While the King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) maintains a peaceful civilisation in Azeroth, any such serenity is threatened by the impending arrival of a fearsome, intimidating race; as orc warriors and their families seek in invading and colonising the land, as they flee their former, uninhabitable home. Though prepared for war and a savage attack on mankind, the authoritarian orc Durotan (Toby Kebbell) has different ideas, and wants a peaceful outcome – but with a hesitancy to trust their new enemy, the likes of the courageous and loyal Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and the spiritually gifted duo Medivh (Ben Foster) and Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), ready themselves for the forthcoming, intense coming together that is likely to leave one race triumphant, and the other extinct. The conflict leaves Garona (Paula Patton), a human/orc hybrid, caught somewhere in the middle, unable to identify herself with either side.
Though naturally siding with the humans given our rather inevitable resonation with that one particular side, it’s intriguing that we meet Durotan first, painting him out to be the protagonist, and ensuring a potential connection is formed with the role, as we see intimate, relatable moments take place between himself and his pregnant wife, endearing us to their cause, and making sure we can identify them so when they are depicted as savage, inhumane beasts, we know they’re much more like us that we think. But, as is the case throughout this underwhelming affair, even the aforementioned positive becomes detrimental to proceedings, for the blurring of the line between good and evil is too strong, and it becomes a challenge to determine who you’re rooting for at any one point – which is not ideal during a movie where a war is on the horizon. Of course this is in line with the video game, whereby you can play as either a human or an orc, but in a cinematic endeavour that sense of impartiality is simply counter-productive.
Any attempt to connect to our emotions is short-lived and unsuccessful too, as while there is a potential sub-narrative concerning Garona, with the ability to tap into human themes by having a mixed race character who doesn’t feel as though she quite belongs to either side of her ancestry, we deviate so carelessly away, as though afraid to ever get too deep. The lack of emotion is jarring too, as you never once care if any of the characters live or die, and as we’re dealing with a conflict scenario, to not have any investment in their survival makes for a distinctly cold experience.
What doesn’t help in this regard is the lack of any true protagonist, with no focal point of any kind. In The Lord of the Rings we enter into this new, fantastical world through the eyes of an underdog in Frodo. Warcraft is crying out for a Frodo, a character we can embody and adopt the perspective of, to see this world through their eyes to help us understand it, and feel engaged with it.
There is the occasional funny moment of light relief, but they remain so few and far between, which is a shame because had Jones been inclined to be more self-deprecating and have the film affectionately ridicule itself, to be hammy and play up to the more kitsch elements, it could have been beneficial to proceedings, but instead this title takes itself far too seriously. This production may be titled ‘The Beginning’, but on this showing it would be a spectacular surprise if we ever saw the middle, or the end.