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With: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin, Callum Keith Rennie, Burkely Duffield, Ryan Robbins, Dean Redman, Glenn Close
Written by: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt
Directed by: Duncan Jones
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence
Running Time: 123
Date: 06/10/2016

Warcraft (2016)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Duncan Jones's sci-fi/fantasy Warcraft makes you fear for the future of movies. The new based-on-a-video-game feature is, not surprisingly, heaviest on visual effects. Stamped from the same template as other recent movies (Harry Potter, The Hobbit, etc.), the creatures in this movie look just like the Hulk, except slightly less green and with elephant-like tusks.

They are the "orcs," and their land is dying. They travel through a magical portal, arrive in a land of humans, and begin rampaging. One of their number, the noble, benevolent husband/father Durotan (Toby Kebbell) decides to try to unite with the humans to defeat the cruel, power-hungry orc leader. Meanwhile, the humans summon the wizard-like "Guardian" (Ben Foster) to help. The king (Dominic Cooper), his best warrior (Travis Fimmel, who looks like Leonardo DiCaprio's stand-in from The Revenant), and a young mage (Ben Schnetzer) all pitch in.

So does an escaped orc, Garona (Paula Patton), who looks half-human. Actually she looks quite a lot like Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) from Avatar, except with, you know, little tusks. (Quite a lot of the movie looks like Avatar, come to think of it.) It all ends with a big battle, and the good guys trying to prevent the portal from opening again.

It's often difficult to understand what's going on or why. Clearly co-writers Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt simply could not have cared less about their story. Everything is conveyed through stiff, exposition-filled dialogue. Characters never engage emotionally; their relationships are told to us. Story points are chopped off or forgotten. Where does Garona go after she touches the blue flower and disappears? Better still, why was the portal ever opened in the first place? Presumably, there's some kind of message about working together and attaining peace, but as the movie wraps up, more war is promised.

It's too bad. In 2009, a year packed with big, dumb sci-fi hits about battles and special effects (Avatar above all), director Jones's feature debut Moon was the only science fiction movie based on an actual idea. Then, in 2011, Jones's follow-up, the entertaining Source Code, was again based on a solid idea. Both films told their stories concisely, running less than 100 minutes.

Now Warcraft is a bloated, boring 123-minute mess of globby computer effects and soulless battles. What happened to Jones's principles? If this thing is a hit, will it ever be possible for him, or anyone, to make a good movie again?

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