Worlds collide in Warcraft: The Beginning when invading Orcs arriving from another dimension to fight humans. This film represents a harsh reminder that the worlds of games and movies simply do not blend well.
Warcraft: The Beginning follows a plot very similar to that of the original Warcraft game. The orc home world Draenor is being destroyed by fel magic so Gul’dan, an orcish warlock, unites all the clans to form the Horde and creates a portal to the world of Azeroth. Upon arrival in this new world, the orcs start to wreak havoc, raiding settlements throughout the land with ease, this of course being a problem for the humans and other mythic races that inhabit the world.
Directed by Duncan Jones, a very good director known for Moon and Source Code, Warcraft is a film that feels like a game. It brings the series back to its roots in a revised way, humans versus orcs just like it was in the very first game from the mid-90s. The movie is aesthetically beautiful, the kingdoms and castles look like something straight out of a fairy tale. The humans and orcs contrast one another extremely effectively, where the former are noble and civilised, the latter are savage and tribal. Yet both factions seem to share a common understanding in terms of honour.
Unfortunately, Warcraft’s beauty is so strong as to become over the top at times. No one can say that the movie does not follow fantasy conventions but seeing mages brightly glowing or a huge demon with spikes for shoulders and we ask ourselves whether we are watching a film or someone playing on a console. Things get so over the top at times that I could not help but laugh at the sheer ludicrousness. This element only goes on to add to the reasons for why games should never be adapted into films.
Beautiful scenery is not enough to save Warcraft from its many flaws. If only it were a painting. The plot is both predictable and unrewarding. The film takes ‘The beginning’ part of its title very literally in terms of the ending which offers a really poor conclusion all around. Because the Warcraft series is so epic in terms of its history, Jones has a lot on his plate in terms of material to cover and I fear he may well ‘choke’ so to speak before he can really explore the exciting content audiences really want to see. It feels like this film was but the first chapter of a really, really long novel.
The cast is led by Australian Vikings star Travis Fimmel who portrays Sir Anduin Lothar, a knight and the military commander of Stormwind. Paula Patton plays Garona Halforcen, a half human, half orc caught between the two factions and Toby Kebbel depicts Durotan and chieftan of the Frostwolf Clan. None of the performances stand out particularly although Lothar’s lack of footwear throughout the later portion of the film is a distinct eye opener. Of course this is just scratching the surface, the movie has so many characters and almost all of them are entirely forgettable. Given the scope of the series, if more sequels are released, new fans (and I say that term loosely) will have a tough time distinguishing one character from the next in a cast that could well rival that of Game of Thrones in terms of size.
Fantasy is one of the harder genres to portray on screen, this I believe is because we as humans have a harder time relating to the themes that are conveyed than those of others categories, like mystery or crime. The world of swords and magic is alien to us which makes fantasy a tough (though not impossible) genre for seasoned directors to tackle. Jones’s Warcraft conveys typical fantasy flags, a world changing event, the call of destiny, help from a wiseman and so on. These elements work incredibly in the games because in that realm the story is secondary to gameplay but in the film, not so much. Jones tries to get away with methods utilised in the game and it does not work, it cripples the plot into something sterile and obvious.
Overall I felt like I was watching a game rather than a movie, as a result I was sadly disappointed. Like any modern game it was aesthetically stunning and the special effects were also impeccable but what use is a game if one cannot play it? I had high hopes for Warcraft: The Beginning and the cinematic experience was a harsh slap to the face, reminding me that games and movies are a couple destined for destruction. With Assassin’s Creed due for release this coming December, my hopes are not high for a breakthrough for this trend.
What’s your take on Warcraft and games being adapted into films?