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Warcraft: The Beginning Review

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With their own world dying, a race of Orcs pass through a magical portal into the land of Azeroth. Led by a despotic warlock, the Orcs try to conquer Azeroth, but one among their number wants to broker peace.

★★★★★

Where does one even start in turning the world of World Of Warcraft into a movie? The game, played by millions but a mystery to millions more, has countless characters of all sorts of fantastical races – dwarves, elves, werewolves, ghouls. It has no specific plot and no end point. That Duncan Jones, who penned complex narratives in Moon and Source Code, has managed to herd all its random elements into a story that, just about, coheres is impressive and it’s clear that every frame has been passionately crafted. It’s unfortunate that, like the ugly green baby that becomes central to its plot, the result is a hard thing for anyone but its creators to love.

Condensing this sprawling universe into a few words is tough, and the movie struggles to squeeze it into two hours.

Condensing this sprawling universe into a few words is tough, and the movie struggles to squeeze it into two hours. Via a giant stone doorway, a tribe of Orcs comes to the land of Azeroth, looking to claim it as their new home. One Orc, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), a new father, rebels against his power-hungry leader Gul'dan (Daniel Wu) and tries to establish a truce with the king (Dominic Cooper). It doesn’t go to plan and there is much battling. There are far too many lead characters, the result being that none is given time to expand beyond an archetype. This becomes a particular problem when Jones starts killing them off, because it’s hard to join in with his grief for people who feel like passing acquaintances.

So much effort is expended keeping every sub-plot heading in the same direction that Jones has no time to breathe. For a film in which a sizeable proportion of its cast is green, it takes itself fairly seriously. If this is the beginning, hopefully the next chapter will remember to deliver the fun too.

The ambition is laudable, but it's to little end. At once empty and impenetrable, this brings to mind a mix of John Carter and Dungeons & Dragons, regrettably in both themes and level of enjoyment.

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