Director: Duncan Jones
Writers: Duncan Jones & Charles Leavitt
Stars: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell
Review by Mike DeAngelo:
The curse of the video game movie is real, people. For those unfamiliar with the aforementioned curse, it’s simple – if a movie is being adapted from a video game source, it is destined to be an absolute unholy piece of garbage. You might be saying to yourself, “Wait…that’s not true. Is it? There’s got to be one or two good ones.” Sorry, folks, but there’s a long line of films to point to as proof – from the infamous Super Mario Bros. (1993) to the abysmal Resident Evil films to the unintentionally hilarious Prince of Persia: Sands Through Time (2010). And the list goes on and on, filled with turds from top to bottom. When Warcraft was announced with acclaimed director Duncan Jones at the helm and Blizzard firmly in creative control, many pointed to it as the start of a new era of video game adaptations filled with big budgets, A-list filmmakers and casts, and, most importantly, films that don’t suck. Sadly, Warcraft is not the savior it was cracked up to be, as it suffers from nearly every problem that can be assigned to big-budget movie making.
I will say that I’m not a big Warcraft guy. I’ve watched people play the games and never really saw the appeal. Give me a side-scrolling arcade style Super Nintendo game and I’m as happy as a nerd can be, but Warcraft’s style of gameplay never did it for me.
With that said, I’m a huge Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) fan and was really rooting for this film solely based on him; however, it’s apparent very early on in the film that it’s going to be a rough ride. From the odd pacing to the hollow characters to the hit or miss special effects, the movie never had a chance. You can see hints of his creativity and penchant for the little moments here and there, but this machine is far too massive for him to steer.
I will say that when the effects are good, they’re outstanding – the orcs look about as real as CGI characters ever have. In fact, the orcs are the most fully realized characters in the movie overall, no doubt thanks to the strides made recently in motion/performance capture technology. Sadly, it feels like they spent a lot of time on the orc effects and let multiple other effects shots suffer as a result.
Another big thing this movie had going for it was the cast. Travis Fimmel (Vikings), Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Contraband, Alpha Dog), Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Double, Captain America: The First Avenger, Preacher), Toby Kebbell (RocknRolla, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) are all very capable of turning in great performances. Yet, the script and story are so bland that they’re all severely wasted. Kebbell gets the most to work with in bringing something out of his orc character, Durotan, but one fully realized main character out of ten doesn't work. The biggest fumble in the movie seems to be the mishandling of the human characters. With them, you’re simply dropped into bland, uninteresting moments to introduce the characters and are never given enough information to care about any of them.
Suddenly, you realize nearly two hours have passed and you’re watching a climax that you have no emotional investment in. Thankfully, it goes quickly - so quickly that multiple plot lines are left open ended to leave room for the pre-assumed sequel, as if the studio is saying, “That’s right, you’re getting a sequel whether you like it or not.” Personally, I hate it when studios count their chickens before they hatch like that, as you’re often left with an incomplete origin pointing towards a future sequel that will never come because they didn’t spend enough time working out the first movie. They just say, “Hey, look at all of the money we’re pouring into this…it’s definitely going to be a hit.” Wrong. Marvel is the only studio that can get away with it these days, and that’s because they’ve earned the audience’s trust.
In the end, there’s no other way to look at it - Warcraft is just another film to throw on the bad video game adaptation list. It’s bogged down by too many undeveloped characters, generic storytelling, and a studio that assumed multiple sequels far too soon. Here’s to hoping that the producers of the next wave of video game adaptations (Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted) are able to learn a few lessons from Warcraft and adjust accordingly. For now, the curse lives on…