Starring Travis Fimmel. Rated 14A.
There are millions of subscribers to the World of Warcraft, who will likely find the movie version to be totally comprehensible or even a little obvious. But for me, who only knows the heroes and villains of Azeroth from that South Park episode and the “Leeroy Jenkins” video, Warcraft is a daunting immersion in character detail.
What the movie lacks in terms of star casting, memorable dialogue, and variety of settings, it sure makes up for with back stories. Having to remember the relevance of the many sidekicks and their noble goals, and/or dark secrets becomes a data dump akin to reading the advanced Dungeons & Dragons character manual in one go.
If you can get through all that, it is clear that director Duncan Jones has assembled admirable parts.
The music by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi is spare but catchy. The tale of the Orcs—green, muscled humanoids fleeing a dying world via a dimensional portal—is high fantasy in wistful mode. The story has an Ursula K. Le Guin–meets–Elon Musk feeling. As in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Toby Kebbell is soulful and dangerous, emoting through a cartoonified performance. The magic user Medivh is interestingly underplayed by Ben Foster.
The best thing about Warcraft is that it is character driven and feels personal, which is an amazing quality to have in an expensive effects picture. Jones is a good director. Moon and Source Code are well-made science fiction mysteries and Warcraft is certainly no worse than one might expect from a game movie set in a cod-Tolkien fantasyland (14A).
That it is at all better is an accomplishment.