Warcraft (2016)

Genres - Action, Fantasy, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Fantasy Adventure, Sword-and-Sorcery  |   Release Date - Jun 10, 2016 (USA)  |   Run Time - 123 min.  |   Countries - Canada , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Tim Holland

Question: What do you get when you brazenly steal from Avatar, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones, and also toss in bits of The Patriot, Hulk, and The Ten Commandments? Answer: Warcraft, a boring cinematic trifle that doesn't present a single original idea in its bloated, two-hour running time. Directed by Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), this CGI-saturated extravaganza is an attempt to cash in on the once-popular series of fantasy computer games, the first installment of which was released in 1994. But Jones, who penned the script along with co-scribe Charles Leavitt, is never able to invest the story with any heart or craft characters who are interesting to watch. Even when a couple of major players are killed off, their deaths don't carry the weight they should. Instead, their demises are no big deal -- just like the movie they appear in.

Warcraft centers on the orcs, a race of strong, beastly creatures who escape their dying homeland of Draenor through a magic portal; said portal leads them to the peaceful kingdom of Azeroth, where they wage war against the human inhabitants for control of the region. The orcs are led by evil warlock Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), but his authority is questioned by a noble clansman named Durotan (Toby Kebbell), who believes the power-mad leader must be replaced in order to secure a safe future for their kind. Ironically, he turns to the humans for help with this coup. Durotan forges a delicate alliance with Azeroth's benevolent rulers King Llane (Dominic Cooper) and Lady Taria (Ruth Negga), and the latter's warrior brother Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), who is in love with a green-skinned woman who's half human and half orc (Paula Patton, wearing Spock ears and dime-store fangs). Also joining in the fray is Medivh (Ben Foster), a potent wizard charged with guarding the good folks of Azeroth, and mage-in-training Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), who offers some welcome comic relief.

From there, bone-crunching battles are fought and dastardly schemes are launched, but none of them are particularly interesting or entertaining. The movie is stuffed with impressive CGI-enhanced images (which must have consumed most of the film's 160-million-dollar budget), but they aren't enough to overcome the clunky dialogue and "been there, saw that" story line. Sometimes great actors can take nothing roles and, with their raw talent alone, draw us into their characters' lives. Not so here: Kebbell and Wu provide convincing vocal work, but their human counterparts don't fare as well. Especially bad is Foster, who is supposed to be a mighty mage, yet comes across as a lightweight Jesus in a collection of embarrassing robes. Midway through the doldrums, Glenn Close pops up and mutters some gobbledygook about darkness bringing light and light bringing darkness, and her uncredited, minute-long cameo is the movie's acting highlight.

Fans of the *Warcraft games may find this big-screen adaptation enthralling, but the uninitiated will likely get lost in its dense mythology and won't care about its uninvolving characters. And even those who do become engaged in the ho-hum proceedings will likely be frustrated by an unresolved ending that sets up the premise for a sequel. A sequel that, if we're lucky, will fade from the studio execs' minds just as quickly as this dud will disappear from the multiplex.