Warcraft movie full length review - Something need doing? Zug-zug!
From the hype-machine that brought you "Avatar", the species that brought you George Bush 1, 2 and 3, and the consumer indices that made glow-in-the-dark tampons a thing, comes Duncan Jones' "Warcraft", a high-fantasy film based on a high-fantasy video game based on high-fantasy films and novels.
"Warcraft" opens with a human soldier circling an orc warrior. What initially seems like an unconventionally patient action sequence quickly degenerates into stupidity as the two warriors suddenly charge at one another. The orc wins; he's a giant humanoid with massive biceps and a mighty hammer.
We're then introduced to an orc named Durotan. Chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, Durotan pledges allegiance to Gul'dan, a green-skinned shaman who is also a REALLY BAD VILLAIN. Gul'dan plans to use his SUPER POWERS to do BAD STUFF. This BAD STUFF includes STEALING ENERGY FROM NICE PEOPLE, creating a BIG ARMY, and turning the beautiful land of Azeroth into a SICKLY HELL-HOLE. Gul'dan's powers include mixed martial arts, green laser beams, soul-sucking hand waves and PAINFULLY DULL MOVIE VILLAIN DIALOGUE.
Duncan then takes us to Azeroth, where we're introduced to various human characters. These include Commander Anduin (Travis Fimmel), King Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) and a young wizard named Khadgar (Ben Schenetzer). All are generic white dudes with cumbersome names, designer facial hair, bad dialogue and the finest muscles four-months of intense cardiovascular can buy.
"Warcraft's" second act watches as our human heroes fumble about, desperately hoping to uncover the nature of Gul'dan's plan. As we the audience know what this plan is, as the plan is cartoonishly silly, and as our heroes spend most of their time in dreary libraries and chambers, all these scenes feel painfully dull. Compare to Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke", a similar fantasy flick in which exposition is cunningly disgorged.
"Warcraft's" first major action sequence occurs at the twenty four minute mark. Here a band of humans are attacked in a CGI forest by CGI orcs. It's a routine sequence, filled with the usual hack and slashing, growling, stabbing, light-shows and silly action-movie-poses.
We're then introduced to Garona (Paula Patton), a half human, half orc. A cliché in such adventure films, Garona exists to bridge divides between Man and Other. She leads the humans to an icy valley in which Anduin and Durotan negotiate a war-treaty. Unfortunately these negotiations are interrupted by Gul'dan's forces, whose arrival instigates the film's second major action sequence. Occurring at the 58 minute mark, it climaxes with Anduin's son dying as Anduin watches helplessly behind an energy shield. Recalling Qui-Gon-Jin's death in "Phantom Menance", or Spock's in "Wrath of Khan", this Big Emotional Moment reeks of cynical reverse engineering.
More dull dialogue and pseudo-political manoeuvrings occur, in scenes which play like a cross between "John Carter of Mars" and a perpetually buffering Youtube video. These scenes include a trip to a manna-pool, a "conversation about love", hokey teleportation devices, irate griffins, and a journey to Dalaran, a floating city in which a powerful sorceress (Glenn Close) is kept in a maximum security prison because she knows the truth about stuff the audience doesn't really care about.
"Warcraft" then ends with one of cinema's most cumbersome action movie climaxes. Whilst orcs and humans battle to the death, our human heroes perform an exorcism on a possessed wizard. These "exciting" sequences have no sense of style, tension or rhythm. Lacking originality, interesting tactics or psychological clashes, they largely involve hundreds of CGI characters yelling, hack-and-slashing or lunging inanely at one another. Compare to the large scale battles in Kurosawa's "Ran", the climax to Michael Mann's "Last of the Mohicans" and of course Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movies, which offered a blend of adventure, Olympian seriousness and slap-stick silliness. Duncan's film, in contrast, is solemn and one-note to a fault.
Despite its 160 million dollar budget, "Warcraft's" vistas and visions are mostly unconvincing. Its orcs live in uncanny valley, with dead eyes and goofy tusks which better art designers would have reworked. The film's cities, forests, mountains and tribal encampments look similarly generic and/or cartoonish. And like most high-fantasy films, the fact that we're positioned to root for feudalistic monarchs and thuggish warlords isn't questioned; in the grand scheme of things, Gul'dan's no more a jerk than the film's supposed heroes.
"Warcraft" ends with several of its major characters perishing, a bit of audience-contempt designed to set up future sequels. It was financed by Legendary Pictures, one of the first production companies exclusively set up by hedge fund managers, private equity firms, banksters and big Chinese conglomerates; the far East being the modern blockbuster's new El Dorado.
"Warcraft" was based on a series of real-time strategy games by Blizzard Entertainment, in which players harvest wood and minerals and slowly build little forest enclaves. A better film would have devoted its running time to such bucolic resource gathering and simple community building. Compared to Duncan's vision, 120 minutes of orc manual labour sounds like bliss. Work! Work!
3/10 ? Needs more woodcraft. Worth no viewings.