Director: Duncan Jones
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Daniel Wu
Run Time: 123 mins
‘Warcraft’ (or alternatively known as ‘Warcraft: The Beginning’) is the long-awaited adaptation of the immensely popular ‘World of Warcraft’ video games. Unfortunately in the film industry, video game adaptations have never received much praise however this film is directed by Duncan Jones who made ‘Moon’ and ‘Source Code’, both brilliant films and he is also a big fan of the game. Armed with a healthy $160 million budget, this is Jones’ first big budget film however with both of his previous film, they’ve always looked visually astute so the budget should just be a tool to make his film look even better. Although on paper, the cast that is assembled may not be particularly impressive and lacks significant star-power, these kinds of films are more reliant on the impressive battle sequences and the visuals so this shouldn’t be too big of a problem at least if the acting is sound. So is ‘Warcraft’ the film to redefine the video game adaptation genre or is it another failure to add to an ever-growing list?
‘Warcraft’ is a mixed bag – it is without doubt, flawed and a little incoherent at times but one cannot doubt the amount of effort and love that Jones has for this material. The film is generally fairly entertaining but unusually, there is often a lot of thought here too and this is exactly why Jones is the man for the job. Unfortunately, the film has garnered a very negative reaction from critics and fans are rather mixed but with the money it has made so far in China, a sequel should hopefully be on the cards if the fans call for it.
The cast that Jones has rounded up for this film may not look particularly impressive on paper but for the purpose of the film, it just about works. Both Travis Fimmel and Paula Patton are sound as the leads and Dominic Cooper pretty much replicates his previous performances here as the ruler of the kingdom. The two standouts however are Ben Foster who really seems to be having good fun playing the mysterious and sinister sorcerer, Medivh and Toby Kebbell who looks to be following in Andy Serkis’ footsteps with his outstanding motion capture as the lead Orc protagonist, Durotan. What makes this film shine is its very interesting characters of which some are fairly well-developed but the film is a little too short and does plough through some material too quickly.
The story is a little incoherent at times but one can clearly see that Jones is trying to juggle a lot of material here in order to impress both the fans and audience. The film begins at a rollicking pace at the beginning constantly chopping and changing between different worlds and kingdoms but it all just about makes sense and sets itself up nicely for a sequel. Jones’ direction is what really saves this film – there are many confidently embedded moments where we really care for the characters and are able to judge the conflict between characters morally something which the games apparently don’t do. I also admire Jones for having the audacity to kill off characters – in this world, no one is safe and the tables can turn very quickly and it’s game over. Jones has clearly spent a lot of time working on this and despite the film not always hitting the correct notes, one has to admire him for taking on such a hard task. As mentioned, the film is a little short in places (Jones reportedly had to cut it down from 160 minutes to just over 2 hours) and could do with perhaps another 20 minutes developing its interesting characters more and taking its time with the fast-paced beginning.
Strangely, despite having a big $160 million budget, the film does visually look a little stodgy in places and does not compare to similar fantasy films such as ‘Lord of the Rings’ in a visual regard. If this film does get a sequel and the budget gets slashed, this will only be to the film’s detriment as it’s not enough here. It’s a little worrying to try and work out where the money has been spent as it hasn’t been compensated for anything else and the cast wouldn’t have cost that much. Simon Duggan’s cinematography is fairly assured here but the battle sequences are rather choppy and short – his work on ‘300: Rise of an Empire’, a similar film to this visually, is much better. Ramin Djawadi’s score is outstanding and the film has many memorable themes and I really hope they keep him on if they make a sequel.
So the long wait for ‘Warcraft’ has mostly paid off and Duncan Jones manages to pull this off with middling results. His creative influence is ever-present in this film and the film does manage to have some heart to it. The cast are satisfactory with Ben Foster and Toby Kebbell being the standouts. It’s a real shame that this film has got such the negative reception it has but with the film making a ton of money in China, it should just about be able to be profitable and hopefully enough to warrant a sequel. However if that goes ahead, it’s imperative Jones stays as director and that the film’s budget does not get slashed – the result would most likely be in keeping with what the critics are saying about this film if that were to be the case. But if you’re on the fence with this film, I’d definitely recommend going and seeing it on the biggest screen you can as there is a lot to like here.