In Ready Player One, in order to fit all the pop culture references, you’re gonna need a bigger boat. Steven Spielberg hovers over a mountain of movies, television shows, video games, and other ephemera of pop culture like so many mashed potatoes, obsessively sculpting them into something that only he can see (a good movie). Like Indiana Jones with snakes, in Ready Player One, it always has to be pop culture references. The film simply isn’t much to phone home about. Schindler’s List.
The challenge facing director Duncan Jones with Warcraft: make a high fantasy video-game flick relying heavily on CGI for one of the races. What could go wrong? Fortunately, much less than you would think. Most of the issues with the film involve specific plot elements, and few of the characters are under-developed (especially the human ones). But, the visuals are astounding, the world-building is impressive, and the lore introduced in this film should provide ample foundation for more nuanced exploration of the world in the future. Warcraft has its faults, but its unique structure explores themes of racial tension, corruption, and legacy in ways that few other fantasy films can accomplish.