Review- Warcraft: The Beginning (2016)


Warcraft or as it is overeagerly referred to in the UK, Warcraft: The Beginning is an equally fascinating and maddening experience. The former is due in part to the world building, which is delivered with a certain amount of efficiency. For example, the film opens with a shot of a human and orc taking up arms against one another. The shot is framed like a shootout from a Sergio Leone Western and encapsulates the eternal nature of the conflict wonderfully.

Additionally, there is a great rawness and weight to the Orc world, which was primarily brought to life with computer-generated effects. This aspect is most indicative in a one on one showdown within the horde towards the tail end of the picture. There is a character’s death, which is ascetically horrific. The unfortunate opponent is beaten mercilessly to a pulp and is left looking like someone whose very being has been severely violated in death, which results in him looking pathetic and sunken.

Nevertheless, the latter is principally a result of a messy screenplay. One does get an impression that director and co-writer Duncan Jones wanted to focus equally on the human and orc races. However, this results in an underdeveloped affair that does not intrinsically serve one character well. Even the one person who does have some spark of interest, which comes in the form of Medivh (Ben Foster) is elevated by the actor’s performance.

Foster plays the current Guardian of Tirisfal like fiery youth whose anger and power is fearsome. At the same time, he imbues the character with a captivating weariness, which manifests itself in precise facial expressions where he looks frail and old. The character is a compelling portrait of a wizard that never forgets the inherent humanity behind the spellcaster.

Notwithstanding, Medivh suffers under the weight of the everything or nothing approach of the film. Later in the picture, it is revealed that his allegiances change because of a stated reason. But this element is played more as a stupefying mystery rather than genuine conflict, which with the latter approach would have given rise to an interesting thematic point.

One could infer that the leaders of each of the sides are fundamentally leading their races to a spiritual extinction. However, the idea has no development as the rationale of the two figureheads in question is either not presented or thinly sketched. This crucial problem speaks to the underlying structural problems of the film, which along with an excess of clunky exposition mark the picture at its most frustrating. Jones should have picked a side and focused more on their motivations which would have resulted in a much more seamless and satisfying undertaking.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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