For many of the millions who love it, fantasy can be a refuge -- not a quick escape from this world but the opportunity to luxuriate in another. Sadly, they won't find much world to sink into in Warcraft, the 3D adaptation of the computer-game series. The movie makes you yearn for real life, even as its camera swoops you through spectacular dwarf forges, ivory cities, throne rooms and wizards' towers. Warcraft dashes through its HD renderings so fast that details merely slough the eye.
But its story plods and dithers. It's the kind of movie that, just before the third act, shackles its heroes in prison cells. Is there any viewer who doesn't know they'll eventually escape, and that the lockup scenes are the best possible time to go to the bathroom? It's pompous and grim and confusing, set in an imperiled fantasy land -- Azeroth -- that may as well be named Generica. An hour had passed before I felt confident I could tell, in a lineup, which bearded fellow was king, which was wizard and which was warrior. Their common trait, besides general indistinguishability: They're all awfully quick to give speeches to chain-bound half-orc slave Garona about how hard their lives have been.
But Paula Patton, as that half-orc, has quite a high charisma score -- she finds feeling and humor in the ridiculous role. Meanwhile, the mo-cap work is expressive and convincing, with more care spent on each brutish orc nipple than on the entirety of the script. It's less engaging a watch than just seeing the studio's millions run bill-by-bill through a shredder for two hours.