Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga
MPAA Rating: (for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence)
Running Time: 2:03
Release Date: 6/10/16
Review by Mark Dujsik | June 9, 2016
There was a moment while watching Warcraft that I simply gave up trying to understand it. There is, undoubtedly, a rich mythology behind this movie that explains everything happening here. It's based on a series of video games that have spanned over two decades, spawned books, and created a massive online community that will dismiss this review outright with that opening sentence. "If you didn't even try to understand the movie," a fan might say, "why are you even reviewing it?" That's a good question, hypothetical individual, and trust me, it's one with which I am currently wrestling.
You, imaginary fan of the games and lover of their worlds, will likely laugh at the fact that I spent half of the movie believing that the Fell, the mystical MacGuffin that everyone talks about but no one bothers to explain, is responsible for the creation of the race of orcs, who are portrayed here as computer-generated characters that exist in the not-quite-uncanny-enough region of the Uncanny Valley. The orcs have decided to invade the realm of men, dwarves, and elves because their own world, which is either across an ocean or in a different dimension, is dying. The movie never explains the geography, although it takes a mystical teleportation gate to go between the two worlds.
By the way, I am now, thanks to one of your community's online encyclopedias on the subject of this franchise, aware that it is not "the Fell," but rather "the Fel." I also read that it is a form of destructive magic—"the language of chaos." This definition does not clarify anything for a newcomer, by the way.
The screenplay by director Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt doesn't even go that far in explaining what the Fel is. In the movie, it's a swirly, green mist that is controlled by a demon wizard orc named Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), and it's also a swirly, blue mist that is controlled by Medivh (Ben Foster), the magical Guardian, in the non-orc realm.
There's a lot of swirly, colored mist in this movie. Another mystical entity is clothed in a black robe that is surrounded by swirly mist of a similar hue, and the gateway to this character's lair is through a big, black cube that is powered by red mist. The Fel is, obviously, magic, and it definitely destroys living creatures by sucking the souls from their bodies. It also, apparently, creates super warriors and mages. No one in the movie explains anything about it, so it's essentially a contradictory catch-all for whatever the movie needs it to be.
The world has that same random quality, too, as orcs and dwarves and men and elves and griffins and half-breeds and wizards and unnamed blue creatures and demons intermingle without any rhyme or reason (Just for fun, there's even an allusion to the story of Moses). The entire movie feels as if some production head came up with a bunch of scenes and characters that "need" to be in a movie based on this franchise. The production team put the necessary elements for those scenes and creatures together, and nobody thought to give those scenes and the elements of the world a coherent through line. Jones, at least, allows the brutal battle sequences some breathing room. It's a shame there's no reason to care about any of them.
The plot, again, involves the orcs trying to take over the realm of men, which, we find out about halfway through the movie, is called Azeroth. The realm of the orcs is either left unspoken or mumbled by one of the orcs at some point.
An orc chieftain named Durotan (Toby Kebbell) wants his clan to find a new home but is suspicious of Gul'dan. In Azeroth, a human warrior named Lothar (Travis Fimmel) is trying to convince King Llane (Dominic Cooper) that the orcs are a threat. Garona (Paula Patton, who drew the short straw and had to put on silly makeup instead of having her character digitally rendered), who is half orc and half human, takes a liking to humans after being a slave of the orcs.
It's painfully obvious that the actors are dragging their heels through scenes, and the morose tone of the movie makes the nonsensical affair even more of a slog to a sequel-pandering non-ending. Warcraft doesn't make a lick of sense for the uninitiated, and failing to make this narrative even slightly coherent is the fault of the movie, not those who don't know this stuff inside and out before seeing it.
Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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