full of sound and fury, signifying …?

USA : 123 mins : PG 13 :    2/5

Online video games have little or no dependence on plot or character development so, director Duncan Jones must have had reservations about filming Warcraft:The Beginning, based on the hugely popular Blizzard Entertainment game called World of Warcraft.  His fears were not allayed when he read Charles Leavitt’s original script and insisted on re-writing it himself.  In addition, as the project features a mythological world (Azeroth) inhabited by Humans and invaded by Monsters (Orcs) from another world, Jones was aware that the film would, inevitably, be compared to Peter Jackson’s landmark fantasy trilogy, Lord of the Rings.

Jones’ debut film was the impressive sci-fi, Moon (2009) with two heavyweight names, Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey as drawcards.  In Warcraft, he has a little-known cast but also a fan-base of the game, numbered in their millions.  Many of them, no doubt, will want to see it played out on the big screen.

While game-players may find themselves in familiar territory, for the uninitiated there is a bewildering array of characters, tribes, lands and supernatural forces.  Jones wastes very little of the epic’s two hours in explaining this tangled web but gets down to the serious business of beating the opposition to a pulp.  The Orcs are giant, muscle-bound humanoids with fingers the girth of of a man’s arm, enormous lower canines (totally impracticable and hindering what little dialogue there is) innumerable body piercings and decorated with animal skulls and other body parts. No doubt the visual designers had a field day and, it should be said, the results are impressive.

In essence, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) one of the Orc leaders, unites the disparate tribes into an army referred to as the Horde.  Their own homeland of Draenon is being destroyed by internal conflict and their only option is to invade the Humans’ world by gaining entrance through a magic portal.  In a snippet of explanatory background the audience is informed that ‘Orcs and Humans have been at war for as long as could be remembered’ (like many of the real world conflicts whose origins have been lost in the mists of time).

However, to his credit, Jones has resisted demonising the monster-like Orcs, investing them with some laudable personality traits like loyalty and courage and even compassion.  Another plus is the presence of Garona (Paula Patton) a green-skinned creature, half Orc and half Human whose affiliations are torn between her dual identities (producing a few moments of emotional tension) and which culminates in one of the few acts of violence with dramatic resonance.

But these are small rewards in what is an interminably noisy, violent and tedious affair, completely overwhelmed by the CGI and benefiting little by the  unimaginative use of 3D (unlike in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, 2012, in which it created a sense of wonder).  Warcraft is a shallow, derivative affair with little to attract other than the action and fantasy junkies who will, no doubt, enjoy it immensely.

And, apart from the obvious implications of the sub-title, if there was any doubt as to Universal’s aspirations to make a sequel (or three) just listen to the scene-stealing (Spock-eared) baby who has the final squeal.

Phil. 08.06.16.  pbsailing@yahoo.com.au

(Warcraft:The Beginning will screen at Event Cinemas, Innaloo.  Check eventcinemas.com.au or the press for details).

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