dir Duncan Jones
scr Charles Leavitt, Duncan Jones
prd Stuart Fenegan, Alex Gartner, Jon Jashni, Charles Roven, Thomas Tull
with Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Clancy Brown, Anna Galvin, Callum Keith Rennie, Glenn Close
release UK 30.May.16, US 10.Jun.16
16/US Universal 2h03
War or peace? Fimmel and Patton

kebbell foster cooper
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Warcraft Fans may enjoy the attention to detail in this adaptation of the popular strategy game and its expanded universe. But everyone else will be somewhat lost watching this dense battle epic, with its splintered plot and a large number of under-defined characters. The effects are superb, and the movie is acted and directed with a lively sense of energy. But it's naggingly incomprehensible.

Fleeing their dying world Draenor, the orcs travel through a portal to the human realm of Azeroth, intent on destruction. But Durotan (Kebbell), an orc chieftain who's also a new father with his wife Draka (Galvin), thinks peace might be a better idea. His rival Blackhand (Brown) and orc shaman Gul-dan (Wu) think otherwise. Preparing for their attack, King Llane (Cooper) and top knight Lothar (Fimmel) seek help from sorcerer Medivh (Foster) and apprentice wizard Khadgar (Schnetzer). And the fiery outcast orc Garona (Patton) may hold the key to what happens next.

The film is awash in fantasy names, spells and mythologies, all of which clearly have layers of meaning. But director Jones doesn't have time to explain it all, surging from one action set-piece to the next, barely pausing for breath to remind the audience who's whom. It's fast and packed with clattering battle sequences, animated with a terrific eye for detail, But relationships are established with broad strokes, as are character personalities. And it's never quite clear what these fights mean.

Jones does add some engaging angles on the various people and places. And the actors give full-bodied performances, including the ones motion-capture performers. But then all of the actors are engulfed in either animation or elaborately hairy-toothy costumes, or both. But there's very little apparent complexity to these people. Kebbell and Patton are the only actors given some moral layers to explore; everyone else is either good or bad.

For those unfamiliar with the settings and characters, this basically feels like a cacophonous blending of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. The character interaction isn't textured enough for any themes to emerge, so the conflicts between them never quite grab hold. It's often eye-catching, mainly due to a clever use of 3D to enhance the scale. But without characters the audience can care for, it never actually drags us into the mayhem. So it's hard to get excited when it ends on a note suggesting that there's much more to come.

cert 12 themes, violence 23.May.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall