Warcraft: The Beginning: Very little to make the heart beat faster

The power of the human imagination is limitless.

Thursday, 2nd June 2016, 8:00 pm

I fondly recall happy hours as a child immersed in Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games with my friends: the pressures of homework or bullying at school melted away as we embarked on valiant quests to slay fierce beasts, rescue damsels in distress and cast magical spells to defeat powerful adversaries.

In the digital age, there’s no need to huddle in a room with pens and paper, throwing numbered die to decide the fates of plucky adventurers.

Complex online role playing games bring together strangers from around the globe in real time to play out protracted battles in vast virtual realms.

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The subscription-based Warcraft series is among the most popular, spawning an entire franchise that has now given birth to this muscular, special effects-heavy blockbuster directed by Duncan Jones.

Spectacle trumps characterisation and coherent plotting in every digitally altered frame of Warcraft: The Beginning, which casually begs, borrows and steals from Avatar, The Lord Of The Rings and numerous fantasy adventures to plunge us head-first into a war between humans and hulking beasts called orcs.

Peace in the kingdom of Azeroth is shattered when a portal opens to the dying world of Draenor.

Orc chieftain Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), who has been consumed by a dark magic called The Fell, gatecrashes Azeroth with his warmongering clans and begins to slaughter everyone who stands in his way.

One tribal chief, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), does not share Gul’dan’s bloodlust and prepares to stage a coup that could endanger his wife Draka (Anna Galvin) and infant son Thrall.

Meanwhile, King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) and his wife Lady Taria (Ruth Negga), who preside over Azeroth, summon the kingdom’s guardian, a sorcerer called Medivh (Ben Foster), who dwells in an enchanted tower with his trusty manservant Blackhand (Clancy Brown).

The magician pledges to stand beside the King’s men in battle, including noble swordsman Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and his son Callan (Burkely Duffield), and a trainee mage called Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer).

During their first clash with the orcs, The King’s soldiers capture a half-human half-orc slave called Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton).

She turns out to be a valuable ally in a titanic battle for the control of Azeroth.

Despite all of the adrenaline-fuelled action sequences and frenetic editing, Warcraft: The Beginning is a bore.

The script makes no allowances to newcomers to this world of magic and mayhem, providing only the flimsiest back stories for two-dimensional characters.

Motion-capture performances bring to life these otherworldly denizens with considerable technological sound and fury.

Behind all of the CGI, there’s very little to make the heart beat faster or minds race.

Intentional humour is in perilously short supply and three romantic subplots lack on-screen sizzle, undermining the emotional impact of climatic scenes that clearly set up a sequel.