Sunday, June 12, 2016

Warcraft (2016) - Strictly for Gamers Only

Warcraft (2016) Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky and Daniel Wu. Directed by Duncan Jones. Screenplay by Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones. Based on Warcraft video game by Blizzard Entertainment. Produced by Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Charles Roven, Alex Gartner and Stuart Fenegan. Color. U.S. Runtime 123 minutes. Fantasy, Action

If you play Warcraft or your name is Jackie Chan, you can stop reading here. You have already seen the film and no doubt love it. If you're not a Warcraft player, then read on.

Video games are a somewhat untapped pool of content for Hollywood. There have been a few in the past, like Doom (2005) and Ratchet and Clank (2016), but with a few exceptions, they have not been used nor have they been all that successful. But it is no surprise that Hollywood would look to Warcraft as a source. I am not a player, but I do know that the video game has been around in some form since 1994's release of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.

With that little to go on, I went to see the film in the theater, seeing it in 3D since that matinee was cheaper than seeing the 2D version at a later time; go figure. Visually, the film is stunning, and even though not shot in 3D, some of the effects looked really good done that way. Sad to say that is about as much as the film has going for it.

Set in an imaginary kingdom, Azeroth, run by humans and led by King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) and his trusty aid, Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), everything is peaceful until the Orcs invade. With their own planet, Draenor, dying, the Orcs, led by Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), come through a life-force sustained portal.

Bad Orc Gul'dan (Daniel Wu).

While not all Orcs are bad, Gul'dan wields fel power to control his Horde and to battle the humans. Those who try to stop him, like Durotan (Toby Kebbell), the chieftain of the Frostwolf clan, and his pregnant mate, Draka (Anna Galvin), are no match for his power. There is even one half-Orc, Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton), who finds herself caught between the two races.

Good Orc Durotan (Toby Kebbell).

There are a gob of other characters as well, all with somewhat hard to pronounce names, which doesn't help. What also doesn't help is the sound mix with dialogue oftentimes getting buried under the score and sound effects. Add that to a somewhat convoluted storyline with characters who sometimes look too similar to one another and you have an audience that is sometimes on the brink of what could be called a confused slumber, which is not a good thing for an actioner like Warcraft. To top it off is an unsatisfying ending which is supposed to lead to a sequel.

A good film based on a video game should be like a good film based on a book, in that it should stand on its own without requiring prior knowledge of the source material by its audience. It should tell the source material in film-ic way which can and should stand on its own as a story. Sadly, this is a lesson that director Duncan Jones has still to learn. There is too much of an expectation that the audience has played the game and is familiar with its myriad of characters, relationships and environments.

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