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Review: ‘Warcraft’ Is All War, But No Craft

Alright, let me put my cards on the table. I have played the Warcraft video games from the 1990s, but not the pop culture phenomenon of World of Warcraft. I’ve never read a Warcraft book, comic book or even a strategy guide for that matter.

Warcraft MovieSpoon.com
Looks cool, but looks can be deceiving.

So while I may not be familiar with the abundance of lore coupled with Warcraft, I can state that the movie did capture the atmosphere of watching other people play World of Warcraft. I spent my college days in dorms where students would be glued to their screens in walleyed hypnosis over this fantasy game. They’d spend hours upon hours mindlessly grinding levels by clicking profusely, waiting for their character to walk to the next enemy and then clicking some more. They spoke to one another in nasally and droning voices that made them sound less as warriors or wizards and more as accountants doing taxes. That level of monotony and disinterest can be felt in this movie.

The movie begins with the introduction of a race of war-loving beings known as the Orcs, portrayed as CGI monstrosities with big teeth, big hands and big feet. Their world is dying and they now rely on the dark magic of an evil Orc who uses the power of souls to open a portal to a new world. The world they seek to conquer is known as Azeroth and it’s occupied by humans, elves, dwarves, griffins and wizards (and possibly more fantasy creatures).

Warcraft MovieSpoon.com
CGI on top of CGI on top of CGI.

But the portal is only strong enough to bring a few Orcs through at a time. They need more souls to make it open, so the handful of Orcs that went through starts capturing humans to use as fuel for the portal. Why don’t they just talk to the humans about their dilemma?

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Well, the orcs don’t speak the words of man, but apparently some of their lesser Orc half-breeds can speak it for some unexplained reason. There are also plot elements of fantasy creature councils, traditions that the Orcs are struggling to protect, pathos for a baby, etc. Don’t bother getting too invested in these plot elements, however, as most of them are either underdeveloped or left out to dry for a supposed sequel.

Warcraft MovieSpoon.com
Travel Fimmel of ‘Vikings’ fame stars in the movie.

In this struggle for survival and land, a slew of laughable and underdeveloped characters are thrown at the screen. Durotan (Toby Kebbell), one of the chiefs of the Orcs, fears for the future of his people and his newly born child that he brings with the horde to Azeroth for some reason. Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) commands the human armies that drive back the Orcs, but is concerned about having his hardly acknowledged son on the battlefield.

Garona (Paula Patton) is a half-Orc slave that will be given sanctuary if she can help the humans with defeating the horde, but floats between so many strange motivations of who to trust, kill or seduce. Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) is a young mage that seeks to prove his worth and play a bigger role in the forthcoming war, but everybody hates him for some reason. The mysterious wizard Medivh (Ben Foster) is supposed to be an all-powerful being, but appears more as a disinterested stoner with his long hair and thin beard. This punk doesn’t have the presence or the facial hair to go toe-to-toe with Gandalf or Merlin.

All of these characters do little more than go through the motions based on both a crowded script and low-level acting abilities. There are small nuggets of scenes reserved for these actors to display some level of charisma and every one of them fall flat on their face in failed attempts at levity and drama. I could hear a few pity laughs in the audience during most of these awkward moments.

Warcraft MovieSpoon.com
These griffins don’t have anything on the eagles of ‘Lord of the Rings.’

For Azeroth being filled with wizards, griffins, dwarves and elves, Warcraft does a rather terrible job at building up its world. The movie introduces the human kingdom of Stormwind, but we don’t see much of it outside the throne room, war room and dungeon (all of which are not that impressive). We don’t get to meet the people, understand their customs or experience their culture. I suppose we just have to accept it as your average fantasy kingdom and move on.

The fight scenes, which will most likely be the biggest draw, are decent at best. For the first few minutes, the combat is shocking and brutal. But by the time the movie reaches its tenth head smashed in by an Orc hammer, the abundance of brutality begins to lose impact fast. Quantity takes priority over quality as legions of knights square off against hordes of Orc warriors in large overhead shots.

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