The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another.
“Warcraft” is based on the massive multiplayer gaming universe, “World of Warcraft,” along with the prequel games set in the same universe. However, you don’t have to be familiar with it to enjoy this movie. Stunning visuals, great character development, and a compelling story make this an entertaining film for both teens and grownups. That said, most of the negative critical reviews seem to come from critics who not only haven’t played any of the games, seem to have no interest in a film that would take its story from an online game.
The story begins in a land inhabited by orcs, creatures that are similar to humans, but bigger, with more interesting teeth (and no relation to the “Lord of the Rings” orcs). With their homeland dying, the orcs survive by traveling through a glowing green portal to the world of Azeroth, inhabited by humans. As the orcs begin to take over, the human king, Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), his best warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), and a young wizard named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) try to stop them.
They summon their protector, a Guardian sorcerer named Medivh (Ben Foster), and also gain the trust of an orc-human refugee, Garona (Paula Patton).
Meanwhile, the noble orc Durotan (Toby Kebbell) teams up with the humans to thwart their cruel leader, who’s using dark magic to retain power. Everything leads to a final battle, and if the portal opens again, all will be lost.
I was surprised when I found myself fully engaged and enjoying “Warcraft.” I know a little bit about the gaming universe, and even created a character at one point several years ago when my kids were just getting into it. But because of a good narrative arc and storytelling, you don’t have to know anything about it to follow the movie.
Part of that is not only because of the beautiful special effects, but also the great character development. With a lot of these fantasy or gamer-based movies, the characters all blend in together. Not so with “Warcraft,” where everyone stands on their own. I particularly love Paula Patton’s strong female character, Garona.
This is director Duncan Jones’ first foray into this genre (his previous sci-fi movies include “Moon” and “Source Code”), and he brings that same smart, emotional storytelling to “Warcraft.” I saw the IMAX version, and it was well worth the extra bucks.
With plenty of kingdoms, land and characters to cover in the World of Warcraft universe and the ending of “Warcraft” definitely left things open for future films. Response to the movie from fans of the “Warcraft” games has been overwhelmingly positive, so I wouldn’t be surprised if more movies hit the big screen.
PARENT OVERVIEW: “Warcraft” includes plenty of gaming-type violence, including fighting and weapons. Characters are injured or killed, but not much blood is shown. A CGI orc baby is in peril. Romance includes some flirting, and a female character wears skimpy clothing.
Reel Rating: 4 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence
Released in Theaters: June 10, 2016 (2D, 3D, IMAX 3D)
Best for Ages: 12+
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Based on a Video Game
Runtime: 123 minutes
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Cast: Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Travis Fimmel
JANE’S REEL RATING SYSTEM:
One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender.
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.
Images in this review used courtesy of the studio and distributor.