DISCLAIMER: I have no knowledge of the source text beyond its existence and this review only relates to the film.
Swords! Sorcery! SPLAT! Thus goes Duncan Jones’ adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s fantasy video game franchise. Swords clash; sorcery of distinct colours flies back and forth; narrative, characters, editing, cinematography and themes are bundled together and hit the screen with an orc-sized SPLAT! The film consists of the splashes of this splat, different narrative strands blurting along while characters wrestle grim-facedly with clichéd motivations. Jones stages some handsome set pieces, and he and co-writer Charles Leavitt make a decent stab at balancing the different sides of the conflict as an orc horde invades the world of Azeroth. But while it is interesting to have orcs as well as humans grappling with the demands of family and community, and the film has a pleasing gender balance, Warcraft lacks the scope and depth to engage with its characters or topics in any meaningful way. This is largely due to the lack of a central narrative thrust beyond the outbreak of war. Inevitable comparisons with The Lord of the Rings highlight the importance of that saga’s central thrust of Frodo’s journey with the War of the Ring as a backdrop, whereas here the outbreak of war is the central thrust without political machinations or personal motivations. The end result has some interesting visuals and moments that recall Jones’ earlier work, but ultimately Warcraft: The Beginning is a mess, albeit stylish in its SPLAT!