Warcraft is a huge, expansive, deep, mysterious and well-designed fantasy universe where, exactly like with Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, you constantly get the feeling that there is a deeper meaning behind every side character, every beautiful vista, and every name that's uttered from every characters' lips. There is so much lore, so many events and timelines, that by now the Warcraft universe is among the strongest of its kind. Therefore, it's obvious that a movie should be made based on the fiction, but wait just hold on a minute ...
Movie adaptions of games have a notoriously bad reputation among fans and critics. There is, for some inscrutable reason, a loose connection every time one of the most popular game series reaches the big screen, and it has happened to all kinds of titles all the way from Resident Evil to Silent Hill. They just can't make the transition, or something gets lost in translation, even though these two types of media so obviously should go together quite harmoniously. So the Warcraft movie is right now standing on the bodies of thousands of fellow movie adaptions, and doesn't only have to handle the whole universe with care, but also needs to live up to the expectation that there finally is a film adaptation of a game that does not stink ... to put it frankly.
Therefore, it is with great pleasure that we can bury the majority of concerns already, because Warcraft doesn't suck. If that was all you needed to know, then you can safely travel on out into the ether now. Warcraft is exciting, colourful, epic, messy and sometimes a little too ambitious for its own good, but we'll get to all of that later.
The film revolves around the plot from the very first game in which the Orcs rumble into the world of Azeroth to find a home after the terrible Fel-magic has shattered their country. Their resources have run out, and now they must seek new pastures. However, there is a problem, because Azeroth is already densely populated, and the Orcs are not really happy with sharing. Furthermore the Orcs are led by the sorcerer Gul'dan who wants to use the Fel-energy to make the clans even more powerful. The stage is set for a conflict of epic proportions, and in this core conflict there is room for both mages, elves, strange golems and dwarfs. So far so good.
Most important of all is that Warcraft respects its source material, and that is very crucial when you are dealing with as expansive a universe as Warcraft. Every sword, every armour, and every impressive panoramic shot of one of the universe's iconic environments are created with an incredible passion for everything that is Warcraft, but it is here that we unfortunately arrive at our main complaint about the movie - it's animations. There isn't really anything wrong with them as such, and the film industry has indeed come a long way. Actually we don't even know how they could have done it differently, but we just know that they didn't please our eyes. It doesn't really look like the orcs really belong in the scenes, instead if seems as if they are floating around. Simply put, it looks artificial. Unfortunately, this goes much further than just being a distraction, it also tends to spoil the action sequences a bit. This doesn't apply to all of them at all, but sometimes it doesn't really look like the humans and the orcs are even fighting in the same dimension, and of course, in reality, they aren't.
However, in time you get used to the orcs' animated and almost caricatured expressions, and instead you're slowly persuaded by the film's fine pace and the focus on the iconic characters. It is in fact quite well performed across the board, although you will probably appreciate the actors' efforts better if you can accept the incredibly theatrical dialogue. It is Lord of the Rings, it is Star Wars, it is Gladiator, and the film doesn't try to be anything else - the sense of epic is what has been sought here, and for the most part, it's what has been achieved. Travis Fimmel as the leader of men, Lothar, and Toby Kebell as the orc Durotan impress, and bring gravitas and depth to their respective sides of the conflict. The best, however, is Ben Foster, who plays the mysterious sorcerer Medivh. This is his absolute best role, and he steals every scene he's in. Some publications have already put out negative reviews of the film where the main problem is the characters' lack of depth. Of course, we are dealing with stereotypes here, but they are certainly not superficial, and several are allowed to develop quite a bit during the events portrayed in the film.
However, not everyone delivers a satisfactory performance, and in particular Paula Patton's Garona simply doesn't manage to bite hard enough to leave an impression, and she is, after all, a pretty important character for the plot. Additionally we have Dominic Cooper's King Llane who seems to have been designed a bit lazily, and Cooper himself seems slightly bored by it all.
That being said, the plot revolving around a world being too small for two territorial races, and the internal strife the orcs are having in trying to maintain their warlike nature is quite interesting, and because of the overall depth of the universe you never get bored. There is of course a big battle in the end, but due to the lack of physical connection between the orcs and the humans, the level of grandeur required of this scene is never really achieved.
One thing you, however, won't ever get tired of in Warcraft, is just looking at the film. If you ignore the animations of the Orcs, the movie is one of the prettiest we've seen in a while. This is mainly because Warcraft dares to be colourful. A lot of movies today are always just so brown and grey, and it's rare to see a fantasy movie where the explosions are red, forests are green, and the rivers are like a swimming pool. Is it realistic? No, of course not, but that's not what Warcraft is all about and this shot of colour gives the film a necessary burst of energy. Director Duncan Jones has managed to assemble some single, strong threads and connect them so it makes sense, and although some aspects don't impress as much as we wanted, Warcraft's greatest triumph is the fact that it doesn't suck.
Precisely because the film is not garbage, it goes against the grain in terms of awful movie adaptions of famous game universes, and that is pretty much all that we could have hoped for. That the movie doesn't always deliver on everything is of course deplorable, but ultimately that isn't what was most important for us. The most important thing is that Blizzard, Duncan Jones and a talented cast have managed to deliver a solid adaptation of a magnificent universe that will work for both fans and potential fans alike. There are problems with the animations, and not all of the performances impress, but all in all Warcraft is standing just fine on top of the remains of its peers. We hope that Jones will be allowed more visits to this universe in the future, as there's potential here for greatness.