- on Thursday, 09 June 2016 21:18
- by Loron Hays
I have been a supporter of the vision of writer/director Duncan Jones since his auspicious debut in 2009. With two unique films, Moon and Source Code, he gave me hope for the future of cinematic science fiction. His work is compelling and evokes a time when sci-fi dared to do things differently and went at it alone. I’m not about to quit on him now, regardless of how I feel about his latest offering, Warcraft. It’s a bomb; a bust; a “Battlefield Earth: The Next Generation” if you will and, yes, Jones directed it. But it is also an ambitious and absorbing tale.
Besides, we can’t exactly fault Jones for having to serve two masters: Universal and Blizzard, the makers of the computer strategy game. Because I’m sure there were fights between the artist and the producers and, yes, the fantasy suffers as a result. Warcraft feels like a literal tug of war between the parties involved as the audience gets yanked this way and that way trying to soak in a new and beautifully expansive set of worlds.
The narrative is about the first contact between humans and orcs and an ancient dark power that has overtaken the leader of the orcs. He decides to invade Azeroth, a peaceful fantasy world, and the narrative – after a swift battle sequence – quickly focuses on a chieftain of The Horde named Durotan (Toby Kebbell) who must choose sides quickly in order to save his people.
Based on the story behind the original game (and not the modern World of Warcraft), Jones’ movie has a refugee heart worn on its sleeve that unexpectedly takes center stage. This is a damn good thing. But, before we get to all of that, you have to survive the first 20 minutes or so and, let me tell you, the opening is 100% gutsy. It’s a hyper-charged shot of slick sci-fi adrenaline as Jones carries us from one strange name to the next and rattles of worlds unlike the one previous to it. The channel of names is a difficult one to swim and will cause heads to rotate as the orc leader – who isn’t exactly a villain - brings about the end of impish prisoners in order to harness the energy of some all-consuming dark magic.
Warcraft, as co-written by Jones and Charles Leavitt, is Phantom Menace-like in the fact that it is all exposition and, as it does finally all come together, only really gets going right when the closing credits roll. It’s bound to piss off a lot of people and we probably never will get another chance to revisit this strangely fascinating set of worlds due to the bad word of mouth the film is receiving. For once, though, we can’t blame the overreliance of CGI and special effects because they are top-notch. In fact, the performance of Kebbell is much more animated and lifelike than the miscast humans around him. Poor performances from Paula Patton, Travis Fimmel, and Ben Schnetzer just weigh this production down. Ultimately, you don’t give a shit about the humans. Ben Foster as a very mysterious Guardian is the only one doing anything worth watching and, yes, he too is miscast.
It is the orcs which provide the storyline we care about and, after getting over the shock of just how weird they look, you will prefer their company over the humans. In a film that is built upon one backstory after another and too stuffed for its own good, they – those heavy-tusked, cartoon-looking creatures with weapons way too large to be logically swung – are the film’s saving grace. Trust me, give them a chance. Their design and performance will win you over in the end. They have to because there’s little else – other than beautifully strange worlds – that is given the chance to make an impact.
Warcraft, as it is a richly ambitious film that fails on many levels, is bound to develop a cult following. Jones, David Bowie’s son, will survive this. Few others involved in this production will and that might very well include the audience.
MPAA Rating: PG - 13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence
Runtime: 123 mins
Director: Duncan Jones
Writer: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster
Genre: Action | Fantasy
Tagline: Two worlds. One home.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Our hope is destroyed; there is nothing to go back to. Is war the only answer?"
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Official Site: http://www.warcraftmovie.com/
Release Date: June 10, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: From Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures comes Warcraft, an epic adventure of world-colliding conflict based on Blizzard Entertainment's global phenomenon.
The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: Orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people and their home.
So begins a spectacular saga of power and sacrifice in which war has many faces, and everyone fights for something.
No details available.