Warcraft: The Beginning

Not a well-reviewed film. I ended up watching it with some Warcraft fans and their enthusiasm rubbed off on me. Duncan Jones, who won fame with Moon and my respect with Source Code, sticks within the parameters established by Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. If anything, he is too faithful to the source material, packing in lots of lore which would confuse the uninitiated.

My experience of gaming makes me think the form is most effective at constructing brilliant alternative words. Warcraft III, the only game in the franchise I’ve played, has that in spades. But it also managed to string together an involving plot (that jumps four times in perspective) and some interesting character transitions. Indeed the effect of the game is to introduce you to different warring races and suggest that while not all ethically equal, each group has its own goals and justifications, which complicates a simple reading of good (human) against evil (orc).

The film copies all that across, producing a noble orc within a genocidal warband and a corrupt human within a peaceful kingdom. One of the issues is that the human’s turn to the dark side is never explained (it is in the games, one of the fans assured me). There are only hints of an interesting antihero before the demon takes over.

The rest is boilerplate Saturday morning adventure, and it’s about as effective as any of the Hobbit films, and certainly more enjoyable for having some of the murk replaced with shiny CGI plate-mail and barbarian muscle, and having proper wizards that cast proper fireballs. It didn’t make as much money as expected, but I for one would like to see Duncan Jones have a shot at making a sequel.

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