On to the plot, which flows as plentifully in Warcraft as the CGI. First, there are the orcs, a race of hulking warriors with boar tusks for teeth, who are possessed of a rather fearsome underbite and represented through sophisticated motion-capture technology. Their universe has been ravaged by some apocalypse, so a spiky green shaman called Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) has zapped open a portal for their warriors to run through, beginning a war with a world called Azeroth. This new place is home to humans, elves, dwarves, and plenty more, though we’re mainly introduced to the humans.
Jones, who co-wrote the script with Charles Leavitt, strives to present heroes and villains on both sides, which keeps Warcraft from being another tale of strapping white Euro-warriors taking on a dark horde of man-beasts. Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) is a steadfast knight for the kingdom of Azeroth, backing up the noble King Llane (Dominic Cooper), while the lead orc Durotan (Tony Kebbell) is a new father and respected chieftain who’s suspicious of Gul’dan’s dark magic.
There’s also Garona (Paula Patton), a half-orc (her tusks are much less prominent) who straddles both sides of the conflict, and Medivh (Ben Foster), a mysterious human wizard who may or may not be up to no good. At the beginning of the film, Medivh is carving a giant golem statue in his tower—and you know what Chekhov said about introducing a golem in the first act. Medivh is constantly warning about “the fel,” a source of evil magic that seems to be driving the orc invasion, but like so much of Warcraft’s fantasy jargon, there’s absolutely no wider explanation of what it is or how it works—it’s just quickly name-checked as if the audience should understand what’s going on.
This happens over and over again: Characters spout whole monologues about the “Guardian of Tirisfal” or the rules of ancient orcish battle rituals, and things quickly become too muddled to even hope to keep track of. Warcraft doesn’t engage in much world-building; instead, it throws viewers into an already-constructed world expecting they’ll get the gist of it. And perhaps they would, if the film weren’t such a jarringly edited mess, overloaded with sub-Tolkien dialogue about sorcery and honor that consistently lands with a clunk.
Unfortunately, there’s no Han Solo here, no wiseacre for audiences to hold onto as someone with a remotely relatable personality. Though the movie is already quite silly—a wizard played by Ben Foster literally carves a 15-foot golem out of clay—there isn’t much deliberate comic relief, since everyone is as deadly serious as the fel magic they won’t shut up about. Anduin is a noble warrior whose motivation is winning the war and defending his king. Llane is a noble ruler whose motivation is protecting his people with honor. Durotan is a proud chieftain whose motivation is obeying the customs and traditions of his clan and keeping them safe.