Warcraft: Film Review
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Toby Kebbell, Daniel Wu
Director: Duncan Jones
If Warcraft ever had an obstacle to over come, it's set out right at the start - a way in for those non familiar to the genre.
While the games and novels have been massive for years, the idea of a CGI fantasy helmed pic is a hard sell to non-fans (even ones like us blessed with the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit series) and unfortunately Duncan Jones' flick will do little to convince those who don't know their orcs from their wizards to sign up.
Half the problem lies in an info dump at the start which is confusing, exposition heavy and tries to create a breathing world that you can embrace right away. But it is muddled and drops so much that the rest of the plot somehow manages to be flimsy in its wake.
Loosely, Warcraft is about a horde of orcs invading Azeroth, a kingdom of humans and another world through a portal because their's is dying.
However, with one of the Orc chiefs Durotan (a mo-capped Kebbell, the unsung star of the piece) unsure of his magician Orc leader's choices and with betrayals aplenty, the fight may not be as straightforward as expected...
With too many action and bloodless fight sequences that are both brash and noisy, as well as difficult to care about, WARCRAFT's cod fantasy and slightly ropy dialogue makes this FX fest something of a drudge.
It's a shame as the visuals are reasonably impressive on an IMAX setting, with castles and kingdoms looking as good as anything Peter Jackson has ever crafted, and giving the lands a sense of being.
Equally, the first close up of troubled Orc Durotan bristles with sharp contours of skin and detail popping out and feeling realistic, rather than a rote CGI creation.
But it's the human elements and story which unfortunately don't shine here.
Blessed with too little character and a rushed execution, Warcraft barely finds space to breathe or time to invest in the emotional journeys.
Be it Paula Patton's out of place female Orc slave being set up as a potential love interest, Travis Fimmel's supposedly broken warrior, Dominic Cooper's fey king or Ben Foster's scenery chewing and mumbling Guardian, these are once over lightly protagonists that do little to sell their oh-so-familiar story arcs.
It's a shame because the conflicted Orc chieftain, as well as a warlord unwilling to embrace the archaic honour code to subjugate their own are interesting threads worthy of growth. But they wither on the CGI vine, unloved and left out in favour of the old fantasy deus ex machina, magic.
Plus emotional moments which should fuel the plot's momentum and deepen the character engagement feel rushed and less than effective in the final third.
The fact Warcraft will satiate large swathes of its core game fans (of which there are billions who've invested countless amounts of time in the World of Warcraft second world) is not necessarily a good thing.
The fact the story is frustratingly inconclusive and a desperate grab for new franchise is yet another slap in the face after 2 hours of soulless CGI drudgery that revels in nothing more than sound and fury.
Ultimately, Warcraft is neither magical nor engrossing as a saga, or the first part thereof: it's a formulaic fantasy film that's neither fantastic nor thrilling, and is dangerously close to an over-long, unexciting game of Dungeons and Dragons.