From Super Mario Bros. to Street Fighter, from Tomb Raider to Hitman Agent 47, for one reason or another, films based on video games have never quite done well with critics or filmgoers.
In fact, their track record has been so poor, that fans had all but given up hopes of seeing a video game being adapted into a watchable film. Of course, this was until the Warcraft movie was announced, and fans begun to dare to hope again. After all, Warcraft is the property of Blizzard Entertainment, a game studio which fiercely refuses to release a video game until it is spit shined to perfection; a game studio that produces cinematic cut scenes so perfect, they are often better than many Hollywood films.
So, it comes as a shock that Warcraft is so bad. From a company that would rather permanently sink an expensive video game they were developing than release a shoddy product, it is surprising that the silver screen representation of their flagship video game, played by millions from the United States to China, doesn’t even hold up to the quality of their video game’s cut scenes.
For the lack of a better word, the visuals are just weird. One moment, the computer-generated scenes look like they belong in a cartoon, another they seem out of a live action film, and another they appear to be from a video game, and still another they resemble a live painting. It is all quite jarring, especially when human characters are standing alongside their Orc counterparts, where the humans seem to be from another dimension all together. It’s all a bit confused, and it takes you out of the film regularly.
If the visuals are uneven at best, the narrative is just awful. Even though the film had so much original lore to draw from, the poor writing makes the film feel like Lord of the Rings meets a Dungeons & Dragons cartoon crammed forcefully into a single film.
When Warcraft begins, we learn that the home of the Orcs (who look like the children of Hulk and a rhinoceros) is not going to last much longer. Here, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), a power-hungry warlock, takes the Orc horde through a portal to the land of Azeroth. To fuel this magic, Gul’dan not only murders a captive of another species, but the humans he comes across in Azeroth.
The Orcs begin to capture humans to satiate Gul’dan’s hunger for more power, but some begin to grow resentful of his evil ways. Meanwhile, some of the heroic humans decide to put their differences aside and join forces with the Orc rebels.
This is pretty much the derivative story of Warcraft. The rest of the film spends its time setting up a sequel, and it’s a pity that the screenwriters didn’t pay as much attention to the one-dimensional characterisation, for none of the film’s characters moved me enough to worry about their fate. Of course, it didn’t help that the performances were so wooden.
Warcraft is directed by Duncan Jones, who in Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011) directed two excellent films. Here, it seems like he was in way over his head.