Not being a gamer myself, the World of Warcraft had pretty much passed me by before seeing director Duncan Jones 3D blockbuster movie version of it.
And in a way, I’m quite pleased at having no previous knowledge of this alien universe of kings and knights and orcs and strange malevolent magic because this will now always be the definitive version for me.
As with Lord of the Rings, you must embrace the ‘lore’ of Warcraft’s world in its entirety for the film to become a totally immersive business, but this is something Jones is very good at – instantly creating a milieu which wraps around you and drags you in.
Here it is the peaceful world of Azeroth being overwhelmed by fearsome warrior orcs (incredible, muscle-bound 3D CGI creations with tusks and horns and fists the size of an elephant’s head). The orc’s own world is dying because the evil magic (known as ‘fel’) used by their magician leader Guldan (Daniel Wu) is slowly poisoning the land. So he opens a portal that leads to Azeroth so his elite fighters, including Durotan (Toby Kebbell), his pregnant partner Draka (Anna Galvin) and the half Orc/half human slave Garona (Paula Patton) may pass through and start to subdue the locals.
The invasion soon comes to the notice of King Llane (Dominic Cooper) of Stormworld, his knight commander Anduin (Travis Fimmel) and a young sorcerer Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) who suspects fel is being used and alerts Azeroth’s Guardian (Ben Foster) to the danger. What then ensues is a battle of wits, sorcery and brute strength as both orcs and humans battle for their race’s supremacy.
There are some light-hearted moments but most of the action is based around man and orc slugging it out and magicians unleashing torrents of lightning-like energy strikes against their enemies. And it is all highly entertaining. The orcs yell and the ground trembles; Anduin takes to the air on the back of a huge flying beast and you feel the wind in your hair; a huge golem is conjured up and blocks of stone come crashing to the ground. For once, here is a film where the 3D really is justified as you find yourself ‘surrounded’ by all these events. The look of the film is also stunning, especially the Orcs who are rendered in minute detail, making them all recognisable individuals.
Jones (who also co-wrote the script) is careful to give both sides of the story so it doesn’t become just a battle between the goodies (humans) and the baddies (orcs) but a struggle between all the characters to survive. In his huge, hairy way Durotan is just as heroic and appealing as the charismatic Anduin.
It’s stunning stuff that never outlives its welcome and I for one can’t wait for the second instalment. Bring it on.