Duncan Jones videogame adaptation looks great, but isn’t quite Shakespeare.
The world of Azeroth, populated by sword-wielding humans and a sprinkling of elves and dwarves, is invaded by an advance party of Orcs who are looking to create a portal to allow their entire population through.
Much magic, changing of loyalties, and battle ensues before a resolution – of sorts – is reached, all ready for Warcraft 2.
Few things caused my kids greater hilarity than watching their Dad’s total absence of hand-eye coordination result in Game Over for Sonic before he even met Dr Robotnik, let alone defeating the fat sod in a boss showdown.
Being permanently stranded in the Green Hill Zone meant my reluctantly accepting that I am not a gamer. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy watching videogames, though, and I’m always happy to approach a game-based movie in a positive frame of mind, especially when it is directed by Duncan Jones, the man behind the brilliant movies Moon and Source Code. Oh, and I’m a sucker for fantasy.
The first thing to say is that this film looks great. The CGI and general visual design stand right on the boundary between photorealism and unreality: this gives the movie a nudge into the fantastic which, in my view, it needs in order to enable the viewer to make that mental jump into its fantasy world.
And the real life elements – the actors, costumes, sets – integrate perfectly into the greenscreen and CGI. I simply loved the look of the movie, from start to finish.
The cast are fine, with Travis Fimmel bringing depth to likeable protagonist Anduin Lothar.
The story is functional. It provides adequate justification for the glorious visuals, but does little beyond that. There is material here which could have enabled the movie to be almost Shakespearean, but instead we are left with a script which witters on unconvincingly about Dark Forces and similar cliches.
Worse, there is little originality. Lord Of The Rings has been heavily plundered for much of what we see, but there are little bits nicked from all over the place (Moses? Really?)
I had problems with the Orcs. I liked the overall look (reminiscent of Ian Gibson’s General Luiz Cannibal in Alan Moore’s Halo Jones) and the designers have taken trouble to make them all different, but they weren’t quite different enough to be able to easily tell them apart.
There are a lot of characters in this film, and it’s important to keep track of who they are and where their (sometimes changing) loyalties lie, and I didn’t always find that easy with the Orcs. All the made-up and unfamiliar names didn’t help, either. I might have been able keep better track of the Orcs if they’d been called Alan and Trevor.
Also I found myself wondering about the sheer physical problems the Orcs’ physiology might cause – how do they manage to eat with a mouthful of enormous lower-jaw tusks?
And how might pretty, petite lady Orcs like non-CGI Paula Patton (with two tiny lower jaw tusks) have sex with one of the huge male Hulk-sized Orcs? (OK, maybe male Orcs have tiny penises, but still…).
The 3D is great. I love 3D but I’m the first to admit that it adds little to most films. It is used well in Warcraft, adding masses of depth (as opposed to objects zooming out of the screen to puncture your eyeballs) so I recommend a 3D viewing if you can catch one.
I enjoyed it, with reservations. I was always going to enjoy it unless it had been awful – and it’s not awful, far from it – but I did come out with a feeling of disappointment. It could have been much better.