’s last act, the script implies that they have a deep connection, but it comes as a surprise to the audience, because they do not share much quality screen time. Well, I guess that they must have had an off-screen romance.
In another scene, an ambush takes place in a large canyon, but suddenly, one of the groups intended for the trap safely sits on the summit’s peak and away from the danger without any explanation. I suppose their ascent up the rocky ledge found itself on the cutting room floor, or they developed a teleportation device so cunning, not even the audience saw it. Personally, I’m betting on the former.
Now, I commend director Duncan Jones for the film’s visuals and the “Avatar”-like spectacle in IMAX 3D. The special effects team impressively created the film’s creatures, like the Orcs, and they seamlessly move like real beings throughout the picture. The Orcs, in particular, are massively intimidating. Standing approximately 8 feet tall, bulging with Hulk-like muscles and welding stone hammers to smash their enemies’ heads like helpless watermelons, Orcs terrorize their opponents like a fictional fight between UFC’s Brock Lesnar and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) from “The Big Bang Theory”.
They simply present a wildly insane physical mismatch, and individual confrontations and large-scale battles impress even the most layman of “Warcraft” viewers. Jones also features Durotan’s (Toby Kebbell) personal story, and even though this Orc is part of the Horde, he is a family man too and simply wants a better life for his wife and son on Azeroth.
On the other hand, the Orcs invade Azeroth and are bound and determined to conquer kingdoms run by humans, dwarfs and other races similar to those from “The Lord of the Rings” (2001). As previously stated, the overall narrative between Azerothians and Orcs is clear, but the actual ground-level developments are not only confusing, but repetitive as well. We endlessly shift from little-explained places like The Guardian’s (Ben Foster) Tower of Babel to Llane Wrynn’s (Dominic Cooper) castle to some random fights in woody surroundings, and this cycle repeats without much apparent thought until the eventual final encounter.
It is all a bit perplexing, but interestingly enough, after the first 15 minutes of “Warcraft”, one could walk out of the movie theatre, return to one’s seat an hour later and not really miss any advancement of the plot. In other words, attempting to analyze the choppy scenarios or just turning one’s brain on autopilot will yield the same result for the moviegoer. Yes, life on Draenor proves to be difficult, just like my first “Warcraft” experience. (1.5/4 stars)