By Jack Dignan
The Angry Birds movie wasn't a fantastic film, but it was the start of a trend. It was a step in the right direction towards making good video game movies, and now, not too long after Angry Birds, Duncan Jones has stepped up to create a live action adaptation of the Warcraft video game series. Again, Warcraft is not perfect, and I will explain why shortly, but it shows that Hollywood is trying to make video game movies work, and since 2016 is two for two so far, I am even more excited for Assassin's Creed than I ever was before.
Warcraft follows two stories. The first is of an orc named Durotan (Tobey Kebbell), who just became a father and is a strong warrior and leader amongst his people. The second story is of a human warrior named Auduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), who is more dedicated to protecting his kingdom than he is to being a father. The orc world is dying, and so they create a portal to the peaceful world of Azeroth, led by King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), with the intention of starting a war and taking control. Durotan soon begins to see that the orc's actions may not be right, and his opinion leads to the adventure that is Warcraft.
Since a great deal of the people seeing this movie aren't familiar with the video game series that this film is based off of, Duncan Jones (who rewrote a script by Charles Leavitt) had his work cut out for him. He had to familiarise people with the lore of this extravagant universe, introduce the many characters that we are to follow and create an entertaining story out of it, all done in a two hour runtime. It does lead to some of the storytelling feeling slightly jumbled, especially when 40 minutes of the movie was apparently cut out, but Jones had a difficult task and I do think that, for the most part, he succeeded.
Visually, he has crafted a masterpiece. The visual effects in this movie are mind-blowing, especially that of the orc characters. The characters, which were acted out using motion capture, are flawless in design. Right from the first shot we see of Durotan, the effort put into creating these characters and environments already pays off. The level of detail and design put into it is simply breathtaking, and every time the orcs were on screen, I was constantly in awe. There was never a moment where I wasn't impressed.
As the film follows two different, but interconnecting stories, I can't help but compare them. Nearly every scene about the orc story had me glued to the screen. It was a fascinating, exciting and well executed tale that, for the most part, wasn't even in the original script, but was instead added in by Jones. I am very thankful for this as the story of the humans, which was the sole story in the earlier drafts, isn't nearly as interesting. In fact, the human story is rather hit and miss, some scenes thoroughly entertaining, while other scenes a clichéd, nonsensical bore.
While all the motion capture performances were excellent, especially that of Tobey Kebbell and Daniel Wu, the other performances are a mixed bag. Ben Foster feels extremely forced, while Ben Schnetzer occasionally falls flat. Paula Patton, however, is excellent. Her character is layered and motivated, and the performance is brilliant. Kebbell still manages to steal the show, but Patton isn't too far behind, either.
To sum up, Warcraft's storyline is a fairly mixed bag, trying to incorporate so many different things that it does feel a little bloated, but granted, the task of creating a Warcraft movie is rather difficult, and Duncan Jones does a brilliant job at both writing and directing this visual masterpiece.