'Warcraft' is a decent-at-best popcorn flick (spoiler-free review)

Based on Blizzard's gaming franchise, the movie fails to hook you into its fantasy world, despite excellent CGI and action scenes.

Aloysius Low Senior Editor
Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.
Aloysius Low
2 min read
Universal Studios

Don't set your expectations too high for "Warcraft". While the film has already secured massive success in China, where Blizzard's World of Warcraft is crazy big, the $160 million blockbuster isn't exactly what raiders have been waiting for.

The film is set in the beginning of a war (the plot of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans) between (you guessed it) humans and the invading Orcs, led by a very sinister-looking Warlock in Gul'dan. Before I explain where "Warcraft" went wrong, I will say that the action scenes are plenty satisfying and help make the movie watchable.

But the intensity of the film's conflict is negated by frantic storytelling. "Warcraft" can be confusing for those uninitiated with the gaming franchise, as it runs four different storylines at once, zipping the audience from scene to scene without giving them time to understand what's going on.


Robert Kazinsky's Ogrim is realistic even as a CGI character.

Universal Studios

Director Duncan Jones was too ambitious in trying to take multiple plot lines, tie them together and cram them into one film. The result is an overwhelming amount of exposition, with there being too much telling and not enough showing. Perhaps the film would have been better had it been from the perspective of just one character, such as Khadgar.

Given Jones' pedigree (his previous two films, "Moon" and "Source Code", are both highly acclaimed), the lack of proper storytelling in "Warcraft" is an unpleasant surprise. There's a lack of progression and character development in the film, and it ends with a whimper.

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It's not all bad, though. World of Warcraft fans will love how faithful the main areas of the Azeroth have been brought to life, including Stormwind and Karazhan. Newcomers will love the realistic CGI orcs that look menacing and scary, and the magic is quite visually spectacular.

That said, "Warcraft" lacks that special something. The lore from the franchise is so rich, brought to life in the games by such fine narrative detailing, that it's impossible to look at the film as anything other than a letdown.

"Warcraft" opens on June 10 in the US and June 16 in Australia. It's currently showing in the UK.


Newcomer Ben Schnetzer plays Khadgar, a mage trying to save his world from the invading orcs.

Universal Studios