How much enjoyment you get out of “Warcraft” is going to depend heavily on how familiar you are with the source material.
“Warcraft” is a film based upon the spectacularly successful Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) “World of Warcraft,” a game that revolutionized how online games are played, written and consumed and one of the most successful game franchises of all time. And while most MMORPG titles do not have much in the way of over-arching story lines — the open game nature of playing a live game online precludes most traditional storytelling narratives — what “World of Warcraft” most certainly has is lore. The film attempts to tap into that lore, the fictional history of “Warcraft” and its world of Azeroth and the characters who populate it.
The film focuses on a global conflict between the human inhabitants of Azeroth and their allies (the world is populated by gnomes, dwarves and various elf races, though none factor particularly heavily in this first film) and an invading horde of orcs looking to conquer a new home for themselves after their current one was tainted and destroyed by an evil magic. For the orcs, violence, harshness and war have become integral ways of life, so the thought of going to Azeroth in peace does not come into play.
The humans are led by King Llane Wrynn, who spends most of the move being the worst king in the annals of written fantasy. He is a horrible tactician and a middling warrior who allows himself to be walked on by subordinates in war councils. He is, however, surrounded by dozens of people who seem to be better, more accomplished leaders and fighters, including Medivh, a powerful wizard who serves as Guardian of the human’s realm, and upon whose shoulders most of the responsibility for the Azeroth’s defense falls.
On the orc side, the film mostly follows Durotan, leader of one of the many orc clans, and a rare orc warrior for whom the act of actual war is a secondary priority ahead of finding a safe place for his family and clan to call home.
And there, in the preceding three paragraphs, is more information than the film itself will officially hand you. “Warcraft” is a film that has a relatively deep lore to draw upon for its story but refuses to hold your hand through any of it. This is unabashedly a film for “World of Warcraft” players, and the more hardcore a fan you are, the better. Characters are introduced, followed and (slightly) developed, but everything is presented with a kind of unspoken weight. It is obvious that some of these characters are supposed to mean something important, but if you haven’t played the game, you are given no idea what that might be. Unfortunately, much of the film’s story is left untold. Character alliances are created with no explanation and character motivations never seem to go beyond the most simplistic options possible. The film manages to look great — the Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) orcs in particular are impressive — but that is window dressing for a film that assumes you already know the story. CV
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster