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Warcraft
Genre Fantasy
 
Review:

Warcraft started as a strategy game by a gaming company called Blizzard, which required you to create settlements and explore the unknown surrounding territory. Humans were pitted against Orcs in a race to become the strongest and only civilisation, using precious resources in order to build a town, manufacture armaments and expand your dynasty and fortify your army. Originally, the god-view kept your troops fairly anonymous and the enjoyment came in the strategy and progress, immersing yourself in the world of Azeroth and playing with either orcs or humans. Nowadays, World of Warcraft has personalised an on-the-ground adventure.

The film isn't all that different, allowing us to identify with characters in both camps. The peaceful realm of Azeroth is the battleground as a race of warrior orcs leave their dying homeland through a portal to enter a face-off with the humans, which could mean the end of either civilisation. While based on the original, we're introduced to other races, who will probably become more involved as the series continues to shape into World of Warcraft.

Moon and Source Code director, Duncan Jones, was brought in to adapt the video game and has been faithful in bringing it to life. The borderline cartoon style has carried over, making you think that an animated version may have been the way to go. Although, based on the amount of CGI, Warcraft is just about as close to animation as a live-action film can get. Through detailed sets and character design, he's been able to merge the two races quite seamlessly into one action-adventure. The opening close-up of orc chieftain, Durotan, is so detailed that you can pick up pockmarks, pores and follicles – an important moment in establishing the reality of the orcs.

Jones seesaws us between the two races as individual stories and themes relating to family, culture and home emerge. It's not as intricate as a Game of Thrones episode, but you imagine he took some inspiration in presenting a fairly unbiased vantage point for each faction. Within each tribe, the subplots swirl as characters slowly come to the forefront of the story. However, there isn't enough exposition or back story, making their emotional journeys seem insubstantial against the circumstances.

Unfortunately, most of the performances are rather flimsy and unable to flesh out the spaces in-between. Travis Fimmel looks the part as a steely-eyed defender of the realm, but comes off like a mixture between Christopher Lambert and Viggo Mortensen. Paula Patton is fierce and beautiful, even as orc-human Garona, echoing Zoe Saldana as Neytiri... but distracts with her wardrobe and make up, which makes her look like she's the only one into cosplay. Ben Schnetzer is likable but hesitant as the apprentice Khadga, Ben Foster helps to steady the drama as the "Gandalf" and guardian, Medivh, while Dominic Cooper's performance seems uninspired as the King, Llane Wyrnn. Ironically, the pick of the performances goes to the most manufactured, that of orc warrior Durotan played by Toby Kebbell.

Just when you think they're about to get deeper, we cut to another scene, keeping the pacing fleet-footed, protecting the performances and focusing on the main attraction, the visuals. Add an uneasy tone, out-of-place comic moments and some unintentional comedy and you've got an off-balance quest that continually verges on cheesy. Warcraft is far from cinematic greatness, but as an over-the-top fantasy adventure and spectacle it succeeds in being entertaining.

Reeling back to the fact this is a video game adaptation, it'll probably appease fans of the game. It doesn't have the epic majesty and depth you'd want from a fantasy action-adventure, but we've already got Lord of the Rings, and Warcraft is dazzling and entertaining enough to hold your attention through the highs and lows. You may not buy into the clunky characters, cheesy dialogue or flimsy human performances but the visual effects and battle sequences are so mesmerising that for fans, it almost doesn't matter.

The bottom line: Fun


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