Warcraft (2016) Movie Review
Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones
Following the tradition of great movies based on video games such as nothing, Warcraft is about what you’d expect. Not terrible, which is about as high a praise one can give from what amounts to a 2 hour episode of Game of Thrones sanitized for those who aren’t old enough to watch Game of Thrones.
Having never played the game on which the movie is based, I can see why the basic plot would appeal to people. I can also see how the filmmakers stretched the limits of their imagination (and budget) to make something feature-length worthy. For the most part it sort of worked. Except in the parts that it didn’t.
Part of what makes the movie, or this genre so entertaining is seeing well-respected actors say the hokiest dialogue or emote against CGI creations while remembering that with the money from this movie they can afford that boat or that house and that next time, they can act for that prestigious award in a Holocaust drama or 9/11 drama or play the gorilla that got shot for dragging that 3-year old. But for now, you strap on that wizard/mage hat and act your pants off in another (made-up) language thinking, “If it worked for Ian McKellen in those Lord of the Rings movies but not really in those Hobbit movies, then it should work for me…”
The plot (not that you care)…
The orcs need a new world as the one they currently inhabit is rotting and will soon be uninhabitable. Orcland sounds a lot like Oakland, except the orcs stand a lesser chance of getting their car broken into when they leave it on the street for more than 10 minutes.
Their leader (I think) Gul’Dan thinks he has a pretty Guld idea. He will cross over into the realm of Azeroth using a gateway from his world into theirs. However, not all the orcs can fit through the gateway so he can only send his most fearsome warriors to take over. After that’s taken care of, he’ll send for the rest of the orcs. With me so far?
I feel like I’m writing some sort of pathetic fan fiction but I swear this is an actual plot. Ask anyone who plays the game. There are a lot of you, I know.
Gul’Dan is in charge of a dominant green magic called the Fell (Ooh). It gives the user a lot of power but at the expense of other lives. He doesn’t know that with great power comes a lot of clichés about wielding great power. Gul’Dan seems corrupted by it, but he doesn’t seem to care.
The Orcs crossover into Azeroth where humans and elves live. They look like rejects from LOTR LARP-ing weekends.
On the human side, we meet a guy named Lothar (Travis Fimmel) a knight (or something) whose sister is the Queen and Brother-In-Law to King Llane (Dominic Cooper). Lothar also has a son who wants to be a warrior like dad but you can see just isn’t as good.
Now would be an appropriate time to say RIP to the son character. You knew he was dead as soon as he said something to the effect of “I want to be just like you”. I didn’t even bother to remember his name because it wouldn’t be important later.
Anyway, Azeroth’s garrisons are being attacked by Gul’Dan’s Orcs.
The humans have wizards/mages who use magic to help protect them. They’re called Guardians and they’re different from regular humans because their beards are bushier and their robes are robier and half their dialogue is spoken in some fake language and in deep baritone so you know it‘s serious.
The main Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) fears that the orcs have the Fell, which is powerful enough to destroy worlds if it fell into the wrong hands.
What follows is actors staring at gaffer tape while special FX gets inserted into scenes months later, a good portion of dialogue is yelled like Bernie Sanders complaining about someone not getting his order at Burger King right, shifting alliances among both the Orcs and the humans, and a chunk of the audience wondering if this week’s other offerings, The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 will be any better.
Oh, and there’s Paula Patton (Precious, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol), playing an Orc named Garona and looking like one of those green aliens Captain Kirk beds in an old episode of Star Trek.
What Works with Warcraft
- It’s not Pixels.
- No Hawkeye.
- The CGI is pretty decent enough so that the Orcs and the humans actually look like they’re interacting with one another. Looking at the trailers, I thought the orcs would end up looking like Shrek, but you can see where most of the money was spent, because it sure wasn’t spent on story or characters.
- Director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) has a relatively firm grasp on the bloodless action scenes. You know who is on whose side and why. The problem is…
What Doesn't Work With Warcraft
- ...that you don’t really care since, for better or for worse, you’re watching a video game. And when was the last time cared about someone else playing a video game? Every character death is met with an indifferent shrug
- The human “characters” hardly have any dimension to them. I barely remember any of their names. Granted, you know what you’re getting into when you fork over your money for something like Warcraft, but it subsequently makes any interactions with the humans or any of their consequences, well, inconsequential. Like X-Men Apocalypse, it’s really easy to see all the name players paycheck acting.
- Poor Ben Foster. An excellent dramatic actor who’s taking his role way too seriously. His grave blood-vessel-popping line readings almost make you believe that he’s not in movie with CGI orcs and elves. He must have been able to take home his generic wizard robe after principal photography stopped.
Warcraft is mildly diverting summer entertainment that you forget about as soon as you leave the theater. There are worse ways you can spend 2 hours, but there are 2 other, better movies also opening this weekend. You’ve wasted enough time playing World of Warcraft, what’s another 2 hours?