Warcraft (2016)
Warcraft (2016)

Genre: Action and Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 3 min.

Release Date: June 10th, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Duncan Jones Actors: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Clancy Brown, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin

 


 

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ith their homeland in ruins, noble chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and his Frostwolf Clan band together with all other orcs under powerful warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), to seek new lands to colonize. Using the life forces of vanquished enemies to fuel his dark magic, Gul’dan opens a portal into the peaceful world of Azaroth and orders a war party in to begin conquering its denizens. When King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), leader of Azaroth’s human kingdom Stormwind, receives reports of his cities being demolished by gargantuan monsters, he sends loyal knight Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) to investigate. Teaming up with outcast mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), Guardian sorcerer Medivh (Ben Foster), and former orc prisoner Garona (Paula Patton), Lothar must lead Stormwind’s soldiers into battle against an overwhelming force of bloodthirsty foes, all while a sinister being plots in the shadows to destroy Azaroth for his own nefarious purposes.

As with many 3D films, “Warcraft’s” extra dimensions never get more effective than the smattering of company logos that precede the title credits. From there, the extensive computer graphics exceed in their depictions of faces and textures and muscle movements. The close-ups are stunning (especially when studying skin, hair, and facial musculature), but the further the camera inches away from the action, the more the physics and motions are cheated, betraying their computer-generated inconsistencies and deficiencies. Despite the continual advancements in technology, it’s still the backgrounds, environments, and nonorganic structures that appear most photorealistic and convincing. The castles and dungeons, desert wastelands and ceremonial altars, and fortresses and camps are all feasts for the eyes, though they receive extremely brief screentime – in favor of insufficient exposition or lengthy battles. Locations seem to change every two minutes or so, while new characters are introduced at twice that speed.

Although the existence of orcs is enough of a stretch for the imagination, it’s the steady influx of unexplained magical contrivances that drives a wedge between modest entertainment and head-shaking nonsense. When the film looks like something out of “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Waterworld,” it works more favorably; when it brings in components from “John Carter” or the realms of Tolkien, all the colorful zigzags of neon, electrical sparks – or mere sorcerer’s summonings – become overbearingly silly. Magic is always the convenient, terribly easy way out of any predicament – whether it’s used to win a fight, explain a special power, transport a party, or progress the plot. During its best moments, the film resembles “Avatar,” full of alien wonders and breathtaking sights; but at its worst, it’s like “The Last Airbender,” riddled with incompetent spontaneity and confusingly undefined supernaturalism.

The biggest problem for “Warcraft” is the source material. To do justice to all the lore and mythology generated by Blizzard’s prized computer game would have required a good four hours or more (or several movies, as the structuring of the film clearly hopes for), which would have potentially pleased fans but shaped a practically unwatchable leviathan for everyone else. As it is, the story here is convoluted and unfocused, attempting to cram so many characters and ideas into such a limited outlet. The world gets too big too fast, unable to delve satisfactorily into origins and cultural identities that could have given meaning to all of the hubbub (though the action sequences possess an undeniable level of suspense and violence). Lots of visual bluster continually occurs, but none of it feels significant. And numerous scenes fall away or fade out, as if sloppy, sacrificial cuts were made to shorten the running time. Every subplot – including the clumsy young mage learning his trade, or the characters trading backstories, or opportunities allotted for human/orc romance, or even politics – are half-developed or abandoned, as if another movie’s worth of footage was set aside for the inevitable home video extended cut. Plus, it doesn’t help that, even with all the ornate costuming and detailed character designs, the basic concepts of destiny, betrayal, unsure allegiances, interspecies pacts, undying devotion to patriarchs, and commitments to foreign traditions are treated as intrinsic to high fantasy. “We’ve got a demon to kill!”

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10