Warcraft is the kind of film that could only exist in the modern theatrical market. Carrying a $160 million budget and grossing a paltry $24 million at domestic box offices over the weekend, this movie would’ve gone down as a legendary and unmitigated financial failure were it not for the fact that it took in $285 million worldwide — with $156 million of that coming from China alone. Foreign markets were almost certainly the intended path for this production’s economic viability. Whether that was a savvy strategy on the part of studio execs or a cynical statement on the cinematic tastes of global markets, the bottom line is that Warcraft utterly fails to deliver on the immersive world-building experience that made its source material so popular. Unfortunately, and as seems to be the case with so many films that fail creatively these days, this series will probably warrant a few more installments. Perhaps, in the interest of truth in advertising, they should just go ahead and call the sequel Whorecraft.
Warcraft is an origin story of sorts, setting up a filmic interpretation of the universe established in the early ‘90s computer role-playing games of the same title and further explored in the hugely successful 2004 online game World of Warcraft along with countless spinoffs and tie-ins. This is clearly a film made by people with a distinct affinity for these games, and, while close adherence to the original properties would ordinarily be a point in this adaptation’s favor, the resultant exposition dump is likely to confuse the hell out of those bearing only a passing familiarity with the subject matter while simultaneously boring avid gamers to tears. Director and co-writer Duncan Jones, a self-proclaimed member of the latter group, has stated that at least 40 minutes were cut from the film for release, and it shows. However, the fact that the film’s theatrical running time already clocks in at over two hours — and still manages to feel truncated — does not leave me with any great sense of anticipation for an extended director’s cut. Based on Jones’ solid sci-fi track record with his two previous films, Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011), blame for Warcraft’s narrative deficiencies should probably be leveled at co-writer Charles Leavitt, who also scripted last year’s abominable Seventh Son. One can only hope that the fallout from this current atrocity will draw audiences back to Jones’ under-seen early work while encouraging Leavitt to take a cue from his surname and leave screenwriting altogether.
While the CGI work is often impressive, it looks a bit too much like a video game to feel at home on a movie screen. This incompatibility of media is most evident in the case of the cast, thanklessly tasked with either providing a performance via motion capture or acting opposite a tennis ball in front of a green screen. Both scenarios lead to disappointing results from what might generously be called a C-list ensemble. An inherent problem when adapting a series of games (which themselves were based on better preexisting works) is that clichés become practically inescapable, and this is especially problematic when it comes to Warcraft’s tepid attempts at characterization. The shadow of Tolkien looms particularly large over the proceedings, and the cast can almost be forgiven for their lackluster efforts in light of the fact that all the script has given them are the broadest possible stereotypes culled from every corner of the fantasy genre. All of which leaves me with one burning question: What the hell is Glenn Close doing here in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo? At the very least, I understand why she’s uncredited.
The bottom line for Warcraft is that it was a production conceived and engineered for the bottom line itself. There is clearly a demand for this film in overseas theaters, and some gamers might get a kick out of the various Easter Eggs planted throughout, but the majority of mainstream moviegoers will not be missing out if they choose to stay away. When I initially screened this film, I slept through about 20 minutes of the second act and watched it again (in my dedication to giving every movie I review a fair shot) to make sure I didn’t miss anything crucial. As it turns out, my time was wasted twice. What amounts to Whorecraft for studio execs is simple Snorecraft for the CGI-weary critic. Rated PG – 13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence.
Playing at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher.