Not even the presence of a prestigious director like Duncan Jones can save Warcraft from being yet more evidence that films based on computers games are a really bad idea. Despite Jones’s obvious passion for the project, Warcraft completely failed to hold my interest at any level. There are neither interesting characters nor a compelling narrative, nor anything else to raise the film above the level of a very expensive failure.
This is all immensely irritating, as Jones showed great promise with the brilliant Moon and Source Code. However, turning this hugely popular online game into a good film was apparently beyond his powers, despite the fact that you can tell he’s really, really trying. Every frame looks very carefully composed, and the design work, special effects and action sequences have clearly had a lot of work. It’s such a shame, therefore, that it feels so weightless, so insubstantial, so… passé CGI fantasy movie.
For this I blame the plot. Again, one gets the sense Jones is trying desperately to breathe life into something that is essentially deeply dull. I have no knowledge of the computer game, but as a film Warcraft fails because there really is nothing for the viewer to latch on to. The idea of a mythical realm being invaded by monsters (orcs) from another mythical realm is all well and good, but there is nothing to ground it. There is no sense of what is being fought for, or of jeopardy. All the characters fail to go beyond one-dimensional archetypes, and try as I might I simply could not bring myself to care about any of them the way one senses Jones does.
So much is borrowed from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones that there really does seem little point in this film at all. Yes, it tries to bring a degree of moral complexity by having good and bad people on both sides, but again, I simply didn’t care. Perhaps the recently announced director’s cut (which runs an hour longer) will magically turn this mess into a masterpiece (which is what happened with Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven), but somehow I doubt it. I suppose it isn’t actually terrible. If all you look for in a film is monsters, action and special effects, you might really like it. If on the other hand you are one of those fussy individuals that like a good story, engaging characters and a modicum of wit, you are, despite the admittedly noble efforts of Jones and co, definitely out of luck.