Emerging from a long and storied production, Legendary’s budding franchise-starter Warcraft: The Beginning is now starting to make its bow overseas, as fans prep for Duncan Jones’ live-action video game movie to touch down in the States on June 10.
After some confusion over the film’s embargo, early reviews for Jones’ lavish fantasy adventure have now surfaced online, and they range from moderately good, to average, to downright scathing.
Without further ado, here’s a collection of those reviews:
Variety: Imagine “Battlefield Earth” without the verve and you get this sludgy, tedious fantasy adventure, a fun-starved dud that’s not even unintentionally hilarious. The cast seems mostly adrift, with only Schnetzer giving what might be considered an actual performance. The usually reliable Foster is reduced to gadding about like a prog-rock Jesus in a series of robes that make him look like he’s posing for the side of someone’s van, and poor Paula Patton gets saddled with a sad pair of novelty-store fangs. (To her credit, she makes the green body makeup work; if the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever expands to include superhero-with-a-law-degree She-Hulk, we’re looking at a real contender here.) “Warcraft” promises, or threatens, sequels, but then so did “Super Mario Bros.” And come to think of it, if forced to watch either of these video-game movies a second time, I’d probably vote for the plumbers.
Crave Online: Rather than tapping into the goofy core that makes a game like World of Warcraft interesting, the Warcraft movie aims for grittiness, missing the mark quite a bit. It just doesn’t work. The lore is too campy. This is a world where a mage’s most popular spell transforms his enemies into sheep, yet Warcraft acts as if it’s a green-screen version of Game of Thrones. At my theater, the biggest laughs came not from the occasional bouts of slapstick comedy but from the miserable archmages of Dalaran, whose CGI-enhanced eyes look especially absurd when you’re supposed to take them seriously. I had hoped Warcraft would at a minimum be entertaining, but really, I’ve had more enjoyable two-hour sessions wiping on Molten Core. At least the armor looks good.
Kotaku: But 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, as when an uncredited Glenn Close intones platitudes from on high about darkness and light. 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.
The Hollywood Reporter: In the hands of director and co-writer Duncan Jones (who previously earned plaudits for sci-fi outings Source Code and Moon), the film takes a long time to build dramatic momentum and gets interrupted by what seem like unnecessary plot points; some of them, perhaps, geared towards potential sequels. The CG and motion capture work that goes into the orc characters and most of the sets is impressive – Life of Pi Oscar winner Bill Westenhofer leads the visual effects team – but it doesn’t always meld easily with the live action. The film (rated PG-13 in the US) ends up feeling unconvincing and generic, with nothing to compare to either the dramatic heft of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy or the raunch and gore of Game of Thrones.
While hoping Warcraft would open to rave reviews teetered on the brink of wishful thinking, the key question for Legendary’s top brass now is whether the critical reception will have much of an impact on the movie’s box office projections. In all likelihood, a strong overseas haul will help to cushion the financial blow, but anything less than $400-$500 million will surely call the status of those confirmed sequels into question.
Warcraft: The Beginning storms into theaters on June 10 in North America. Look for our own verdict of Duncan Jones’ fantasy adventure to hit the site in the coming days.