Warcraft: Movie Review

I didn’t get a chance to see the movie when it came out in theaters but after hearing the immediate panning, I pretty much was glad in missing it. However, after checking out the latest X-Men on iTunes, I decided to give this movie a shot because I still wanted to see it…..

…and I immediately regretted it.

I only read the headlines when it came to the critics’ universal panning of the Warcraft movie as I did not wish to spoil anything for myself. At some point, I might’ve glanced at the wikipedia page just to check out the plot summary but I had lost most of my interest by that point to really care. Nonetheless, I wanted to keep an open mind even though I set my expectations extremely low.

Having seen a few scenes at Blizzcon and the trailer, I thought that it looked acceptable, especially the orcs which I felt would be hard to render in a realistic manner. But I did not want realism in terms of looks to be the ultimate deciding factor for how I felt about this movie. Yet the first thing I will say is that no matter what your mind set is, you’ll still end up in the realm of disbelief just because the appearance of things on a movie of this scale will bombard you at every second.

Still, I let the appearance of the orcs slide a bit because I wanted to see how they would develop the two most important elements in any movie/story: plot and character. Generally speaking, I found the plot to be an absolute mess. It was very hard and perhaps next to impossible attempting to figure out every single character. One critic pointed out that there simply was too many characters. And this is true. For the average viewer who has never played a Warcraft game, everyone will be jumbled far worse than Game of Thrones (and they have far more names, places and characters). It took me a while to figure out just who the king and commander were and those were two of the main characters!

I felt that the movie immediately hit a low point the minute I saw the murloc scene right outside of Stormwind. The problem is that I recognized that this was a fan service move that served no other purpose. Yet that was probably the primary issue in this whole movie: everything was about name tossing lore figures out to get hardcore Warcraft fans excited about seeing their favorites being mentioned. Yet why introduce murlocs if that time on film could be utilized developing characters better?

I had to ignore the cliche writing here because the entire time I was trying to keep up with all the characters and remember what their roles were in the story. By the 30 minute mark, I felt that nothing really happened and was wondering when something important would occur. Much of the conflicts seemed artificial and only existed to show a Warhammer style fight with oversized orcs jerking around tiny men.

But big deal! Every movie does something like that. It’s like watching a deformed version of the Hulk having his usual way with bystanders. The movie played too safe to have any impact in the so-called brutality of the orcs. Heck, X-men Apocalypse was far more violent than this. The entire time I’m waiting for something gruesome to happen but am completely underwhelmed.

Also, there is little to no pathos in this movie. It attempts humor and tragedy but the movie is neither funny nor sad. Maybe pathetic but I feel no catharsis. For example, when Callan dies, it’s too predictable and pointless. When the Blackhand puts a giant fist weapon through him, he’s barely scarred. It looked awful. Then we find the honorable Lothar getting drunk. Why? The minute Garona comes in to have a little fling, he sobers up? I just don’t get it. The only message I derived from that scene was that a white man will fuck anything that has a hole in it.

And it’s really not the cliche aspects that bother me. It’s the fact that there’s nothing innovative about them. Not just that but the cliches aren’t even done well. They’re going through the motions just trying to get from point A to point D. But because they’ve missed point B and C, the movie continues to flail its arms about while the audience, who aren’t hardcore Warcraft buffs, sit about trying to digest all these random, pointless scenes.

Part of the problem of the plot is that there’s nothing being setup to lead you towards a direction outside of the common expectation that there’s going to be a large battle at some point because we’ve seen it in the preview. In my case, I was halfway expecting Durotan to join forces with the humans. I’ve forgotten most of my pre-World of Warcraft lore, but the way the movie narrative was going, it seemed as if the two groups would join up to have a battle against Gul’dan. Quite honestly, that would’ve been far more satisfying than that weird anti-climatic ending.

Mostly, I felt like I was watching one of those SciFy channel made for TV movies that you might see on a Saturday night around 3am, except with a slightly bigger CG budget. This movie was a horrible mess to decipher and did not translate the Warcraft I remembered all that well to the big screen. Instead, it felt like Chris was attempting to cram as much as possible, forgoing the important elements in writing such as character and plot development. I couldn’t figure out the type of message he wanted to send by the end of the movie outside of “thanks all you hardcore Warcraft and Blizzard fans!”

The acting to me was pretty atrocious too. Garona and other characters seemed to forget their accents along the way out of convenience or laziness. But I would too considering that the dialog was just terrible. Sometimes I couldn’t even hear what they were trying to say, even though those moments seemed pretty critical to the plot. Because of that, I would miss out on important potential clues to what’s going on.

The only two characters I liked were Durotan and Orgrim. They had a few decent moments with each other. The rest of the characters were pretty stale or cardboard cutouts of a certain archetype. I think part of the reason these two characters were my favorites was that they had clear motives from the beginning. The rest of the characters were not clear at all. Sure, the humans in general strove to protect themselves against the orcs, but that’s just the Alliance mentality. Garona, for instance, was perhaps one of the most confusing characters. Her character arc zipped by without any real development outside of one or two spots. It felt like the writers would’ve done far better focusing on 2-3 major characters rather than spread themselves among so many different people.

At any rate, this was far from a decent movie. It’s barely watchable and hardly comprehensible. Some parts looked awful too like the dwarves and elves. The costumes were not great neither. I felt that cosplays at conventions look better than some of the stuff these guys were forced to wear. People might try to justify the plot as attempting to accomplish too much; but I argue that complexity is no excuse for a bad movie. This movie should’ve done more to establish the world, the people, the cultures and basic conflict rather than fan servicing and name dropping a bunch of crap that only the most hardcore fan could understand. This isn’t just a game but something meant to be consumed for the masses and it defied simple ideas in writing.

Naturally, there are those that will ardently defend this movie. Most likely they’re brainwashed, die hard Warcraft/Blizzard fans. I’m a fan but I’m also big into story, character, etc. and I can forgive a lot of things. Here, there wasn’t much of any excuse to forgive this rubbish, I’m sad to say. I won’t apologize for how I feel because hey, at least, I gave the movie an honest attempt to like it. But it failed in raising above my low standards.

Probably, the real problem in my case is that with fantasy, Game of Thrones pretty much has set the bar when it comes to live action fantasy. And I suppose it’s really not that fair of a comparison because Game of Thrones is done through HBO, which means it can get away with almost anything. But even in Season 6, which many die hard fans have heavily criticized, Game of Thrones remains really solid writing with exceptionally great acting, story, etc. The principals of good story telling are very much at the core of Game of Thrones in the execution, even if the show experiences the occasional plot hole or two.

With Warcraft, people will always view it as “just a game” or worse yet, the negative South Park stereotype where people become basement dwelling slobs from addiction. Warcraft and Blizzard don’t take themselves seriously and focus more on the fantasy aspect rather than focusing on themes, symbolism or story telling devices. As a result, the place in movies won’t be set very high.

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