Forget whether or not you’re an avid gamer, someone who’s spent hours of online time exploring the lands of Azeroth. Forget whether or not you’re a complete novice, someone who may even get confused between Warcraft and Warhammer. Forget, even, whether or not you’ve seen Peter Jackson’s extended Middle-Earth hexology. None of that really matters. What does matter is when you come to watch Duncan Jones’ Warcraft: The Beginning, can you just “go” with it?
The plot itself is reasonably simple, but it needs to be given the amount of new information most audiences will be expected to absorb. With their world dying, a war band of Orcs led by the evil Gul’dan (we know he’s evil because he wears a black cloak) invade Azeroth through a magical portal. One Orc, Chieftain Durotan, believes peace with the humans is the only way to prevent an unnecessary war and opposes Gul’dan. Queue much fighting and magic-ing.
There is a wonderful sense of adventure to Warcraft that is so often missing in many, grittier films of similar genre. Here, there is no over-preoccupation with creating a world that is unnecessarily realistic; Jones has embraced the true nature in the concept as a game first and foremost and instilled a sense of true fantasy that manages to remain balanced throughout. The Orcs are almost comical at times, their oversized appearance at odds with the practicality of everything around them. The dialogue is a little expositionary in places, although given the depth of lore and myth in the Warcraft universe this becomes more necessary than irritating. And few of the performances are particularly nuanced, with everyone allowing themselves to release their inner exuberance.
And, yet, instead of being weaknesses, these are the films’ strengths. Fun is the key word, and although there are some tough battle scenes and swinging of mighty weaponry, danger is kept at a distance, almost as if you could just start all over again. To keep the true believers happy there are many nods to the world of the games, from glimpses of curious creatures to the layout of the land, and their inclusion gives the film a true sense of being something tangible.
As you would expect with a film of this type, the music plays an important role and Ramin Djawadi’s pounding score adds further texture to Jones’ visuals; any fears concerning the overuse of CGI are allayed as only a truly pedantic traditionalist would question their necessity.
So, there it is. Approach this film with the same optimism and intrigue as Jones himself, and Warcraft: The Beginning will not disappoint. This is an old-fashioned adventure with themes of family and loyalty, that just happens to look like the most fantastical epic you will have seen. It is a stunning example of what can be achieved when ambition meets creativity, and should be applauded and enjoyed with the same enthusiasm with which it was made.
Sit back, open your mind and enjoy.
WARCRAFT: THE BEGINNING / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: DUNCAN JONES / SCREENPLAY: CHRIS LEAVITT, DUNCAN JONES / STARRING: TRAVIS FIMMEL, TOBY KEBBELL, BEN FOSTER, PAULA PATTON / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 10TH