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What Just Happened? 

A noob watches "Warcraft"

I have a confession to make. I have never played Warcraft. Not even 30 seconds of it.

In fact, from my perspective, Real Time Strategy (RTS) games seem designed for gamers who enjoy Risk much more than I do. Furthermore, massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) work best for people who actually enjoy playing with other people. I've always been a solitary gamer. Warcraft and World of Warcraft in particular always seemed to require doing horrific things like "making friends" and "practicing teamwork."

All of this is to say I have absolutely no frame of reference for "Warcraft," the movie, other than being a giant nerd who likes orcs, trolls, flying eagles, and characters named Orgrim Doomhammer. The trailers were somewhat terrible and my expectations were low all-around, so imagine my surprise when I walked out of the movie confused, not sure of what I just saw, and mightily entertained.

Without consulting Wikipedia, the plot is something like this: Giant orcs are in a pickle because their world is dying, so an evil orc wizard uses a nefarious type of green energy (not the good kind) to open a portal to Azeroth. Azeroth is a typical Middle-Earthy fantasy realm with humans, wizards, dwarves and elves, but they all seem to get along and have council meetings and stuff. Only a few orcs made it through the portal, so Evil Orc Wizard convinces the orc horde to kidnap a bunch of Azerothians to use as Green Energy (the bad kind) in order to reopen the portal and let the rest of the orcs through.

Travis Fimmel is Lothar, a military commander in a Gondor-esque looking magical kingdom called Stormwind. He teams up with a renegade orc, a young wizard, an older wizard, a half-orc (conveniently named Garona Halforcen) and a giant badass eagle to fight the Evil Wizard Orc and his dastardly horde.

The orcs are all computer-generated and an absolute marvel of performance capture and technical wizardry. Each orc feels like a lived-in character with hopes, dreams and an alarming thirst for blood. They are such a marvelous creation that whenever there are only humans in a scene, the movie immediately suffers.

I have to assume "Warcraft" is a 123-minute cut of a 180-minute film because nothing in the story makes a lick of sense. Although he is an almost unstoppable mage, the young wizard has quit his training for undisclosed reasons. The older wizard has had a bad run in with Green Energy before, but we never learn when, where, or why. Characters change motivations off-camera. Half Orc Warrior Woman and Hero Human Man fall in love after being in two scenes together. GLENN CLOSE shows up for one scene for no discernable reason whatsoever. I could go on, but my article has a word limit.

As terrible as it all sounds, "Warcraft" also features orcs throwing horses at people and a giant eagle going on an orc-killing rampage. There are mages whipping spells at each other and monstrous headless golems stumbling through massive libraries. The special effects that seem cheesy and reductive on TV actually look beautiful on the big screen. This is not another "Gods of Egypt." Director Duncan Jones (the visionary behind the little-seen masterwork "Moon") goes big on "Warcraft," and it almost pays off.

Perhaps if I had played the games, it would all make sense. Even still, the film ends mid-story, making it feel like another franchise starter rather than an actual, self-contained movie. "Warcraft" exists as a really fun bundle of massive flaws and storytelling mistakes, but then a horse gets thrown at some humans, and I think, "Maybe making friends isn't such a bad idea after all."


Dir. Duncan Jones

Grade: C+

Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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