So far this year, we've already seen two video-game adaptations in Ratchet & Clank and Angry Birds. Both weren't great and the latest adaption stepping up to try and break the curse of vide-game movies being bad is Duncan Jones' Warcraft: The Beginning and here's my review of it.

It's no secret that films based on video-games have a bad track record. For whatever mysterious reason, Hollywood just hasn't managed to get the formula right with these films - despite many attempts at trying to master it. This year alone we've already seem 2 video-game movies and have Assassin's Creed set to release at the end of the year so, for some reason, the industry aren't giving up yet. The latest filmmaker to try his hand at breaking the curse and giving us our first good video-games adaptation is Duncan Jones, with Warcraft (a game that Jones himself is a big fan of too). However, despite all the promise and potential of Warcraft, it is sadly not the film to buck the trend. In fact, it's probably the most far off from doing so from all of this year's video-game movies so far. This film is, quite simply, a disaster.

Our new fantastical world here is Azeroth, a peaceful human civilisation. However, this is threatened when a portal is opened and orcs charge in and disrupt the aforementioned equilibrium, when their world becomes uninhabitable. So begins a war between humans and orcs as King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmell) and wizard Medivh (Ben Foster) join forces with the heroic orc Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and Garona (Paula Patton) - a half human/half orc - to stop the impending attack and bring peace to both races. The premise seems simple enough and Duncan Jones' love for the source material - the smash-hit Blizzard video-game World of Warcraft - should make for a project lauded with love and craft, creating a new fantasy franchise to rival the likes of The Lord of the Rings. The problem with Warcraft, however, is just how convoluted and one-dimensional it all is, to the extent that this promising endeavour falls flat and is nothing more than yet another misfire for the video-game adaptation genre.

The premise tries to juggle so many different characters, various subplots with the main narrative, all whilst cramming in lots of fan-service and attempting to win over moviegoers who have never played the games before and remain tight, cohesive and solid in the process. Unfortunately, the script falls flat and this comes off as a very messy, tedious endeavour and even Jones' directing and passion for the game can't make sense of this mess and save the day. Some brief exposition at the start of the picture quickly gives us a whistle-stop tour of the history behind the horde and the alliance, establishing both sides and, whilst Jones does a good job of blurring the lines behind good and evil, it's to the film's detriment as we have no character(s) to root for or invest in. It also doesn't help that there's so many being crammed in here, with no individual protagonists established and really focused on. For a very character driven film, it overcomplicates everything and doesn't exactly do a good job at fleshing these characters out and getting the audience to empathise with anyone - all the characters are so one-dimensional, bland and poorly realised.
In most cases, it tends to be the writing that lets the characters down but, here, the performances aren't exactly great either - with a couple of exceptions - and don't do much to even somewhat add to our investment in these characters. Paula Patton gives a solid performance but, again, her character isn't given much so there's little for her to do and Toby Kebbell is also good, as our leading orc. Now, in a film about humans versus orcs, we should naturally be siding with the former so it's a testament to how poorly written the characters are when the two most likable characters are orcs - and even they weren't exactly all that charismatic or likable. Ben Foster was frustratingly annoying as the film's wizard and felt disposable to the premise, as did Dominic Cooper - an actor who is very talented; just watch the recent Preacher and you'll see he's exceptional actor, just not in Warcraft.

If there's one positive thing that can be said about Warcraft, it's that the visuals were pretty good for the most part. The motion-capture was good and most of the CG fared well too. The action sequences were also directed well and they were competent to watch, again they were visually solid. However, the action was few and far between and without much meaning when we had no one to root for either so it was hard to properly invest into the action. Besides, some well-directed action can't do much to save a film; neither can impressive visuals, especially when some of the CG towards the finale was pretty awful and unpolished too - as if it belonged in a video-game.

Both of Jones' first two films, Moon and Source Code, are great so there was a lot of anticipation behind Warcraft and seeing what the promising new director would bring to the table this time around. But, the story is way too overcomplicated and convoluted; the characters are so one-dimensional and unlikable; the pacing is so painstakingly slow and tedious; the visuals are good to begin with but this soon becomes a bloated, CG-heavy mess and the direction of it all was disappointing. The potential seemed like it was there and that this could be the video-game movie to save all video-game movies but with all the wrong ingredients - from poor script to poor casting - even Jones couldn't save what was, inevitably, a recipe for disaster.

VERDICT:
Utterly disappointing to say the least, Warcraft: The Beginning is a messy, convoluted and painstakingly tedious disaster of a film. The Beginning? More like the end.



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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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