Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell.
This review is spoiler free!
The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. (Source: IMDB)
When writing up the notes for this review I realised I had very few good points noted down which didn’t have a counterpoint to them, so if it sounds like I’m repeating myself later on then apologies!
Visually this film is pretty great, and with how much world-building there is to do, Duncan Jones nails the visual element of this. The various locations look wonderful, and the character design, particularly of the orcs, is great. Where they ran the risk of looking lumbering and ridiculous, there is great humanity and emotion to them, and very distinct looks between all the different orcs, particularly with their costumes and weapons. There’s clearly great attention to detail here and a real love for the craft behind these characters.
Where this film is at it’s best is when it most resembles the game on which it is based. The big battle scenes with multiple combatants, and plenty of violence and bloodshed will give fans a real kick, and were one of the more enjoyable elements for me, particularly as a spectacle.
Whilst visually the world-building is pretty strong, narratively it is an absolute mess. There’s so many characters and it jumps about from place to place, where one minute we see magic, and in the next minute we’re with orcs, and then with humans. There’s little time to focus on one element which means most of the characters are criminally underdeveloped, and the main story is impenetrable. The plot is a real puzzle, and one which will be incredibly frustrating to piece together for those who are not familiar with the game. It’s not enough to just make a film for the fans, you have to appeal to a wider audience these days, and this film fails to do that.
As mentioned, the battle scenes are pretty spectacular, but that’s just it, they are a spectacle and nothing more. The action scenes never manage to be more than just a spectacle because of the complete emotional detachment there is to any of the characters. Aside from Garona (Patton), and to a lesser extent, Durotan (Kebbell), no character has a strong enough arc for me to care about what is happening to them. In the action-packed climax, I should be feeling something for the main characters and caring about what happens, but the lack of character development meant I was never emotionally invested.
Despite all this, I have a faint glimmer of hope about this franchise going forward, but it is incredibly frustrating when the first film in a series feels like it doesn’t need to be good enough to stand on its own. Not only does it need to be good enough to work as a standalone film, it also needs to expertly set up this universe in order to make people excited for the next instalment, and this film fails categorically on both parts.
I saw this movie so you don’t have to. It’s never a good sign when I’m checking my watch less than an hour in, and then just willing it to be over from there. Hardcore fans of the World of Warcraft games might get a lot more out of this, but I imagine most people will feel cold and lost afterwards, just like I did. Visually it’s pretty great, but it’s just not enough to save this ultimately very flawed film.
Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a totally misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Let me know in the comments below!