Warcraft, with Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Daniel Wu. Directed by Duncan Jones. 4/5
WITH characters clearly inspired by the Lord of the Rings, and a similar plotline of an invading force of orcs wreaking destruction to the land, the fantasy adventure Warcraft also has some differences that make it appealing.
There is no quest to return a ring of power, but the seduction of dark magic is definitely a theme in the movie, based on the video game series and novels of the same name.
A key difference is in the portrayal of the orcs, who are more complex individuals with their own emotions and choices, unlike the foul army of drones that were so easy to despise in the Lord of the Rings.
With their homeworld dying, the powerful orc shaman Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) unites the orc clans into an army called the Horde, and uses a magical force called the fel to open a portal to the world of Azeroth, inhabited by humans, dwarves, elves and other fantasy creatures.
The terrifying fel is powered by draining the lifeforce of other beings.
One of the sympathetic characters to emerge among the orcs is the chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) of the Frostwolf clan, who has a wife, Draka, and unborn child. When Draka goes into early labour after travelling through the portal, Gul’dan revives the stillborn child, who judging from the closing scenes is sure to feature in sequels.
For the humans, the first sign of the enemy is when an entire garrison is mysteriously killed. A young apprentice wizard, Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), who abandoned his training, suspects the true nature of what caused the soldiers’ death.
Khadgar advises Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), the military commander of the kingdom of Stormwind, to send for the Guardian, Medivh (Ben Foster), the reclusive mage entrusted with protecting Azeroth.
Only King Llane (Dominic Cooper) can summon the Guardian, and he does, sending Lothar and Khadgar to Medivh’s citadel Karazhan to inform him of the fel’s presence in Azeroth.
In awe of the Karazhan library, Khadgar is drawn to a mysterious book, which he takes without Medivh’s knowledge.
Lothar, Khadgar and Medivh join a scouting team following traces of fel magic, but are ambushed by orcs. The humans are nearly beaten by the stronger orcs until Medivh uses the fel against them.
The band of heroes take a prisoner, the very human-looking orc named Garona (Paula Patton), who was treated as a slave by her own people. Llane convinces Garona to join them, and she in turn becomes a mediator between the humans and Durotan, who fears what Gul’dan’s dark forces are doing to his own people.
Heroes are corrupted, enemies become friends, trust is betrayed, and both orcs and humans suffer the loss of loved ones, with more still to come in this open-ended adventure.