An early moment in Warcraft holds a lot of promise. Durotan (Toby Kebbell), chief of the Frostwolves orc clan, and his wife Draka (Anna Galvin) are in their tent. Draka is almost ready to give birth, and the two lovingly tease each other about being fat. It’s a surprisingly warm and human moment, and between two entirely CGI characters. It’s also, unfortunately, the last moment Warcraft shows any ambition.
Warcraft is a movie fanatical about perfectly replicating every character model, every location, and above all every scrap of lore and every plot point from Blizzard’s sprawling video game franchise. There are points where director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) will swing the camera out as if the viewer was a player moving units around the map, or reenact moments from cinematics in the game.
The problem is that none of that stuff was all that compelling back in the late ’90s when it molded in tie-in novels nobody bothered to read. Warcraft‘s sub-Tolkien silliness has always been the least interesting aspect of the franchise, and an element not even the game itself takes all that seriously most of the time. If you’re a hardcore WoW player or have been, it might be thrilling to see Ironforge or Stormwind for a second, but it’s still just a fairly generic fantasy setting. And the movie spends a lot of time depicting it. For all the plot importance and impact an early montage of places and locations has, we might as well be following Ye Olde UPS Guy instead of the movie’s hero, played by Travis Fimmel. Oddly, the game’s humor is the one detail that’s been nixed. Warcraft games are full of gags and dumb puns, the kind of stuff that makes nerds giggle. Its absence, combined with some painfully clumsy and poorly timed attempts at gags, really emphasizes how dry and generic the whole exercise is as a story.