Even when you set aside the curse of the video game adaptation, Warcraft: The Beginning‘s status as the first really ambitious big screen fantasy since Jackson met Tolkien means the odds were always stacked against it.
Although only marginally brighter in tone and colouring than Jackson’s films, the so-called “high” fantasy world portrayed on screen here just can’t shake a slight feeling of silliness within the context of contemporary pop culture.
If we can somehow separate the film from the expectations implied by the genre-defining LOTR – and the genre-redefining Game of Thrones, for that matter – the unique pleasures of Warcraft: The Beginning become a little easier to embrace.
The greatest of those is a commitment to presenting the other side of the battle between man and monster, done so by splitting the perspective between the noble humans and the hoarding CGI orcs, rendered in luscious mo-cap informed by a tangible physicality. The battles are staged with creativity, there’s a heap of cool action set-pieces, and some fantastic backdrops.
And then there is the silliness.
Some of the humans (Bens Foster & Schnetzer) are wizards, and as admirable as the film is in replicating magic from the game, their spell-casting scenes occasionally evoke the earnest staging of a sub-par Renaissance Faire.
The evil magic in the film is represented by an everpresent flourescent green mist that perhaps represents the film’s greatest barrier to being taken seriously. Ominously emanating from the eyes of the evil Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), the mist flows into whomever he controls and helpfully turns them green so we know they’re bad. The colour can’t help but recall the titular ooze from 1991’s TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze and stands as a visual metaphor for Warcraft‘s hammier elements.
I had a ball watching Warcraft: The Beginning. But enjoying it may require a willingness to go along with the film’s creative choices. And a high tolerance for bright green.
‘Warcraft: The Beginning’ Movie Times
Videogame Movies That Don’t Entirely Suck: Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat, maybe Assassin’s Creed