***1/2 (out of five)
If you prefer Wagner to Mozart, dark chocolate to milk, or even Lennon to McCartney, you may prefer Duncan Jones’ epic fantasy Warcraft to anything coming out involving people who can fly, mutate, avenge or be super. I certainly did. It’s an astonishingly designed vision of an alternate universe that is brutal and savage and yet often gorgeous to behold.
You’ve got to like the orcs, though. The film spends a lot of time with them (much to its credit, as they’re far more interesting than the humans). I loved them. Their intense, spectacular musculature is entertaining enough to keep you engaged on its own, their features are relentlessly intriguing – their big hands, crazy thumbnails, upward fangs – but it is their bling that is the most spectacular. One of them wears what looks like a dinosaur skull on each shoulder, and when he turns around, you realise that their vertebrae drape down his back and swish behind him, like a spinal cape. Their piercings – including through their oversized teeth – are also something to behold.
As its title suggests, it’s a tale of war, between humans and orcs (and, to be specific, also within the orc community). The humans come out surprisingly well – Travis Fimmel and Ben Foster particularly. But it’s the orcs’ show, and the mo-cap actors, lead by Toby Kebbell (the Cassius-like Koba from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) are excellent, their growling, thunderous voices suiting the extremity of their visual beings.
Duncan Jones made the intriguing Moon and the thrilling Source Code. Unlike a few indie darlings who have been trampled in their recent moves to the two hundred million dollar club, he seems to have kept control of his material. The film is very often extremely visually exciting, the frequent battle scenes are excellent (including a pleasing amount of orc-on-orc action) and the soundtrack, by Game of Thrones’ Ramin Djawadi, appropriately massive. In Australia, the film is called Warcraft: The Beginning. I look forward to The Middle.