It is the duty of the fantasy film to provide the audience with an entry point—a portal, if you will—for us to enter its world and understand its rules, stakes and inhabitants, until we come to accept its fantasy as merely exaggeration. Usually this is a character, who acts as our horse in the race, so to speak, such as Frodo or Harry Potter. “Warcraft” is without an entry point, sidelining the audience to a spectator role, rendering me indifferent to its various happenings.
The inciting event is a loose one. The orcs—we’ve seen them before in movies, but never quite so anabolically enhanced—have sucked their homeland dry with dark, yet powerful magic. In need of a new world, their leader, a hunchbacked wise man — you know the type — opens up a portal to the world of humans, so that it may be conquered. The humans, naturally, do not wish to be conquered, thus war ensues. Taking an objective stance in the matter, the film spotlights a warrior from both sides of the conflict, in the humans’ Anduin Lothar and the orcs’ Durotan, who both have issues in the fatherhood department.
This is the third film for Duncan Jones, the director of the critically acclaimed “Moon” and “Source Code.” Unlike those films, both of which focus intently on a singular character and are relatively minuscule in scope, “Warcraft” unnecessarily casts a wide net. Not a single character stands out from the rest—each seems to be defined by a single trait. There’s the guy dealing with a dead son and the guy dealing with a new son; there’s the noble king and his stately wife; there’s the power hungry fascist, who stuffs himself and later regrets it. Despite a great ancillary cast—including Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Ben Foster—the characters are dead on arrival. Had the king been replaced with a cantaloupe on a hockey stick half-way through, I might not have noticed.
If the lifelessness of the characters wasn’t enough, the world itself feels decidedly intangible. Between the heavy, distracting CGI and the goofy, flamboyant costume design, the film comes across as a washed out cartoon. As such, the orcs aren’t intimidating in the least, appearing to be nothing more than Shrek’s tribal ancestors.
But no matter. For those not looking for emotional investment opportunities or the slightest sliver of intellectual stimulation, there is a healthy dose of man-on-orc action. And Jones captures the swinging hammers and projectile horses with more coherence than such things deserve.
1.5 out of 5 stars