The orc homeworld of Draenor is dying. Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu), has concocted a plan that could save his people. The plan involves opening a portal to a new world and invading it with a war party. It’s a temporary solution as the activation of the portal exacts a heavy price: the life force is taken from the living in order to power it. He plans to build a new sturdier portal once on this new world and use its inhabitants to power it. This new world is not without its own heroes though and they will have to band together in hopes of keeping the dark plan from becoming a reality, but time runs short as the mere presence of the orcish horde is already influencing the environment.
Duncan Jones directs this two hour epic and has utilized every resource at his disposal (notably WETA Workshop and Industrial Light and Magic) in order to deliver an ambitious movie with a heavy to-do-list of things that it hopes to accomplish. Jones attempts to please the existing fan base and introduce the film’s core elements to the uninitiated as it sets up for the movie franchise that is likely to follow. He succeeds in that introduction as plots and subplots are laid out before the viewer in unrelenting fashion. Everything is spelled out in a way that is easy enough to follow, but there is so much exposition that the mainstream audience is likely to get lost if not paying attention.
The story could have easily been told from the viewpoint of the Horde as they must colonize this strange new world or face extinction. It could have just as easily been told from the viewpoint of the Alliance as they are faced with destruction from this new threat to their generations long peaceful existence. Either way would have made for a good film, but the writers decided to tell the story from both sides. It’s a gutsy move and the obvious reason for such a long runtime and unfocused story.
“Warcraft” is a character driven ordeal. It paints a vibrant high fantasy world that is full of complicated characters that draw you in with their deep emotional conflicts. Each character has their own story to tell so instead of a single strong protagonist, we are given a number of them. With so many though, it’s easy to latch on to a few characters and pass over the others. Luckily, the strongest characters portrayed are the Alliance warrior, Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), the half-orc, Garona (Paula Patton), and the orc hero, Durotan (Toby Kebbell). Their roles are enough to keep the viewer engaged from start to finish.
This movie is to the Warcraft hardcore what I imagine the comic book hardcore want from their movies. It is true to the lore, the characters haven’t been changed in the slightest, and the attention to detail gives us scenery ripped straight from the source material. It is entertaining and wins on heart alone as every painstakingly detailed frame is proof that the people involved in its creation really cared for it.