Warcraft |2016 | Dir. Duncan Jones | 2 hours 3 minutes | Universal
I’m starting to regard Blizzard Entertainment with Walt Disney- like levels of respect. The Anaheim- based gaming company has classic games (World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo). In the last 18 months, they added a free iOs card duel (Hearthstone), League of Legends redux Heroes of the Storm, and broke onto the platform scene with Overwatch, a first- person shooter inspired by our home planet. Blizzard is killing the game- literally. But can they dominate movie audiences?
Warcraft met expectations. The colorful film throws back to 1994’s Warcraft: Humans and Orcs, Blizzard’s first game. Humans and Orcs live in separate realms. After the Orcs unwittingly destroy their home world, they migrate to Azeroth, the human’s world. Humans and Orcs seem enemies at first, but should they fight each other, or the mysterious dark magic zapping life all around them?
Warning: This is a fantasy movie. And it’s not a Game Of Thrones/ Lord of the Rings fantasy- realism blend, either. This movie is Pure. Straight Up. Fantasy. Think Never Ending Story, Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. With a hefty jolt of testosterone and 21st century SFX, of course. Orcs look fantastic. People fly around on dragony eagle things. Magic happens. You see every color of the Lisa Frank rainbow. I loved it.
Even though half of the movie is definitely animated (the Orc half), it’s easy to suspend reality for Duncan Jone’s nuanced horde- versus- alliance adventure. More than a few parts feel like a video game. That’s OK- it’s BASED on a video game! The colorful armor and props look like the ones in the game but border on comical. Aerial battle shots and the king’s war room wink at original RTS gameplay. Even the ending feels like the game’s “conclusion”. Blizzard made this movie for gamers.
The movie uses characters from Warcraft mythology. Smart move, since both Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone utilize Warcraft characters. Blizzard aced the casting. Travis Fimmel (Vikings) plays Anduin Lothar, the sly, fearless leader of the King’s Guard. “They’re stronger; be smarter”, he advises during a man- on- Orc ambush. I wish Toby Kebbel, who plays Durotan, actually was his Orc alter- ego. Dorutan has Na’avi levels of empathy. Underutilized gem Ben Foster plays Medivh, the enigmatic mage. Dweeby Ben Schnetzer plays Khadgar, the underdog in us all. Paula Patton, one of hottest women on the planet, plays half- Orc Garona. As usual, Patton takes one for the strong woman team. Good call on making her only half- Orc- the full Orc women look a little silly.
Warcraft fans might recognize the roster, but the plot has a few surprises. It deviates from source material just enough to keep you guessing. Plus, Blizzard graduated Warcraft to World of Warcraft in 2004. So you might not remember everything. Either way, Warcraft gives gamers a tasty treat sure to rekindle flames for the franchise. For Azeroth!