If you know the difference between a priest and a paladin; that mages are essentially wizards, and that Frostwolf and Stormwind are not the names of heavy metal bands (one’s an orc clan, the other is a fortress), give yourself a pat on the back because you’re already ahead of the game.
You are undoubtedly part of a core group of people that director Duncan Jones are training their sights on for his latest fantasy epic, ‘Warcraft: The Beginning’.
‘Warcraft’, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that has launched countless virtual battles, made superstars out of its top players and boasts some 100 million players, has finally made it to the big screen.
If you know your video game movie adaptations, there’s a lot riding on this one. By all accounts, the games are a pop-culture phenomenon. Launched in 1994 with a trilogy of critically acclaimed real-time strategy titles, it wasn’t until the release of the MMORPG ‘World Of Warcraft’, that the series exploded.
Orgrim Doomhammer (Rob Kazinsky) | Photo: UIP
But the film’s biggest risks is not compressing some 20 years of gaming lore into a digestible 2.5 hours as well as paving the way for possible sequels nor it is the pedigree of its director – Jones with only two films (‘Moon’ and ‘Source Code’) under his belt, but how it depicts its beloved characters – the orcs.
Far from the lifeless and grotesque hulks of Middle Earth, ‘Warcraft’s’ giants are a proud lot, and besides being mean, the orcs here display a sort of humanity that’s usually reserved for… well, human characters.
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Desperate and living in a dying world, warrior orcs find a magic portal into peaceful Azeroth where they come up against its inhabitants.
Amid the chaos, soon-to-be parents Frostwolf chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and Draca (Anna Galvin) worry about the fate of their clan and child under of grip shifty orc warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu).
Behind Gul’dan’s back, Durotan and his right-hand orc Orgrim (Rob Kazinsky) tries to secure a truce with King Llane (a sorely underwritten Dominic Cooper) and his trusty knight Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) with the half-human-half-orc slave Garona (Paula Patton) acting as a go-between.
Patton’s Garona (above) is perhaps one of the most intriguing characters of the movie. A half-orc, half human with divided loyalties, she is an outsider thrust into the human world where her human side is brought out.
No stranger to motion-caption performance is Toby Kebbell whose dramatic turn as Durotan is sure to please the fanboys.
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That said, ‘Warcraft’ brings modern filmmaking to another level with its marriage of traditional acting with motion capture performances.
We haven’t even talked about Ben Foster’s wizard/guardian Medivh, Ben Schnetzer’s curious young apprentice mage, Khadgar, the human sacrifice needed to power up the orc’s gateway to Azeroth and the “Fel” – a mysterious dark magic from the orc world.
Betrayal, politics, intrigue and familial connections, there is more than the typical “us vs them” story in ‘Warcraft’. Also, the monsters here are usually not the bad guys, and vice versa.
Ben Schnetzer (Khadgar) and Travis Fimmel (Anduin Lothar) | Photo: UIP
What’s refreshing about ‘Warcraft’ is how the line between good and evil is blurred away. In a bold move, Jones and scribe Charles Leavitt (‘Blood Diamond’), went all the way back to the beginning, adapting the story of ‘Warcraft: Orcs And Humans’, the 1994 title that kickstarted the entire universe for inspiration.
Indeed, the level of dedication to bring something familiar to fans is impressive, but there’s just too much for those who can’t tell the Lich King from a Thrall.
That’s a lot to ask for something that initially feels like a ‘LOTR-lite’.
However, as the movie soldiers on, you’ll be immersed in the fantastical world within.