What a cool-looking world. What nifty-looking characters. What a dumb ass plot. You can’t get it right all the time, but when your story line leads to a distrustful king finally presenting his prisoner with – for protection only – a bejeweled nail file, something clearly fell off the table in the planning phase. Warcraft pulls up its bootstraps, however, against all odds, and creates a fanciful world packed with magicians, kings, Gimli-son-of-Gloin’s, and placeholder elves. It’s another video game movie that looks, sounds, and moves like a game. The main problem is, as a movie medium, the story feels less Player 1 and more What happened to that second controller I got you?
If you visit the Warcraft IMDB page you’ll see that the list of character names looks more like a game of drunk Scrabble. So screw that; I’m going to invent my own. Beefcake Shrek (Toby Kebbell) ventures into Narnia through a gigantic gate who’s key is the soul-sucking deaths of thousands of prisoners. Shrek and his Orc kin venture forth in hopes of finding much greener pastures than the ones they left devastated behind them. If this new world had no inhabitants, we would have no movie. Alas, the Orcs enter into the kingdom of men and soon have to deal with the local King (Dominic Cooper) disagreeing with their imprisonment of his villagers. What a buzzkill. The King’s most trusted subject, Baby Blue Eyes (Travis Fimmel), advises him to call on the magical Guardian (Ben Foster) to stop fooling around and do his job. After the endless staircase to the Guardian’s chambers is successfully climbed and descended, the group of men set out to find the enemy and hopefully capture one or two for questioning. More than ready to get on with it, a few Orc scouts ambush the men and nearly end the whole thing right there, save for the Guardian’s highly delayed intervention. In the end, Baby Blue Eyes and his King capture the runt Orc, Angry Gamora (Paula Patton), and use her insider knowledge to uncover the Orcs’ genocidal plans. Through her perspective on the inside, Baby Blue Eyes’ perspective as the manliest of men, and Beefcake Shrek’s perspective as that chill guy at the gym, we follow along as two highly disorganised armies sprint toward each other for King, country, and lack of anything better to do.
In the words of the master mage magician monk man, “Wait– What?” Warcraft looks pretty nifty, with its fancy CGI castles, CGI hippogriffs, CGI fang piercings, and stunningly well-crafted armour, but it all feels like a flashy hand of Magic cards. Every scene is thoroughly described in dialogue, from what they’re doing, to what they’re thinking, to where they’re going, and what that thing is over yonder. At one point, the soldiers and their monstrous foes even slow down mid-fight so that the King can have an undisturbed mid-battle conversation. This includes the Orc commander (ironically named Black Hand before his hand turned black) sprinting towards the King with murder in his eyes. They say royalty comes with perks, but who knew on demand slow motion was one of them?
My puzzlement over little details like this one is only slightly more pronounced than my curiosity of how Baby Blue Eyes fits into the picture. It’s mentioned twice that he is the Queen’s “brother” but… adopted brother? Half-brother? Brother-in-law? I’ve seen siblings with little resemblance before, but this pair raises uncomfortable questions about genetic impossibilities.
The fidelity of one’s mother aside, Warcraft does manage to piece together a pretty picture. The view we get of this fictional world is shiny and inviting – it’s just too bad it’s populated by a little boy’s action figures. In general, I found Shrek to be a surprisingly sensitive character, aside from his terrible habit of thinking out loud. The same goes for the Guardian, who is a troubled soul that weaves his emotions into over exaggerated napping and dips in the Jacuzzi. On the opposite spectrum, spoiler, you have a father who witnesses the highly foreshadowed death of his son and does little more than stand, stare, and be a little grumpy for half a day.
There was an opportunity for Warcraft to be amazing, with its fancy visuals and highly detailed design. But, fancy curtains or not, a house feels cosier with plumbing. Warcraft doesn’t challenge its cast to reach new acting heights or the audience to mull over a well-constructed plot. It’s a pretty world with a lot of chickens running around in it. And that’s about a 4/10.