Film Review: Warcraft (2016)


2016 | M | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Reviewed by Lukas

As an Orc horde invades the planet Azeroth using a magic portal, a few human heroes and dissenting Orcs must attempt to stop the true evil behind this war.

Many have tried and failed in bringing a much-loved video game series to the big screen, but does Duncan Jones’ take on Warcraft ring true to nerd-dominant culture? Yep. Definitely!

To say it’s a tough gig to deliver a video game story to the cinema is one gigantic understatement. When the vast majority of the people who are going to watch it have spent tens, if not hundreds, of hours playing the video game series, you could well be in for the biggest internet nerd beat-down in history if you don’t nail it. One such director is Germany’s Uwe Boll, whose constant shameful attempts at making video game movies have been the basis for every cinephile to roll their eyes at the transition of game-to-movie concept.


A glimpse into the world of Warcraft.

Luckily, Duncan Jones himself is a right-royal nerd too. Son to the late David Bowie (Duncan has often been referred to as Zowie Bowie) and having directed one of my favourite films of the last 10 years (2009’s Moon starring Sam Rockwell), Jones has paid enormous attention to detail in Warcraft, really giving fans and the World of Warcraft community something they can feel akin to. With writing partner Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond), he’s fleshed out a solid story line with plenty of room to move for characters and overall arcs to develop in the future.

From the get-go, as a former World of Warcraft player myself, the locations were instantly recognisable, where I could even say to myself: “Oh I know that spot! Oh I’ve flown over that gully! Oh that’s the little lake where I kicked those Murlocs’ asses!”. Sure, the movie is 90% CGI, but they’ve really gone the extra mile to make sure everything looks right – again, nerd beat down onslaught may occur. Taking this into account, the character designs themselves and the motion capture are probably the best the world has known yet, every facial expression and muscle movement brilliantly exploited, really giving the actors far more opportunities to shine through, rather than just hiding behind the voice of some dinky CG cartoon character.

Jones has a good knack for working with intuitive actors who must make his directing job that tiny bit easier. Toby Kebbell (Black Mirror) plays one of the lead roles of Durotan, an Orc chieftain who no longer agrees with how more incessant with war his leaders have become and seeks an alliance, with, well, The Alliance. Toby is no stranger to playing behind the guise of a CGI character, brilliantly portraying the treacherous and deceitful ape, Koba in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. His brooding character is organic, honest and compelling.


Daniel Wu as Gul’dan.

Tagging along cast-wise are Travis Fimmel (Vikings), Paula Patton (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), Dominic Cooper (Preacher), Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) and Daniel Wu (The Banquet). While each do a fine job of portraying their human or half-human characters, Daniel Wu, who plays the evil and ruthless Orc warlock Gul’dan, is another amazing voice stand-out. A majority of Daniel’s acting career has come from starring in Hong Kong and mainland Chinese movies, though if you’ve already been a fan of Asian cinema, Daniel needs no introduction. His ability to invoke distrust and genuine fear is remarkable in this power-hungry Demon Lord.

So, how can we (okay, I) size this whole thing up?

Honestly, I went into this movie with a slightly lower but hopeful mindset. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was ‘pleasantly surprised’, but I definitely thought it was worthy of watching and certainly piques my interest as to how (and by whom) the open-ended story line will take off for the sequel.

Visually ‘amazeballs’, technically ‘such excellent’ and morally ‘alright’, this film would probably be enjoyed by nerds and non-nerds alike – just as long as they are into BIG blockbusters in the fantasy genre. If Duncan Jones will be writing and directing the next instalment, I’ll definitely check it out.

If he’s not, on the other hand, I’ll give it a 50/50 shot of “meh!” and “maybe”.