Apr 5, 2017

[Movies] WarCraft (2016)

Video game movies tend to have a bit of a stigma related to them almost automatically given the long history of many, many video game movies that just plain sucked. Whether it's because of how he stories behind these games are shallow to begin with and not fit for movies or we get great video game stories mangled into something else entirely to make it more cinematic, the end results are often strange. Video game enjoyment does not automatically translate into movie enjoyment.

I never had high hopes for WarCraft as a movie. I don't think anyone really asked for this to be made and Blizzard's stories have always been complex but not exactly groundbreaking either. A literal translation of the video game story into a movie might have been decent, but not amazing, at least in my mind. What we got instead was both familiar and yet even more confusing at the same time.

I can't even say that the movie is visually fulfilling as is often the consolation for certain titles. It has striking moments, sure, but it felt more like the quirky Dungeons and Dragons movies without the humor.

Synopsis: WarCraft is a 2016 fantasy movie directed by Duncan Jones as based on the video game series of the same name. The screenplay was written by Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones as well.

On Draenor, the world of orcs, is being destroyed by a force known as fel magic. In the hopes of finding a new home, the warlock Gul'dan (Daniel Wu) creates a portal that leads the orcs to the world of Azeroth. This hope helps Gul'dan unite the various orc clans under one banner and thus the Horde is born to take over other worlds. All they need is a steady stream of slaves to sacrifice in order to power the portal. Thus Gul'dan leads an initial warband through the portal to secure the passage to Azeroth.

Thus raids on various human villages begin and Anduin Lothal (Travis Fimmel) is the military commander for Stormwind Kingdom and in his investigation of the raids encounters the mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer). Khadgar reveals he senses the use of fel magic in the deaths of the various victims. They take this news to King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), who in turn dispatches them to consult with the Guardian of Tirisfal, Medivh (Ben Foster). And thus this goes on until the orcs and the humans have more direct encounters.

What I Liked: As a longtime WarCraft player, it was nice to encounter familiar elements from the admittedly convoluted lore of the video game backstory. So various names were pretty familiar and it was oddly nice to see these actors try to bring all these characters to life.

For the most part the action sequences were pretty fun when taken on a larger scale - I can totally buy into the notion that this is like a big video game set piece with all these different factions at war with one another. It's hard to make sense of specific aspects of the combat when you take a closer look at things, but that's the consequence of movies like this.

What Could Have Been Better: The story is sadly the weakest part of the whole thing and when you have a bad story you inevitably end up with a bad movie. Yes it largely followed the video game in this matter and there's a lot of "blame" to go in that direction, but a video game story was never meant to be a movie story sometimes. And there are just too many characters, too many weird names and some plot points that made for surprise reveals in the game but came out pretty predictable in the movie.

Beyond the story, obviously more could have been done to translate this story better instead of the resulting mix-up that we got. We can't just have characters meet by repeated coincidence just to move the plot forward. And we could have probably trimmed down on side stories like the whole half-orc character Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton) was largely extraneous to things and who cares about the orc baby at the end of the story? There's just so much in here that it's hard to appreciate it beyond all the complicated names and references we can't get a grip on.

TL;DR: WarCraft is unfortuately one of those video game movies that live true to the old "bad movie" mold and crumbles under the weight of the video game back story. There was no cinematic vision at work here and thus the core story does not come through given all the plot points and names and shouting that gets in the way of things instead. So the movie only really gets 1 odd place for orc tusks out of a possible 5.

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