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Duncan Jones attempts a blockbuster with the video game adaptation “Warcraft”

For my money, there are few up and coming filmmakers who are more exciting to follow than Duncan Jones. He is a director who consistently puts out unique movies that make you always want to see what he has up his sleeve next. This week, he goes big and blockbuster for the first time with Warcraft, based on the obsessively played online computer game. It’s my least favorite work from Jones, I concede that, having loved Moon and dug Source Code, but it’s his most ambitious, so that’s of note too, as well. That being said, it’s finally getting him into the mainstream, so I can take that as a real positive. It may even get a passion project or two of his (like the science fiction tale Mute) off the ground!

This epic film is an adaptation of the video game World of Warcraft. It is set on the world of Azeroth, where humans, wizards, dwarves, elves, and other such figures all seem to live together in peace. Then, that harmony is disrupted by the arrival of orcs through a portal. They’re fleeing their old world for this one, some set on conquering by force, while some just want to create a new home. A huge battle for/against colonization ensues. There’s a bit more to it than that, but frankly, the plot is easily the weakest thing about it. Jones directs and co-writes with Charles Leavitt, while the cast includes Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Toby Kebbell, Clancy Brown, Robert Kazinsky, Ben Schnetzer, Daniel Wu, and more.

I’m not really a fan of fantasy flicks, so keep that in mind here. Still, as much as I went in open minded because of Jones, the script he turned in with Leavitt did absolutely nothing for me. Maybe fans of the game will get more out of it, but I was oftentimes bored stiff. At two plus hours, visual spectacle is not enough. This is Jones’ most visually stunning film yet, but I do kind of prefer the lower budget look of Moon to this. Hopefully when he goes back to that level with Mute next, the results will be stronger and he can tackle another blockbuster with more success. Jones keeps this from being unwatchable, but it’s definitely still a misfire.

Jones is one day going to be an Oscar nominee, but I doubt Warcraft will be much of an Academy Award contender. That being said, if it does wind up in play anywhere, it will be in the technical categories. A case could be made that Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects are places where a campaign could be launched, but I suspect the poor reviews will cripple it. I wouldn’t begrudge the flick a Visual Effects citation, but it seems like a long shot, at least here in the month of June, when it’s easy to be forgotten about.

Overall, Warcraft opens on Friday as another huge movie with slightly more of a whimper than a bang, though fans of the game likely will turn out. This is definitely designed to be a franchise, though I sincerely hope Jones moves on to better things. Regardless, those of you like fantasy might get a fix out of it, and it’s overall harmless. If you miss The Lord of the Rings franchise and the like, I’m sure it could hold an appeal for you. I can’t recommend it, but there are worse things in theater, that’s for sure. Give it a shot if you so desire…

Be sure to check out Warcraft, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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