It's hard to ignore the Elekk in the room with a movie like "Warcraft," the first feature-length film by gaming creatives Blizzard Entertainment and based on the series of games of the same name. As devoted a following as the series may have garnered over its 20-year-plus life span, with its genre-spanning games, lore-filled novelizations and super-cute plush Murloc dollsets, entering into a cinematic universe doesn't seem as much like a needed next step to tell an already-told story as it does a necessary rung on the ladder of brand preservation.
There's also the hard-to-ignore rule of thumb wherein any movie based off of a video game franchise is probably going to be a big ball of shit.
The doom and gloom are largely unwarranted, however. Duncan Jones, director of smaller sci-fi outings "Moon" and "Source Code," has managed to channel his inner Michael Bay — in a good way, mind you — to make "Warcraft" a pretty enjoyable (if not particularly coherent) movie.
The story is there and will satiate most fans of the games looking to see familiar faces, but for most everyone else, it's orcs versus humans in a battle for a new homeworld. Many of the orcs have been corrupted by a powerful but life-sapping magic called the fel. Use of the fel has destroyed the orcs' usual stomping ground, so the horde is now muscling in on the humans' turf of Azeroth.
It's not as cut and dry as humans good, orcs bad, but even as someone who's spent a good deal of time in the "Warcraft" universe, there are a lot of names and faces to remember going through. There are also more than a few instances of cheesy lines that made me remember why I always ran with instant quest text in "World of Warcraft" — skip right through the clutter of plot and get to the action.
And there is action aplenty. The backbone of the movie is seeing the hulking orcs, artfully crafted through a blend of CGI and motion capture and with the most impressive lats I've seen this side of a Mr. Universe competition, square off against humans in hand-to-hand (or horse-to-frostwolf) combat.
Hidden within the fantasy action and fractured story, though, is a sincerity on both sides of the battlefield. It's against all better judgement to say the movie — or any movie — "has heart," but the relationships between characters are endearing in a way somewhat unique to the fantasy genre with its expectations of slightly overblown (but captivating!) gallantry, virtue and villainy.
Above all, "Warcraft" is fun. Adopting the "alright, cool, yeah, whatever" approach whenever the plot seems to get ahead of itself or if you have trouble recalling any given character's name and role is a wise choice going in. It thrums along at a heady pace and finds good use for all the CGI know-how that Blizzard has long been known for, even if it doesn't revolutionize the silver screen as it did the desktop monitor.
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