Video game movie adaptations are infamous for being disappointing at best and downright terrible at worst – which is why Warcraft/World of Warcraft fans have been awaiting the Warcraft live-action/CGI film with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Warcraft has thus far seemed promising thanks to the involvement of co-writer/director Duncan Jones – the filmmaker behind such acclaimed cult sci-fi movies as Moon and Source Code – as well as Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment. The latter has seemingly helped to further ensure that Warcraft the movie hews close enough to the visual aesthetic and mythology of the original video games to please die-hard fans, judging by the film’s trailer footage.
Of course, the real question has always been: can Jones and Blizzard deliver a Warcraft movie that pleases more than the gaming property’s die-hard fanbase? It’s certainly possible. After all, similar niche fantasy genre properties that boast mythologies as dense as Warcraft‘s lore have managed to not only have crossover appeal but also become widely critically-acclaimed in their own right, when adapted for film and/or TV in the past (Game of Thrones being an obvious recent example).
Unfortunately, the first Warcraft reviews indicate that will probably not happen with Jones’ film. Keep in mind though, only a handful of Warcraft reviews have been posted online at the time of writing this – meaning, the picture may change (for better or worse), once a proper critical consensus has been reached.
First things first – here are the most negative reviews for Warcraft so far:
The Wrap – Alonso Duralde
Critics throw the term “soulless corporate filmmaking” around with abandon, but movies like “Warcraft” really manage to redefine the term. A film adaptation of the hugely popular [MMORPG], this latest video game adaptation ranks near the bottom of the deadly genre. Imagine “Battlefield Earth” without the verve, or the unintentional comedy, and you’ve got “Warcraft.”With his first two films, [director] Duncan Jones took high-concept science-fiction stories and spun them into taut tales that never lost sight of their characters or the toll of the extraordinary circumstances in which they’d been placed. This time around, sharing screenplay credit with Charles Leavitt (“In the Heart of the Sea”) — based on story and characters by Chris Metzen — he’s trying to wrestle with too many characters and locations and motivations and subplots, all in a movie that’s clearly intended to be but the first of many.
Variety – Geoff Berkshire
With little concern for all those already perplexed at the mention of orcs and mages, “Warcraft” plunges headfirst into a fantasy realm teeming with mythical creatures, magical spells and exotically named characters and locations. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it approach likely to have most audience members opting for the latter, though devotees of the immersive role-playing source material may have an entirely different experience… That’s despite the noble effort of director Duncan Jones, [who] labors mightily here to craft a solid emotional foundation in his script with Charles Leavitt. The “Warcraft” games… were never meant to have the narrative depth of “The Lord of the Rings,” or even “Game of Thrones.” But the film cribs freely from both of those sources anyway, as well as “Star Wars,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Avatar” and numerous other recent blockbusters.
Kotaku – Jason Schreier
Warcraft, which comes out June 10, is a whirlwind of CGI effects and snazzy costumes that never quite coalesces into a watchable film. Longtime fans of the series might get a kick out of seeing the likes of Medivh (Ben Foster) and Durotan (Toby Kebbell) played by Hollywood actors, but it’s tough to get invested in a movie that feels so soulless. Warcraft has very few redeeming qualities. The performances are mediocre, the writing is full of cliches, and the cinematography is confusing when it’s trying to be clever… The fundamental flaw in Warcraft is the same flaw we find in most video game movies: It takes itself too seriously.
On the other hand, though, we do have some positive Warcraft reviews (though perhaps “lukewarm” is the more applicable adjective here):
Screen Daily – John Hazelton
The orcs, wizards and warriors of Warcraft clomp determinedly onto the big screen in Legendary Pictures’ live-action take on the 20-year-old video game series. The result is a 3D sword-and-sorcery adventure whose CG-heavy look and cartoonish action should work for gamers and hardcore genre fans, even if the flat-footed drama may put off mainstream audiences and limits the chances of the property – already turned into novels and comic books – becoming a long-running movie franchise.
THR – Sheri Linden
[If] you’ve never played Warcraft the game, can you care about Warcraft the movie? Given the ardent global following of the franchise, will it matter? For non-aficionados, the two-hour experience could be more concise, but it’s no ordeal. Neither, though, is it consistently involving. If you haven’t already invested in the self-serious mythology, it can feel borderline camp, if not downright dull — or both… Yet there’s no question that it’s a breakthrough in both storytelling and artistry for features based on video games. And compared with another medieval-ish tale, the soporific Hobbit trilogy, this international production is a fleet and nimble ride, likely to conquer overseas box offices and make a solid stand stateside.
Crave Online – William Bibbiani
Calling a film like Warcraft “the best video game movie ever made” might be damning it with faint praise, but faint praise is something that this film deserves. Duncan Jones’s ambitious, colorful foray into the mythology of Azeroth is a noble effort but not the sort of thing that will make you forget about The Lord of the Rings. If anything, it will actively remind you of Willow. But you know what? I have a lot of fondness for Willow, and for Dragonslayer, and for The Sword and the Sorcerer, and for lot of other fantasy movies that deserved a solid three stars. Warcraft may have aimed a little high and hit a little low, but it’s an enjoyable adventure with some unexpected twists that, unfortunately, happen to be mixed in with a lot of the expected ones.
So far, critics seem to feel that Warcraft does have its redeeming qualities and that it should appeal to most die-hard Warcraft/World of Warcraft fans – but that even some of them will end up walking away somewhat under-whelmed by the big screen iteration of this fantasy property (as was the case for Kotaku‘s Jake Schreier). There are elements of the film being praised in the negative reviews (including the visual effects used to bring the film’s fantasy creatures to life), while even the more damning critiques do commend Jones on making a valiant effort to service both the Warcraft newcomers and steadfast fans with this film. Still, all things considered, it doesn’t sound like Warcraft breaks the video game movie “curse” in the way that Jones and his collaborators aimed to do.
As for Warcraft‘s box office prospects: the film is set to face off against The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 at the U.S. box office during its opening weekend; in addition, Warcraft will have to ward off such movies as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (which arrives a week earlier) and X-Men: Apocalypse (which hits U.S. theaters two weeks earlier) for attention from the geek movie crowd. Suffice it to say, this video game movie is facing an uphill battle to become a hit in its own right, much less kick-off a new big screen franchise.
Directed by Duncan Jones and written by Charles Leavitt and Jones, Warcraft stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky and Daniel Wu. The film is a Legendary Pictures, Blizzard Entertainment and Atlas Entertainment production.
Warcraft opens in U.S. theaters on June 10th, 2016.
Source: Various (see the above links)