Friday, June 10, 2016


A good video-game movie is something of an oxymoron. The genre has produced dreadful results over the years including (but not limited to) the likes of Max Payne, Super Mario Bros., Hitman, Alone in the Dark, and Doom. Even the ones that prove watchable fit more into the "so bad they're good" category than on any merit of their own.

Given the huge success of World of Warcraft, it's not surprising that the some form of the Blizzard game made it into theaters. I'm actually shocked it took this long. That the movie isn't awful puts it ahead of many of its predecessors. That it isn't altogether that good is less surprising.

Set on the planet of Azeroth, the script by director Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt shuffles between the native humans and the race of invading Orcs. In each case the movie gives us a central warrior to help focus that half of the story. There is plenty of fan bait to be had with broad and small nods to the game, but where the game allows you to explore the vast world of Azeroth this version proves mostly empty as we are teased with locations that remain unexplored.

For the humans we have legendary warrior Lothal (Travis Fimmel), brother-in-law to King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper). And for the Orcs we get chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) who has qualms with the dark magic of Orc leader Gul'dan (Daniel Wu) which fuels the Orcs' conquest. While the humans are the more affable group, Jones is reluctant to make the Orcs the villains of the film. The choice to make neither side villain nor hero of the movie is problematic as the true evil comes neither from the Orcs nor the humans but dark magic which is corrupting both sides.

The CGI and battle scenes look good, but even in 3D IMAX the world of Azeroth isn't enveloping. It just seems like generic fantasy land #6. Teasing us with vast cities while centering 95% of the action in generic woodlands certainly doesn't help. And while Jones spends time developing a few core characters such as Durotan, Lothal, half-orc slave Garona (Paula Patton) and a few others, the lack of a true central character is a noticeable flaw to a story which could use a central point of view.

Warcraft isn't the train wreck I dreaded. Nor does it fit into the "so bad it's good" category. Although the script certainly flows more like a story than a game, the story doesn't have much to say while dragging in several spots (feeling far longer than its two-hour running time) before simply ending rather than offering a full conclusion (likely in the hopes of sequels this film doesn't earn). Fans of the game, or simply fantasy films, may enjoy aspects of the film, but there's not quite enough here for me to recommend (even for an above-average video-game movie).

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