[Screen It]


(2016) (Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell) (PG-13)

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Fantasy/Action: Humans must contend with humanoid beings invading their world, all while one of the latter questions his ruler's leadership.
In the world known as Draenor there exists a species known as orcs, muscular, green-skinned humanoids sporting large tusks from their lower jaws. Due to the magic used by their leader, Gul'dan (DANIEL WU), Draenor is dying, and thus he wants to invade and take over another planet known as Azeroth. Gul'dan uses magic known as the Fel -- which strips the souls from those his forces have captured -- to open a portal between the worlds and has sent small groups of orcs to capture more prisoners in order to keep the portal open long enough so that all orcs can make it through.

Participating in the latest incursion is Durotan (TOBY KEBBELL), the chieftain of the Frostwolf clan, his pregnant wife Draka (ANNA GALVIN ), and his friend Orgrim Doomhammer (ROBERT KAZINSKY). Anticipating the attack is a group of human soldiers led by Anduin Lothar (TRAVIS FIMMEL). That military ruler heard of raids on human villages by the orcs as well as news from a disgraced young mage named Khadgar (BEN SCHNETZER) that the orcs were using the Fel. Accordingly, they visit the land's sorcerer guardian, Medivh (BEN FOSTER), for more information, and then set out to deal with the intruders.

During an ambush by the orcs, Medivh's magic from afar kills most of the intruders, although Durotan manages to escape. Captured, however, is Garona (PAULA PATTON), a half-human, half-orc who was previously Gul'dan's slave. She agrees to help the humans, and arranges a meeting between the King of Stormwind, Llane Wrynn (DOMINIC COOPER), and Durotan who's realized that Gul'dan's use of the Fel is what's killing their world, and an alliance with the humans is necessary to defeat the orc leader.

From that point on, both sides race to stop Gul'dan and his right-hand orc, Blackhand (CLANCY BROWN), from fully opening the portal, all while they come to realize that someone on the Azeroth side is conspiring with him to enable the invasion.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Back in 2006, the notion of making a movie based on the video games in the "Warcraft" universe probably seemed like a guaranteed, slam dunk success. After all, Blizzard Entertainment had released "World of Warcraft" on the tenth anniversary of the original game's debut, and revenue for all so-called "massively multiplayer online role-playing games" hit $1 billion that year.

Throw in the fact that the somewhat similar looking "Lord of the Rings" trilogy from a few years earlier pulled in nearly $3 billion worldwide with the last entry winning eleven Oscars, and those involved probably thought this idea was the next best thing to simply printing money.

Alas, in the past decade, lots of "LOTR" wannabes have come and gone (and flopped), and while video games and particularly the "Warcraft" franchise have continued to flourish, the vast majority of gamers obviously would rather play than watch. Despite that and a track record of movie adaptations of video games being littered with failures, disappointments and only a handful of moderate successes, the powers that be have now brought the movie version of "Warcraft" to the big screen.

Apparently designed first and foremost -- and perhaps only -- for fans of the game, the movie is filled with lots of eye-candy special effects, including decent work in the motion capture field of turning human actors into green-skinned, uber-muscular, tusk-sporting orcs. But for those of us who've never played the game or even watched it in action, the film, its storyline, and its various characters don't end up amounting to much.

Of course, part of the problem for newbies is that all of the material is foreign, and writer/director Duncan Jones ("Moon") and co-writer Charles Leavitt don't take the appropriate time or measures to get the novices up to speed and on a level playing field with diehard fans.

We're just sort of thrown into the mix and I felt like I needed a cheat sheet to figure out who's who and what's what as things immediately got rolling. Granted, I eventually felt I had a grasp of all of that, but it took a while, and that's valuable time needed for getting viewers engaged with the story and its characters.

In short, and thanks to the evil magic of the head orc named Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), that species' world of Draenor is dying. Lacking an ark to save their kind, they have some sort of galactic portal that's allowed them to travel to the peaceful world of Azeroth with the intent of conquering that. The only problem is they need human life forces (or perhaps souls) to operate that portal, and thus have been making some raids into human villages for fuel, if you will.

That doesn't sit well with the king (Dominic Cooper), his military commander (Travis Fimmel) or a mage apprentice (Ben Schnetzer) who's disgraced his profession by leaving his learning early. But it's allowed him to figure out something stinks in the kingdom, a discovery that doesn't seem to sit well with their sorcerer guardian (Ben Foster, hamming it up).

Speaking of not fitting well, one of the orc commanders (Toby Kebbell), who's traveled to Azeroth with his pregnant mate (Anna Galvin), thinks their leader is to blame for their woes and would like to form an alliance with the humans to deal with that. Treachery, however, being what it is, disrupts the plan and thus we're left with lots of scenes featuring humans battling orcs in one special effects orgy after another.

Sure there are themes of loss, patriotism, and being outcasts (the latter personified by Paula Patton playing a half-human, half-orc who goes from prisoner on one side to warrior on the other), but this is really about fighting, bashing, stomping, slicing, and stabbing others in all the glory that special effects can whip up.

Fans of the games and the related universe might groove on what's offered, but for everyone else we've seen this sort of material and action mayhem countless times before, and none of that seems to get better with repetition or time.

According to box office predictions, it might take witchcraft to turn "Warcraft" into a domestic hit (foreign box office might be another story where spectacle often outweighs story, characters, and substance). But that's just as likely as a video game player saying, "Here, I'd rather watch you play than do so myself." Proving yet again that making movies based on video games is a dicey proposition at best, this one rates as just a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed June 7, 2016 / Posted June 10, 2016

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