In 2012 I took my mother to see the baggy, dithering first installment of the Hobbit trilogy.
For many of the millions who love it, fantasy can be a refuge — not a quick escape from this world but the opportunity to luxuriate in another. Sadly, they won't find
Warcraft dashes through its HD renderings so fast that details merely slough the eye. Other than one shot of a wizard naïf gaping at a circular staircase, the filmmakers expect you to pause Warcraft at home if you want to see what its army of artists actually designed. (And, seriously, the capital is called Stormwind City? Who names their town after an A+ reason not to live there?)
Fans of the beat-‘em-ups will be even more miserable. Warcraft plods toward its climactic battle like Sisyphus shoving that stone up Hell's hill — you'll abandon hope of it ever getting there. It's the kind of dithering day-killer of a movie that, just before the third act, shackles its heroes in prison cells. Is there any viewer who doesn't know they'll eventually escape, and that the lockup scenes are the best possible time to go to the bathroom? The Warcraft games emphasize, in different iterations, both strategic city-sacking and the jolly, dungeon-delving, party-based adventuring of D&D. The movie can't even get those basics right, confining its battles to a forest, a campground by a portal and the patio area of a wizard's indoor pool.
In short, Warcraft is the most wearying kind of bad movie, a dull and sad one that's less engaging a watch than just seeing the studio's millions run bill-by-bill through a shredder for two hours. 10 more reels of Bilbo Baggins' singing-dancing dwarf dinner party would play like Raiders of the Lost Ark by comparison. It's pompous and grim and confusing, set in an imperiled fantasy land — Azeroth — that may as well be named Generica. Key scenes seem to have been sliced away or never filmed. An hour had passed before I felt confident I could tell, in a lineup, which bearded fellow was king, which was
But Paula Patton, as that half-orc, has quite a high charisma score. Garona's torn between two worlds, as the back cover of the novelization might say, but Patton finds feeling and humor in the ridiculous role. She scores the film's only honest laughs when she bluntly tells that wizard naïf that he would be an ineffective lover. In the final scenes, Garona even gets to make a tense, difficult decision, and Warcraft briefly seems to have hot blood in its veins.
There are a few other elements that might interest devotees of fantasy cheese. First, the filmmakers honor the games'
More pleasing, for fans of this kind of thing, is Warcraft's spirited and inventive (for a movie) depiction of magic. It's here that you might see why a director as promising as Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) signed on for this — in the margins, he finds room to play. There's shivery horror in the way an orc shaman sucks the white-light life out of his chattel, and bad-guy
Finally, I have to give Warcraft this: It inspired the most impassioned
*Correction: An earlier version of this review included a caption that misidentified Ruth Negga as Paula Patton. We regret the error.