Review: Warcraft film is a game effort but not great

Toby Kebbell at Durotan
Toby Kebbell at Durotan

Matt Adcock reviews Warcraft: The Beginning (12A)

Welcome to Azeroth, a peaceful realm that has a big problem – the kingdom stands on the brink of war as its fair citizens face being invaded by a fearsome race of bloodthirsty orcs. No, this isn’t a stealth fantasy Brexit campaign, this is Warcraft: The Beginning, the big screen adaptation of the hugely popular videogame.

First things first, Warcraft: The Beginning isn’t based on World of Warcraft, the huge online multiplayer nerd-em-up but rather mostly focusses on Blizzard’s first Warcraft game (Orcs & Humans) which helped shape the video game genre called RTS - ‘real time strategy’ - where opposing players command virtual armies in battle against each other or a computer-controlled enemy. I know this because as I was an avid fan of the game on PC back in 1994, much to my wife’s disdain.

Video games have mostly not faired well when given the cinema treatment. Here the very credible Duncan ‘Moon’ Jones steps up to the challenge as director and whilst Warcraft: The Beginning won’t be for everyone, it is certainly a decent effort.

The plot is an origins story – the epic tale of the first war between humans and orcs. The orcs, led by fierce and noble Chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan Durotan (Toby ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Kebbell) must leave their world as it is dying. With Azeroth their refugee destination of choice and not much in the way of negotiation skills other than ‘kill’, this is bad news for the humans, dwarves, elves and other peaceful fantasy types.

But the humans aren’t weak, they have armies and the brave Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis ‘Vikings’ Fimmel), the Lion of Azeroth, the last true descendant of the ancient Arathi bloodline and knight champion to boot.

Warcraft: The Beginning looks absolutely incredible. You can feel the ten years of geeky love that has been poured into creating the world and the inhabitants, backed up by seriously cool CGI and practical effects work deliver a treat for your eyes. The orcs are marvelous creations who make The Lord of the Rings efforts look like pantomime bit players. The battles are furious and suitably exciting. But not all is so good.

The dialogue is as expected of high fantasy cliché tripe, fine once you acclimatize, but what is less forgivable is the acting. Ben Foster steals the show as the magic wielding Medivh, whilst everyone else seems to be in generic cliché mode.

Not a complete dud, fantasy fans should certainly check out this new beast on the block. Just don’t be expecting a big screen Game of Thrones.