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A fantasy adventure mostly devoid of entertainment value
Given the inherent differences between video games and motion pictures (the interactive nature of one medium versus the sit-and-watch nature of the other), turning a popular game into a decent movie while remaining true to the source material is something that has eluded most filmmakers. For irrevocable proof, look no further than Super Mario Bros (1993), a film that has been derided by fans and critics and cited as a prime example of why the twain should never meet.
Still, Hollywood has no qualms about keeping the bar low whenever the opportunity to mop up at the box office presents itself.
Witness Warcraft, a fantasy adventure that has been in the works for a decade and had an indecent amount of money (US$160 million or so) spent on bringing it to the big screen.
Sad to report, this latest addition to the video game-to-movie genre, featuring an epic confrontation between humans and orcs - a race of warrior-beasts that sprang from the imaginings of JRR Tolkien - has nothing going for it on the narrative front and is mostly devoid of entertainment value as well.
The film, directed by Duncan Jones and written by Jones and Charles Leavitt, takes various cues from The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and other fantasy adventures. It doesn't flinch from serving up clichéd dialogue at regular intervals during its two-hour running time either. "From light comes darkness and from darkness, light" is a particular favourite: it's not Shakespeare but it does set the stage for that eternal battle between good and evil.
In the opening scene, the orcs face a dilemma. Their own world is dying and, instigated by the belligerent Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), they send an invading force to human-occupied Azeroth, where residents will be used as a sustaining life force during the construction of a portal through which the entire orcian hordes can go through.
Gul'dan has a green pallor, an ugly disposition (which is saying something for a mythical tusked creature) and an evil power known as the Fel at his disposal.
Fellow orc Durotan (Toby Kebbell) represents the voice of moderation and tries to negotiate a solution with the humans. To emphasise his decentness, he is shown enjoying family life with wife Draka (Anna Galvin) and their new-born son.
In Azeroth, the kingdom of Stormwind is presided over by Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) and his consort Taria (Ruth Negga). Her brother Lothar (Travis Fimmel) is the resident knight-stud, tasked with keeping the place safe and relatively orc-free. Dark forces conspire to make things difficult but at least he has the attentions of Garona (Paula Patton), a half-orc, half-human servant-slave to perk him up.
Meanwhile, the kingdom's resident wizard-protector Medivh (Ben Foster) has his hands full trying to ward off the orcs, but bookish apprentice mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) is on hand to help out.
The build-up is disappointing and the climactic battle scenes are downright tame (despite 3D and other technological devices), but worst of all is the ending - it opens the door to one or more sequels. Now that's the scariest thought of all.