‘Warcraft’

'Warcraft'

ALMOST ALL OF my admittedly little knowledge of World of Warcraft comes from the South Park episode “Make Love, Not Warcraft”, in which Cartman and his two-dimensional retinue get fat and disgusting in their attempts to kill an online griefer. I appreciate this unflattering portrayal of a dizzyingly successful gaming franchise is hardly fair, but as much as I tried to shake the image of Cartman shitting in a paper bag from my mind, I approached Duncan Jones’s film adaptation with it swirling around my skull. I suppose it is quite memorable.

The film opens with two loved-up orcs: the braided chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and his pregnant wife Draka (Anna Galvin), the both of them lying on the bed in an orc hut that aimed for shabby chic and ended up merely shabby. Outside, hundreds of their fellow orcs cheer like the Tory backbench as the bearded, hooded, hunch-backed warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) reveals his plan to travel through a magic portal to Earth-expy Azeroth and kill everything in sight. They are, after all, orcs. Durotan, who in orc terms is something like a Greenpeace volunteer, has reservations about all this mindless species annihilation.


On idyllic Azeroth, where the birds sing, the children play and all races live in harmony, a runaway wizard named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) warns the utterly uncharismatic King Llane (Dominic Cooper) and his brother-in-law, the army commander Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), that he’s detected some bad juju in the Azerothian air. He’s right of course, and soon enough the orc ‘war band’ arrive.


Meanwhile, on idyllic Azeroth, where the birds sing, the children play and all races live in harmony, a runaway wizard named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) warns the utterly uncharismatic King Llane (Dominic Cooper) and his brother-in-law, the army commander Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), that he’s detected some bad juju in the Azerothian air. He’s right of course, and soon enough the orc ‘war band’ arrive, all of them looking like powerlifters with severe underbites who have just missed their targets in the bench. Durotan’s wife, who was inexplicably allowed to travel through the depths of magical space despite being in the third trimester, promptly gives birth to a little orclet that looks like a French Bulldog. Fortunately for the humans about to get savaged by these oversized, viridescent lunatics, a ‘mechanical miracle’––the ‘boom-stick’, which is sort of like a medieval Magnum .44––has just been invented. At the same time, nature-lover Durotan, keen for his newborn to grow up somewhere he can kick a ball around outside, is flirting with the idea of helping the humans dispatch Gul’dan, whose dark magic has turned his home-world, Draenor, into a thoroughly depressing place.


Fortunately for the humans about to get savaged by these oversized, viridescent lunatics, a ‘mechanical miracle’––the ‘boom-stick’, which is sort of like a medieval Magnum .44––has just been invented. At the same time, nature-lover Durotan, keen for his newborn to grow up somewhere he can kick a ball around outside, is flirting with the idea of helping the humans dispatch Gul’dan, whose dark magic has turned his home-world, Draenor, into a thoroughly depressing place.


The plot moves along at a clip. Within fifteen minutes director Duncan Jones has introduced all the main characters and their various confused accents and racial backgrounds and outfits which look as if they were bought in the fancy dress shop down the road. There’s a good deal of rushing around on horseback from sprawling city to sprawling city––the cityscapes, by the way, are genuinely gorgeous––and fantasy jargon-filled conversations delivered in grave tones. Sometimes Ramin Djawadi’s grand orchestral score tries to evoke a sense of the epic that is hilariously at odds with the emotion actually conveyed by the actors on screen. The film isn’t remotely interesting until the first orc raid on Azerothian turf, which culminates in a well executed battle sequence in a magical forest and the eventual capture of a plucky half-orc, half-human slave called Garona (Paula Patton), who says things like, ‘You think you’re fearsome? Orc children have pets more fearsome than you’ and who reminds you, every time she appears on screen, of the Mexican lager you could be drinking instead of watching the film. The battle scenes are easily the best thing about Warcraft but then, there isn’t much competition, and as the film goes on even the action scenes get tedious.

What’s most confusing about Warcraft is that a talented minimalist sci-fi director like Duncan Jones accepted a $160 million wannabe epic and game adaptation. The team behind the visual effects, the costumes, the makeup and the production design deserve some credit, but none of them could alleviate the crushing boredom I felt all the way through the film. The best thing I can say about Warcraft is that it could be worse.

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