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Review: Warcraft – Reel-time strategery

WarcraftFilms based on video games have never fared very well, at least critically, and of all the genres the real-time strategy game seems the least likely to transition to the big screen successfully; except for maybe puzzle games, like Tetris. What’s that? Tetris is on its way to theaters as well? Okay, well, maybe even Tic-tac-toe enthusiasts can hope for an action packed movie in some future summer.

As unlikely as it seems, the new film, Warcraft, does a pretty decent job of adapting and re-imaging all those little characters on your computer monitor and bringing them to life on a huge scale. In fact, the world destroying battles in this movie are pretty incredible to watch; but the stories that try to weave some sort of narrative around the action… yeahhh, not so much.

Full disclosure, I played the original Warcraft game a few times back in the day (circa mid-nineties), but I was more of an Age of Empires guy, and I know absolutely nothing about the modern World of Warcraft franchise. So my commentary on this film is mostly from a Warcraft-ignorant position (as opposed to my normal just-plain-ignorant bearing.)

The story, in as much as I could understand it, has the Orcs from a dying world traveling interdimensionally to a planet inhabited by men (an alternate Earth?), where they attempt to beat down the humans and take control of their resources. But in the process the Orc leader, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), is using magic with bad mojo that is killing the new world in the process.

Orc Chieftain, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), sees that the only way to survive is to join forces with the humans, led by King Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) and the warrior, Lothar (Travis Fimmel), but his attempts to extend an olive branch are thwarted by the Orc’s lead badass, Blackhand (Clancy Brown.)

WarcraftAlso in the mix are a couple of human wizards: the experienced veteran, Medivh (Ben Foster); and the upstart apprentice, Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer.) There is also an Orc/Human half-breed called Garona (Paula Patton), who looks and acts an awful lot like Gamora from The Guardians of the Galaxy. (You say Garona, I say Gamora – let’s call the whole thing off!)

The Orcs, complete with their tribal lifestyle, remind me a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ green Martian Tharks (from the John Carter of Mars books.) But they also appear to have some J.R.R. Tolkien and incredible Hulk DNA in their computer generated blood. I’d be interested to find out exactly what Warcraft creator Chris Metzen’s influences were.

The film also stars Ruth Negga (as Lady Taria), whom you’ll recognize as Tulip O’Hare from the new Preacher series on AMC. It was a little weird seeing her and her Preacher co-star, Dominic Cooper (Jesse Custer) together in this film, because… did they plan that out?

The screenplay was written by Charles Leavitt (In the Heart of the Sea) and director Duncan Jones. I’m not sure who exactly should get the blame for movie’s meandering plot and (apparent) missing pieces, but the narrative of this film is a mess. If you are going to it expecting to enjoy a cohesive story, you’re going to be greatly disappointed.

On the other hand, if you are down for some incredible – albeit mindless – fantasy battle sequences; then by all means grab a big bag of popcorn and veg out, because Warcraft does not disappoint in regards to awesome cool action. Grade: 5/10

Photos © 2016 Universal Pictures


Don’t miss another review of the Warcraft film by Nerdvana’s Blizzard gaming correspondent, Rusty Schmidt:

Warcraft movie: the Blizzard gamer’s perspective

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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