Orcs and Humans have been locked in an eternal war for thousands of years on the planet of Azeroth. This endless struggle between the Horde and the Alliance is the main storyline behind the hit On-line community game, “World of Warcraft”. And this fantasy film depicts the very beginning of this conflict as Orcs from the Horde are led to the world of Azeroth through a portal from their own dying world- warbands attack human settlements and draw the military force of a noble king (Dominic Cooper, known for playing Howard Stark in Captain America and currently appearing in AMC’s “Preacher” adaptation) in a desperate bid for survival and dominance.
This is a beautiful film, first off; CGI-rendered Orcs and monsters look pretty good while sharing the screen with very human actors and the action is intense and brutal. While never quite as gritty as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s a good film in its’ own right and delivers the goods on a story with intriguing heroes, despicable villains, and a conflict with no easy answers. No one walks away with clean hands or complete understanding- both sides make mistakes and both sides make their stands. Travis Fimmel stars as Anduin Lothar, a high ranking knight in service to his King. Paula Patton is Garona, a half-orc slave of the Horde whose capture by Anduin opens new avenues of strategy and understanding of the Orc armies. Toby Kebbell is Durotan, a proud Orc chieftain who chafes beneath the yoke of dark Shaman, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu). But stealing the show, as is his norm, is Ben Foster as the Human Guardian Wizard Medivh.
Fans of the game will see some of their usual haunts realized while others may come away a little disappointed by the lack of racial diversity in the film- Dwarves and Elves (generic and not the usual character classes of “Night” or “Blood” as seen in the game itself) seem almost an afterthought with only the barest glimpse of Trolls in the Horde. Most of the action takes place in the one continent where the Alliance holds sway, but there’s still a lack of variety- but it may have been the best choice in order for the film to remain focused on the primary conflict between Alliance and Horde.
People unfamiliar with the video game shouldn’t struggle to understand the basics of the world being presented- it’s no more confusing or disorientating than Lord of the Rings, for example. But the film also doesn’t waste time to explain the magic, the political hierarchy, or who the individual players are- they let the story do it and the viewer simply needs to exercise some patience when wondering if a certain issue may be explained.
This is high fantasy and is only the smallest of steps below Lord of the Rings- almost too small to bear mentioning, but I am certain some people will compare the two and find this film to be lacking in some comparisons. It’s still a worthy addition to the Fantasy genre and an exciting popcorn muncher for the summer season.
4 out of 5.