WARCRAFT early review round-up: Soulless corporate filmmaking

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So it appears that I had every right to be worried about Warcraft. The first batch of reviews for director Duncan Jones’ big budget feature film adaptation of Blizzard’s legendary video game franchise have started trickling in this morning, and it’s not looking pretty. Unlike the movie though, which apparently looks very pretty indeed, but reportedly has problems just about everywhere else. It seems that despite Jones’ stellar previous track record, and the slew of fan-favourite actors in its ranks, Warcraft is not the title to break the bad video game movie curse.

Here’s a few excerpts from what the reviewers have to say.

Variety – Geoff Berkshire:

Director Duncan Jones, who helmed the lower-budget sci-fi wonders “Moon” and “Source Code”, labors mightily here to craft a solid emotional foundation in his script with Charles Leavitt. [But] it’s an unwaveringly earnest film that never owns up to exactly how campy every character, every conflict and every new realm truly is.

With its meticulously detailed realms built out primarily on soundstages and enhanced via CGI during extensive post-production, “Warcraft” aims for fresh and eye-popping and yet ends up shopworn and rather tacky. It fits into a long line of visually audacious Hollywood gambles: In success you wind up with a sleeper that few see coming, like “300” (or, if you strike the bull’s-eye, a phenomenon like “Avatar”), but the ones that miss — “The Spirit,” “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Sucker Punch” — tend to tank hard.

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Kotaku – Jason Schreler:

Warcraft, which comes out June 10, is a whirlwind of CGI effects and snazzy costumes that never quite coalesces into a watchable film. Longtime fans of the series might get a kick out of seeing the likes of Medivh (Ben Foster) and Durotan (Toby Kebbell) played by Hollywood actors, but it’s tough to get invested in a movie that feels so soulless.Warcraft has very few redeeming qualities. The performances are mediocre, the writing is full of cliches, and the cinematography is confusing when it’s trying to be clever.

The fundamental flaw in Warcraft is the same flaw we find in most video game movies: It takes itself too seriously.

The Wrap – Alonso Duralde:

Imagine “Battlefield Earth” without the verve and you get this sludgy, tedious fantasy adventure, a fun-starved dud that’s not even unintentionally hilarious. Critics throw the term “soulless corporate filmmaking” around with abandon, but movies like “Warcraft” really manage to redefine the term.

There’s a lot of running around and yelling and scheming and go-to-the-place-and-get-the-thing-ing, but none of it is particularly entertaining; like most movie versions of games, it will no doubt leave fans of the original wishing they were in charge. For the rest of us, there’s not even that sense of fun that comes from the sort of film that plays like a small child dumping all his action figures out on the living room carpet to battle each other.

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Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. But there is a glimmer of hope though in that there was at least one positive… well, not totally negative review out at the time of writing.

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THR – Sheri Linden:

While the enormity of the undertaking is evident in every frame of the sci-fi medieval-ish action saga, director Duncan Jones manages, for the most part, to keep it from lumbering. With an emphasis on craft over war, the characters are front and center, and those that are partly digital creations are among its most memorable. They have heart.

[But] if you haven’t already invested in the self-serious mythology, it can feel borderline camp, if not downright dull — or both, as when an uncredited Glenn Close intones platitudes from on high about darkness and light. Yet there’s no question that it’s a breakthrough in both storytelling and artistry for features based on video games

In other words, it’s now all up to you, Michael Fassbender’s Assassin’s Creed! You are the video game adaptation chosen one! No pressure!

I’ll be checking out Warcraft for myself in two weeks time, so will feedback to you before it releases locally on 10 June. Warcraft stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky and Daniel Wu.

Last Updated: May 25, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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