The sorcerers in Warcraft suck the life out of people. It’s an experience akin to watching this movie.
Sorcery hasn’t advanced much through the ages. There’s something about the hocus-pocus that, regardless of all the technology and all the CGI in the world, still comes across as a bit cheesy. Here, that cheese feels like it’s from the 1980s. That’s old, stale cheese — of a vintage that includes Conan the Barbarian, Krull and even Dune.
In the case of Warcraft, though, at least it’s good-looking sorcery — and the movie actually has some solid 3D effects, for a nice change of pace.
The movie’s problems begin right out of the gate, however. For those unfamiliar with the multimedia extravaganza that is the Warcraft empire, it’s an instantaneous deep immersion into the worlds and the characters.
In short — at a super-high altitude — the story is about two civilizations struggling for survival. There are the Orcs — giant beasts with a protruding jawline, oversized hands and enormous biceps. And there are the humans. They... uh... look just like Earthlings.
The Orcs are evacuating a dying world and they’ve set their sights on another planet and the human kingdom of Azeroth. That’s the stuff of which wars are made.
This Warcraft movie mines source material found in the game’s early days, going all the way back to 1994’s Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. The franchise built out in scale and scope from this strategy- and defense-style game into World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Yeah. MMORPG is a real thing, and at its peak WoW had an active user base numbering around 12 million people worldwide.
According to game developer Blizzard, there were 100 million unique player accounts created in WoW during its first 10 years of action. If every one of them bought a ticket to this movie, it’d very quickly join the billion-dollar club at the box office.
And, no doubt, that’s exactly why the movie was made. At least internationally, it’s well on its way to blockbuster status. But it’s been a rough year for game-based movies. Angry Birds has garnered a lukewarm reception while Ratchet and Clank was a flat-out flop.
Unlike the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings (and even the overly-expanded Hobbit trilogy), Warcraft takes no time in offering a setup in order to initiate those coming in from the cold, WoW-free world. That makes it extremely hard to appreciate and embrace all the effort that’s gone into this (reportedly) $160 million production.
Sure, it has a certain amount of entertainment value. But at the same time, it would’ve been much more fun to have a little more background about simple things, such as who to root for.
Are the Orcs the bad guys? They’re ugly, but there are plenty of good guys who are butt ugly on planet Earth. Are the humans the good guys? Their lead sorcerer, Medivh (Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma), looks like he’s been vacationing in Colorado for some “recreational” activity. Actually, he’s been cast under an opposing spell and has betrayed his homies.
The human King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper, Captain America: The First Avenger) is clean cut and looks nice in shining armor, so of course he must be the most righteous. Right?
But it very well might be this movie is functioning as designed by director/co-writer Duncan Jones (Moon and, notably, he’s David Bowie’s son). After all, players choose a side before heading off into the game’s combat.
Even so, non-gamers could use a scorecard or a program (not of the computer software variety) in order to acclimate.