THE MOVIE GUY: Nostalgia can’t save the world of ‘Warcraft’

Published 7:23 pm Thursday, June 9, 2016

Do you recall what was going on back in 2005? It was a time when some of us spent hours immersed in a massively multiplayer online role-player game called “World of Warcraft.” Somebody in Hollywood noticed the obsession and thought that it would be a good idea to turn the online game into a big action movie.

That film, “Warcraft,” arrives in theaters this weekend, and while it does feature all of the fantasy characters and adventure quests that made the game so popular, it also arrives far too late to capture the attention of those original gamers. There is certainly a small kick of nostalgia seeing hordes of orcs filling up the movie screen, but when compared to what Peter Jackson did in his “Lord of the Rings” movies, this is B grade entertainment at best.

It’s actually closer to C.

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I will give the filmmakers credit for some pretty impressive special-effects work considering that the fantasy creatures are motion-capture CGI creations. There are so many of these images that the entire film has moments that take on a cartoonish affect. It may be overkill, but all things considered, the monsters and otherworldly locations are pretty impressive. I didn’t have any issue believing that these creatures could really live and breathe in some far-off fantasy world.

The acting, on the other hand …

The story takes us to the fantasy land of Azeroth, where humans, dwarves, elves and wizards dwell in relative peace until a portal opens onto the world and an army of marauding orcs pour out. Total annihilation threatens until one of the orcs, Durotan (Tobey Kebbell) decides to team up with the humans to stop the rest of the orc army.

That might make an interesting story if the acting wasn’t so horrible. I’m assuming that director Duncan Jones put all of his efforts into creating the visual images, leaving the actors to their own devices. It’s a fatal flaw for the film. The poorly-realized characters continuously pull you out of the story with wince-inducing line readings. It’s almost as if Leeroy Jenkins had been called in as the acting coach as everything is over-the-top and destined for failure.

The end result is a film that has to rely entirely on waning nostalgia and a somewhat overwhelming onslaught of visual fantasy images. Those elements are nice, but nowhere near to being strong enough to make “Warcraft” a worthy cinematic successor to that original online game. Let’s hope that things improve drastically before the inevitable sequels arrive.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email