Warcraft: The Beginning is the highly anticipated film adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s global phenomenon World of Warcraft. The initial reviewers weren’t favourable but I feel these were overly critical of the film. It certainly has a few problems, but ultimately, Warcraft: The Beginning is a great summer blockbuster with plenty of positives to engage its audience with.
The realm of Azeroth finds itself standing on the brink of war as its civilization faces a battle-hungry race of invaders. These Orc warriors are fleeing from their dying planet to colonize another. A portal is conjured up by one of the Orc elders to connect the two worlds, and he uses this to send in an initial fleet of their best and most savage fighters.
The king of Azeroth (Dominic Cooper) and his most trusted soldier (and brother-in-law) Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) lead the fight against the Orcs. From opposing sides, two heroes are set to collide and this is where Warcraft really succeeds. It gives you the conflict from both sides of the coin; focusing on two soldiers and their plights to save their families, their people and their homes.
The cast are all very watchable with Vikings star Travis Fimmel leading the line well. Paula Patton gives the film a strong female presence and does well as Garona. Her story is integral to the future of this franchise and her performance shoulders that responsibility very well. Ben Foster clearly has fun as the mysterious mage Medivh, while the always reliable Dominic Cooper does well as Llane Wrynn. Toby Kebbell, Rob Kazinsky and Daniel Wu’s motion capture work in Warcraft is also very impressive but it’s Ben Schnetzer that steals the film as the young Khadgar.
Director Duncan Jones scored two great sci-fi hits with his first two films; Moon and Source Code. This leap onto a much bigger canvas surprised quite a few and his willingness to undertake such a massive project should be commended. It’s a tricky proposition bringing heart and soul to any effects-heavy movie and for the most part, Jones does very well in visualising this epic. He makes you fully immersed into the action and there are some breathtaking stunts on-show.
Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt’s screenplay (based on Chris Metzen’s story and characters) is one that has plenty of highs and a few lows. The narrative is fine and the characterisation is worthy of your attention and engages the viewer, even though a lot of it feels familiar from the likes of Avatar and Lord of the Rings. There is one character who (when introduced) instantly makes you question his motives, but apart from that, there are some nice surprises to be found, especially when it comes to the fate of certain characters.
This Warcraft story is a very big narrative to contain into just one movie and at times the enormity of the project overwhelms the flow of the film. This was clearly made with sequels firmly in-mind and if the poor initial reception translates to poor box-office I feel the full potential of this franchise won’t have been achieved on the big screen, which would be a real shame.
The Blu-ray features a wealth of additional extras including a Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel and the following featurettes..
Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood Motion Comic: Take an interactive journey through the official Warcraft graphic novel with a never-before-seen motion comic that brings the story of the film’s young heroes – Prince Llane, Captain Lothar and Guardian Medivh – to life in this unique experience.
The World of Warcraft on Film: The World of Warcraft is much more than just a game – it is a cultural phenomenon as documented in this comprehensive multi-part feature focused on bringing the unique environs of Warcraft to film:
The World of Talent: Fans can learn more about the casts’ reactions to being a part of the Warcraft film, how they prepared for their role and the challenges they encountered during filming.
The World of VFX: The Warcraft universe wouldn’t exist without the tireless efforts of the VFX crew. Follow along with the filmmakers as they tell the story of how Warcraft came to life through VFX.
Outfitting a World: Learn how the filmmakers worked with WETA workshop, Blizzard and acclaimed costume designer Mayes Rubeo to create the weaponry and armour that must be familiar and otherworldly at the same time, all while creating a unique aesthetic for the film.
The World of MOCAP: An overview of the creation of the Orcs and other digital characters from inception all the way through to the final execution. Through extensive footage of the actors in their MOCAP suits and live in-camera renderings during production, the audience will see the incredible effort that went into creating the Orcs.
The World of Stunts: Though much of Warcraft was created through extensive VFX, the fight scenes and stunts had to be very real. In this featurette, fans can learn more about the extensive fight choreography and stunt work that fueled the film’s action from beginning to end.
Madame Tussauds’ Featurette: Featurette on the making of the Warcraft wax figures by Madame Tussauds.
ILM: Behind the Magic of Warcraft : See some of the groundbreaking facial capture technology utilised by Industrial Lights & Magic to convey the emotion and depth of the visually impressive Orc characters in the film.
The Fandom of Warcraft : Delve into the history and breadth of the fandom behind the game and film, as well as the way it has influenced pop culture.
Warcraft Teaser: An early teaser which premiered at San Diego Comic-Con in 2013.
Warcraft: The Beginning looks great and if you are happy to get swept away by this fantastical tale then there’s a lot to enjoy here. Speaking as a reviewer who has no history with the game, I found the film to be very enjoyable, with lots of great spectacle and decent characters. At times this does feel like you’re watching one giant cut-scene to a game but there’s undeniable heart and soul in this story. I’m sure die-hard Warcraft fans will love it and if the box-office allows them a second outing, I feel the sequel could be even better.
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin, Callum Keith Rennie Director: Duncan Jones Writer: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt (screenplay), Chris Metzen (story and characters) Released By: Universal Certificate: 12 Duration: 130 mins Release Date: 10th October 2016