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Film review – Warcraft: The Beginning a laboured, sub-Lord of the Rings tale of Orcs and men

Film evokes a world full of spells, incantations and mumbo-jumbo even hardcore gamers will struggle to comprehend, let alone care about. Forget the title – this Beginning should be an end

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 June, 2016, 7:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 June, 2016, 11:56am

2/5 stars

With millions of online subscribers, the role-playing fantasy game World of Warcraft has a massive following. But whether that translates into a loyal cinema audience is another matter. Directed by Duncan Jones, Warcraft: The Beginning is less a complex immersive digital experience than a simplified sub-Lord of the Rings tale, pitching humans against a race of Orcs.

“There has been a war between Orcs and humans for as long as can be remembered,” we’re told, but this flat, laboured film rarely makes us care why. Unlike the cannon fodder from Rings, we’re meant to feel for these green-skinned, tusk-sprouting Orcs. But it’s almost impossible in a world full of spells, incantations and other magical mumbo-jumbo that even hardcore gamers will struggle to comprehend.

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The plot sees the Orcs open up a portal to the human world of Azeroth with the express intention of invading. Led by Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), ruler of one of seven kingdoms, a rag-tag bunch of warriors and wizards must repel these forces. Vikings star Travis Fimmel leads the way as Lothar, though Ben Foster, looking like Jesus Christ in his robe, beard and long hair, makes the biggest impression as the mage Medivh.

Jones, who made the excellent debut Moon and the mildly disappointing time-travel follow-up Source Code, never feels like he has control over a narrative he co-wrote. There is little suspense or tension, and the tragic moments that happen (as characters are skewered with swords or spears) lack any real emotional impact.

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The motion-capture and computer-generated elements of Warcraft are fine, without being mind-blowing; the landscapes in particular don’t really contain the awe-inspiring aspect that Rings managed. Likewise, the dialogue feels pedestrian with lines like: “From light comes darkness and from darkness comes light.”

The Moses-in-a-basket-like finale, not to mention the film’s subtitle, suggests future chapters are in the works. But there isn’t enough here to merit a return to this world. Warcraft: The Beginning really should be the end.

Warcraft: The Beginning opens on June 9

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