Jan-11-2017

Reel Snippets – Warcraft

Summary: The fantasy world of Azeroth, populated by humans, elves, and dwarves, suddenly finds itself set upon by invaders from another world: orcs. A warlock named Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) has used dark magic to open a portal from their dying homeworld Dreanor. While most orcs are eager to rip the humans apart to secure their new homeland, others like Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton) worry that the magic used to do it carries too high a cost. In the human kingdom of Stormwind, military commander Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and the young wizard Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) are none too happy about the new invaders and seek to stop them. Things are made worse when the world’s guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) reveals that the magic used to bring the orcs over is an ancient evil that requires the taking of life to cast it. It’s humans against orcs as members of both sides try to stop the conflict and save both races from a dark fate.

Review: I was really hoping to like Warcraft, despite the thrashing critics gave it, because I had grown up on the strategy games it was based on. Unfortunately, after a viewing, I have to conclude that the critical ravaging is 100% earned. I won’t deny that the visuals are beautifully rendered, there were a few moments that made me laugh and impressed, and the faithfulness to the games simply cannot be overstated. But the whole thing felt lifeless in the end; I didn’t find myself caring about any of these characters because there were so many loops and turns that I could barely follow the convoluted plot.

Part of the problem is that we know this is all going to end in failure. Main characters from both sides are trying to make peace between the warring sides, but since the first line says that orcs and humans have been fighting for as long as anyone can remember, we know that isn’t happening. Yes, the filmmakers decided to make a prequel to the games, showing us how the iconic struggle between the Alliance and the Horde began. I can’t speak for other people, but I never really wanted to know that and now that I do, it feels like a letdown (similar to the Star Wars prequels). This could have easily been a ten minute flashback in a movie where the conflict was in full swing rather than a two hour movie that’s burdened with a foregone conclusion.

If the characters were more interesting, the movie might have been able to carry itself better. Unfortunately, with the exception of Durotan, the acting and characterization is as flat and barren as the Desolace region of Kalimdor (look it up). The biggest offender here is Khadgar, who is the Anakin Skywalker of this prequel. In the games proper, he’s the most powerful wizard in the world, like Gandalf, Merlin, and Hermione Granger all had a baby and injected it with steroids. Here, he’s a petulant, bumbling loser who gets knocked around time and time again and has the acting capacity of a piece of cardboard soaked in swamp water… or murloc drinking water… same difference, really. Showing a legendary character as a pathetic rube in his youth has worked a grand total of never, so please let this be the last time.

I have to say, I’m glad I played the games before watching the movie because I can’t imagine how lost and confused the uninitiated would be with the constant barrage of names, terms, and locations drowning the audience. What are these caged blue people? Who are all of these characters? Why is anybody doing anything? There’s nothing to ease the viewer in, either; they’re just dropped in like, BAM, orcs, BAM, ecto cooler death magic, BAM, dwarves with guns. Some people may argue that this is a movie for the fans and you need to already be familiar with the material going in. However, I’ve always felt that’s a cop out argument. A movie needs to stand on its own and shouldn’t rely on supplementary material to be understood. You can have material that expands on details of the movie, but if you need a three volume encyclopedia or a 27 GB video game to appreciate it, it has failed at its job. Besides, I’m familiar with the source material by proxy (played many of World of Warcraft’s sister games and researched a lot of the lore) and I didn’t appreciate or enjoy this.

Worst of all, it’s relentlessly long and filled with nearly nothing but battles. Sure, there’s some attempts at character development sprinkled in here and there, but everything else is a fight of some kind or another. On top of that, given the nature of all the fights, there’s about ten movie’s worth of plot and it makes it all so chaotic. At one point, I was thinking, “Okay, looks like we’re about to hit the climax.” NOPE! I was only halfway through. At that point, I started thinking of other things, like taxes or prescription numbers on medication or literally anything else than having to sit through another hour of endless fight scenes and exposition.

Maybe this was more of a straight adaptation of the first game rather than a prequel to the series itself, but either way it’s a limp flop. Between the countless characters and motivations that you need to keep track of sprinkled across the numerous battles, this felt more like a Warcraft college course rather than a movie experience. There’s a good movie in here, but it needed loads of rewrites, editing, and cleanup before it’d be worth watching. But it made money at the box office, so it’s very possible we’ll see a sequel in the coming years. Here’s hoping the filmmakers learn from their mistakes when that time comes.

Fun Tidbit: I could probably go nuts naming all of the cameos from the games they put in here, but I think I’ll go with an important staff cameo instead. Chris Metzer, writer of the movie, Senior Vice-President of Story and Franchise Development at Blizzard Entertainment, and voice of long-time Warcraft character Thrall, appears as a perfume vendor wearing a turban in the streets of Stormwind. Say what you will, but it’s always nice when creators get their hands dirty with the rest of the actors for the fans.


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