AZEROTH — I don’t think the creative team behind “Warcraft” really cares if the average moviegoer likes their film.
I mean, sure, writer/director Duncan Jones probably would’ve enjoyed great reviews and audience adoration, but at the end of the day, everything about “Warcraft” feels like a fans-only experience.
No one in this cinematic universe is explaining magic systems or offering reasons why a non-Warcrafter should care about central characters. The movie just begins and ends in the world of Warcraft, and you can either jump in and embrace the video-game-quality CG and teen-fiction melodrama, or you can’t. I definitely couldn’t, but I also couldn’t help but respect what appeared to be the most expensive fan film ever made.
Like always, let’s chat about the highlights:
The premise
You’ll notice, by the way, Jones makes it clear in this first movie that “Warcraft” was never written to be a standalone story. As a result, the film is presented as a very broad overview concerning two planets and the inevitable war between them.
In one world, starving orcs follow their corrupt, life-sucking leader as they search for a new home. On the other world, peaceful residents live in harmony while enjoying the protection of powerful, magical guardians.
Using a glowing green planet portal, orcs attack the unsuspecting peace-planet forcing its residents to defend their homes while searching out answers about the mysterious teleportation device.
CG Orcs
There’s no getting around how distractingly bad the post-effects are in “Warcraft.” Even 1993’s “Jurassic Park” pulled off more believable CG/human interactions than what “Warcraft” is able to accomplish here in 2016.
We live in a world now where Disney is showing off photorealistic talking animals and even ninja turtles move with weight and react to shifting environments convincingly, so the Playstation and XBOX graphics on display throughout “Warcraft” will feel especially jarring for most audiences.
Outside of the very surface “this guy’s a wizard and that guy’s a warrior” character-types, there isn’t a great deal going on with the central cast of “Warcraft.” This leaves Travis FimmelPaula Patton, and Dominic Cooper with little more to do than either spout off exposition or pose for the camera. This again ties back to the fact that “Warcraft” is more interested in setting up future movies than actually exploring a self-contained adventure.
All that said, it’s definitely worth noting that Fimmel navigates this material surprisingly well. Even while delivering some of the most telegraphed and eye-rolling lines, Fimmel seems to be enjoying himself, which at the very least, makes you wonder if you should be doing the same.
What works
I’ve kind of touched on this already, but there’s something admirable about “Warcraft’s” unapologetic delivery. This isn’t a movie that cares if you want an explanation concerning why that wizard suddenly needs to draw on the floor — though to answer that, I’m pretty sure it’s because something must be glowing in every shot, and wizard writing is glowy.
Instead, “Warcraft” exists so fans can see their favorite parts of the game actualized on the big screen. If you haven’t said to yourself, “I’d love to see an orc crush a human’s skull in his giant green hands,” then this isn’t your movie. But apparently people have said that, and I’m glad said people can finally mark those moments off their cinematic bucket list.
There are so many things wrong with “Warcraft,” it would be easy to simply note a few and then suggest everyone do anything else — and to be clear, that is sound advice for almost everyone reading this. But I can’t help but wonder if “Warcraft” is the movie fans of the game have been waiting for, or at least a significant step in the right direction. If that’s the case, of course I hope it does well and I hope the right audience has a blast with it. As a general recommendation though, anything else is the right thing to do when someone invites you to catch a screening of “Warcraft.”