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Warcraft is scattered but worth the quest for dedicated fans

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Commander Anduin Lothar (TRAVIS FIMMEL) defends himself against an orc from The Horde in "Warcraft."  From Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures comes "Warcraft," an epic adventure of world-colliding conflict based on Blizzard Entertainment's global phenomenon. - PHOTO CREDIT: LEGENDARY PICTURES
  • Photo Credit: Legendary Pictures
  • Commander Anduin Lothar (TRAVIS FIMMEL) defends himself against an orc from The Horde in "Warcraft." From Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures comes "Warcraft," an epic adventure of world-colliding conflict based on Blizzard Entertainment's global phenomenon.

There is a conflict at the center of Warcraft, and I’m not just referring to the war between orcs and humans.

The film presents the inner turmoil of director and co-writer Duncan Jones, who must appease two major studios that invested years (and millions) in a hopeful franchise while delivering a film that is rich in theme and character. And it must be done while entertaining longtime fans of the video game as well as newbies.

That’s a major order for any director, even one like Jones, who precluded Warcraft with successes like Moon and Source Code. Where J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin built mythologies through multiple books and adaptations, Jones and his team have the near-herculean task of cramming over a decade of storytelling and world-building into a stand-alone movie while laying groundwork for sequels if the project is successful.

When boiled down to its basic elements, Warcraft revolves around the first meeting between the realms of men, or The Alliance, and orcs, also called The Horde. Spoiler alert: Things go less than exceptionally.

It’s up to respected orc chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and the king’s right-hand man Lothar (Vikings’ Travis Fimmel) to formulate a plan that prevents both groups’ mutually assured destruction. This comprises the story’s backbone as a number of subplots and side stories concerning a cavalcade of other characters fill out the action.

The sheer level of detail on display throughout Warcraft is staggering and begs for multiple viewings to soak in everything, whether crafted by computer or built practically. The orcs are some of the best CGI-rendered characters committed to film, and their plight to escape their dying home world is perhaps the best element the movie offers as far as its story is concerned.

Much like the gaming and entertainment franchise from which it is adopted, Warcraft presents a world of moral grays. Not every orc is bad, just as not every human is good.

In presenting both sides of the conflict, the film almost achieves a rare balance in vying for audience sympathies.

However, there are so many other story elements throughout its two-hour runtime, the film ends up playing tug-of-war with viewers’ brains.

This is exacerbated as the story continually jumps from location to location, giving viewers little time to register what happened in the previous scene. On multiple occasions, I felt lost, confused by numerous locations and characters.

For every well-developed personality, there are four or five more characters that are flat.

Ultimately, Warcraft is a bit of a mess, but it isn’t without merit and certainly isn’t worth the critical beating it’s receiving. Warcraft takes commendable risks by showing palpable enthusiasm for its source material. It’s just unfortunate that material wasn’t granted more room in which to soar.

https://youtu.be/-vwPitt1XMQ

Print headline: Cramped tale, Even with a two-hour runtime, Warcraft can’t escape the suffocating weight of complexity.

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