Duncan Jones’ Warcraft: The Beginning has been saved from flop status by its success in Russia and China and because of that has been deemed the most successful video game adaptation of all time. However, if you are going by reviews and its performance in countries like America, it is hard to see it as anything but a failure. The consensus has at best been meh and at worst been downright hateful.
Yet sitting in the cinema, it was kind of hard to see why. Perhaps several weeks after its release you enter the film with lowered expectations but underneath all the ‘we need to go to bingly bong to get the thingymajig to stop the dreaded dingly’ this is a solid film.
And I can see why people have bounced off all that complicated lore. My only connection with Blizzard’s epic world is Hearthstone so apart from the occasional name I too was confused during parts of this film. There is a lot of names, and the film exists within a language that only fans of the games are going to understand.
Where Warcraft succeeds, though, is that when you strip that all away you have a human story (or orc story) that is gripping and well told. It’s where having a subtle and potentially brilliant director like Duncan Jones pays off. In his hand, we cut through all that bullshit and focus on the characters on both sides of the battle.
Where this is most impressive is on the orcish side. In classic fantasy story-telling, orcs are barely more them beasts and their invading of the world of Azeroth would have required little to no explanation. Here, however, they are a complex society as full of complicated political ideas as the human’s one. They are invading, and there are certainly members of their society who are evil, but there are others – headed up by Durotan, who shows that Toby Kebbell is every bit the master of mo-cap that Andy Serkis is – who just want to survive.
Talking of mo-cap, it would be remiss not to point out that the special effects in this film are incredible. Early on there is a moment where the camera focuses on Durotan and the detail in his face and body is stunning. These orcs feel like they have weight and exist in the same world as everything around them.
Warcraft: The Beginning is flawed. There is no denying that. I haven’t even bothered trying to explain the plot and if you want to know you can find it elsewhere. However, it is not the horrible experience that some have made it out to be. Duncan Jones’ fingerprints shine through on this massive production and its what pulls it away from being a total failure. There is enough here to convince you that Warcraft could be a huge franchise, and I hope its success other seas is enough to give them a chance to do that.