Wesley Emblidge ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Executive Editor
“I know you. From the library.” In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that line, in a high school rom-com or even the latest Da Vinci Code sequel. Yet when it’s delivered woodenly by actor Ben Schnetzer as the young mage Khadgar to some other magical being that he’s just met inside a portal in the new fantasy adventure Warcraft – let’s just say that very normal line was met with a lot of unintended laughter. The adaptation of the video game franchise is a wildly ambitious failure, with a Lord of the Rings-sized budget but a result closer to Battlefield Earth.
To direct this massive undertaking Universal tapped Duncan Jones, whose excellent small-scale sci-fi films Moon and Source Code suggested he’d have the ability to help build this vast world. Unfortunately he, along with co-writer Charles Leavitt, failed at that and lots more. Here are the basics: there are two worlds, one of humans and one of orcs. The orc world is dying, so they get their warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu, through impressive mo-cap) to open a magic portal to the human world so they can take it over. Fighting ensues. There’s also tension between the leaders of the orc clans – good orc Durotan (Toby Kebbell) worries about the plans of the obviously evil Gul’dan. A half-human half-orc named Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton) struggles with which side to fight for. Plus, the magic Guardian of the humans Medivh (Ben Foster) might be/is obviously evil. All this adds up to an expensive mess populated by flat actors miscast in parts that they’re about 10 years too young for.
It’s a shame, because with a talented director, a rich mythology and some impressive motion capture effects from ILM, there was the potential for something wonderfully weird instead of frustratingly tedious. Even last year’s similar big-budget mess Jupiter Ascending at least manages to be fun and fast paced amongst the crazy makeup and effects. There’s solid craft going on in here, Jones shoots the large action sequences compellingly, but it’s hard to care about them when all the characters are so banal.
In other countries like Germany and Sweden, the title is Warcraft: The Beginning. Yes, that’s right – the film ends without too much resolution, but rather plenty of setup for the next 20 or so films Universal surely hopes to pump out. Whether those will ever come to fruition remains to be seen, but if they do here’s hoping someone new comes in and help make sense of the land of Azeroth. As it stands now, Warcraft is destined to be only remembered as yet another failed video game adaptation.
Overall Grade: D
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