‘Warcraft’: Gamer adventure makes a lousy case for film franchise

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Toby Kebbell as the Orc chieftain Durotan in “Warcraft.” | Universal Pictures

Director Duncan Jones, who impressively helmed “Moon” and “Source Code,” reportedly has long been a fan of the “Warcraft” video game series and has long worked hard to bring it to the big screen.

Unfortunately, he either worked too hard (he’s also the co-writer), didn’t work hard enough or simply wasn’t paying attention. This loud, bombastic, often incoherent mishmash of magical-themed storytelling simply was not worth whatever effort went into it.

While there are some acceptable action sequences, it’s the screenplay — complicated by some less than inspired performances — that dooms “Warcraft” at every point along the way.

I think I’d only suggest this film — and then only hesitantly — to the legion of fans of this fantasy, role-playing video game franchise. The essence of the tale is focused on what will happen to the fictitious world of Azeroth as it faces total destruction from the Orcs, a race of creatures who broke through a portal from their own dying world. That dark portal, by the way, is created by the “fuel” that is human prisoners, destroyed to make it all happen.

Anduin Lothar (played quite lamely by Travis Fimmel) is our hero here — the liege lord and brother-in-law to his king, Llane (Dominic Cooper, in one of his more forgettable performances).

Also key to the story is an uber-wizard (portrayed by Ben Foster) and his ability to ward off the evil spirit known as “The Fel.”

Among the Orcs there is a code of honor, and that leads to a bit of a revolt when one of the good Orc chieftains (Durotan, played by Toby Kebbell) comes to realize “The Fel” (controlled by the Orc leader Gul’dan) will eventually lead to the destruction of all living things — both human and Orc.

Among the other notable characters is a half-human, half-Orc played by Paula Patton, who like her co-stars seemingly phones in her acting job while playing a tough cookie with eyes for Lothar.

As noted above, the best parts of this film are the CGI action sequences, but there’s no new ground broken here. We’ve seen this all many, many, many times before. Yet, without a strong (or even an adequate) script, all the good action scenes in the world are not worth the price of admission.

At the end of the film, it is made very clear this “Warcraft” was expected to spawn a new fantasy franchise. If that happens, I would be very surprised, given what I’ve seen in this first offering. But then, I’ve been wrong about things like that before.

What I’m sure of: This is NOT worthy of being turned into an ongoing series of films.

★1⁄2

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Duncan Jones and written by Jones and Charles Leavitt, based on the Blizzard Entertainment game. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence). Opens Friday at local theaters.

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