Tomorrow, Warcraft the movie hits Swiss cinemas. We’ve seen it so you don’t have to. Seriously, you’re not missing out unless you’re in it for one thing.
Gul’dan (voiced by Daniel Wu) is not a good person. Being the leader of an alien race of orcs, he has expertly managed to screw up an entire planet, kill most of its inhabitants. Why? Because he’s the wielder of green magic – seriously, that’s what they call it in the movie – and that uses life force as fuel. Instead of doing the sensible thing and either use the magic responsibly and with some kind of sustainable concept, Gul’dan is happier with shouting things about The Horde to no-one in particular. He screams, does some magic while killing some people off to fuel the magic and then everyone cheers. The planet’s dead, dude. Do something.
But Gul’dan isn’t a complete idiot, so he’s found some kind of portal to another world – Azeroth. There, humans, dwarves and a host of other races have been living in peace in an intact ecosystem. The conclusion: The Orcs will emigrate to Azeroth, whether or not the Azerothians (is that what they’re called) want it. But they’re in a bit of luck. Because Gul’dan has destroyed his planet so much, he doesn’t have enough fuel to send the entire horde through the gigantic portal. So he sends advance troops to Azeroth and goes himself, leaving most of his Horde behind.
So with a troop of extremely strong, extremely sophisticated and combat-ready orcs on the loose, King Llane (Dominic Cooper) and his most trusted ally Lothar (Travis Fimmel) have a lot of work on their hand. They have to fight back.
Plot? Who needs it?
The big problem with this movie becomes apparent quickly. There is no plot. Even what I wrote up there is sort of cobbled together by what I think was going on. Because while as shallow as movies get, Warcraftdoesn’t even supply the minimum required for a plot. If we play in video game terms, it would be one round of a real time strategy game as played by a person who has never played the game before and makes all the wrong decisions in the quickest succession possible.
This extends to the point where characters are only named in the end credits. Ruth Negga’s character Lady Taria is not named throughout the entire movie, but she’s made out to be important. And her fate is shared by many characters. There’s one scene in the movie that I’ll abstract for you so that it’s spoiler free. It’s a scene shared between Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and a character that’s been badgering around the background in the movie. He’s never done anything of worth until that moment. But he saves a character from certain death. Durotan finds out shakes his fellow orc’s hand and says “Thank you, Bloodhammer McOrcington”.
It’s very obvious that this scene is pure fanservice. I’m guessing that Bloodhammer is a character from the games, someone players care about. But there wasn’t any space in the movie’s plot to have good ol’ Bloodhammer in the film so they just crammed him in. The obvious goal of the scene is to have fans of his go “Hell yeah, Bloodhammer McOrcington” and do a fistpump, because their hero just did an awesome thing. The problem is that Bloodhammer doesn’t come up again in this movie. Or before. He’s just in it for that one scene.
A lot of scenes feel that they’re just there to please the fans of the game who understand the undoubtedly rich lore of the World of Warcraft. But casual viewers will feel as if they’re watching a bunch of cut-scenes of a game with amazing graphics.
Amazing CGI as a Detriment
The best parts of this movie, the only part that makes this movie worth watching, are undoubtedly the special effects. Durotan looks amazing and it’s obvious that the people animating him were really in love with the character. Even his chest hair is animated. This extends to other characters as well. Garona (Paula Patton) has a number of scratches on her throat from where she was chained up. These scratches heal over the course of the movie. They get visibly smaller much like each individual chest hair on Durotan’s chest feels like actual hair. On the level of CGI alone, the movie is quite the accomplishment.
A close second are the few costumes that were used in the movie. Sure, the shoulder pads of the humans’ armour are almost comically large, but they work well to make humans feel more imposing when fighting against the vastly bigger and stronger orcs. And with Travis Fimmel, the producers got one of the few actors on the film who manages to pull off a warrior of a vaguely medieval world without a hitch. Too bad he’s critically underused and doesn’t really get a character arc or any kind of development beyond the most shallow of tropes.
That’s where the extremely awesome effects come in and become something that doesn’t impress anymore, but merely serve to mask the complete lack of anything below the shiny surface. Which is a damn shame.
Warcraft had the potential to be good. But the complete lack of anything below the shiny surface makes this a movie you might as well skip.