Video game-based movies have, by and large, proven pointless. They’re released under expectations the broader audience that exists outside the core fan base will accept, with total seriousness and commitment, the world it’s trying to showcase. But the thing about video games is that they shouldn’t be taken seriously. Most are action-driven frenzies through silly, overindulgent worlds, meant for people so unsatisfied with the one they live in.
The newest addition to this shameful, cinematic genre is Warcraft, based on a video game as exclusive to basement-dwelling gamers as they come. Like a clingy girlfriend, the movie wants so desperately for the audience to love and be immersed in the world of mages, Orcs, gryphons, stoic speeches and whatever else so much that it comes off as overbearing, nonsensical, strange and unbearable.
For starters, the script seems like a played-out version of probably very existent World of Warcraft fan fiction. The writers, Duncan Jones (also directing) and Charles Leavitt, try so hard to cram as much of the world down the audience’s throat for sheer purpose of showing it off that only the die-hard fans will be able to swallow it, while avoiding any sense of structure or guidance. Within the first 25 minutes we are taken to lands like Goldshire, Ironforge, Stormsomething and maybe even Cleveland. The sole purpose of going to these places is to show off massive landscapes from the game so fans can giddy in delight and the regular audience members to go, “What the hell is going on? Who’s this? What’s that?” We are supposed to just buy into it all so everything else doesn’t seem as stupid.
But mostly it acts for us to meet characters like Lothar (Travis Fimmel), Medivh (Ben Foster), Durotan (Toby Kebbel), Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) and others with names made out of jumbled Scrabble pieces. They then land in these places, immediately say “now we must go there!” Then seconds later they’re off to the next land for little-to-no reason, only to end up back where they started. So, yes, this is just like a terrible video game.
Now along this quest of minor errands we get little resembling a story—a very common error in many’a highly-priced adventure flick. The humans get word that some kind of evil force is roaming their land, so instead of looking for the massive, rampaging fires that would undoubtedly lead to their problem, the Orcs, they wander around aimlessly speaking of dark dangers and magic.
Using what I assume is state-of-the-art motion capture to create the Orcs, the creatures are seen bashing and smashing and glaring with inconsistencies. For one, an Orc threatens a humanish-looking-maybe-Orc for using English to talk to, well, humans. However, he mostly spends this time threatening her in English, and then whenever we see other Orcs they’re also using English, even though we have established they have their own language. Not to mention, this she-Orc (the poor, poor Paula Patton) is assumed to be half-human, half-Orc, even though this is the first time the two species have ever had contact. If this is the case why is their main language also ours? How did this Orc become a halfsie? These Orcs are huge, but could fit very snuggly in all the movie’s very obvious plot holes.
Maybe these holes in what they wanna call a plot would be forgiven if the movie was at least fun. I mean, this is a video game movie. Aren’t video games first and foremost supposed to be fun? But as I said earlier, these movies aren’t preoccupied with being fun. They have to try and convert the uninitiated by trying to get across how cool this world is, and why gamers take is as seriously. So instead, we’re treated to meandering conversations about magic, nature of warriors and about what to do about the Orc threat, even though we rarely see the two worlds fighting.
Most of the characters are bland and speak in doom-laden forebodings. Our hero, Lothar, is an unwatchable, cruel, mean-spirited, uncaring twat who only excels at excessive facial hair. He treats other characters poorly and doesn’t care about anything, but is masqueraded as charming and devilishly funny. To gamers this may come across as cool, but the character is, simply, an asshat. As well, he has a son who looks only about 10 years younger than him, who he has one conversation with, and then we are supposed to feel sympathy for this fool when said son dies. Who cares? Not Lothar, by the look of it. Constipated, yes—as if he had too many KFC Famous Bowls—but not tortured.
It’s a shame none of the other actors or their characters could pick up the slack. Great actors like Foster, and the beautiful Patton slug through their roles and goofy dialogue, possibly understanding the mess they’ve gotten in. Foster, playing a mage of sorts, seems to realize how embarrassing he looks talking of spells and incanting gibberish. He does provide the movie’s funniest scene though, as he storms into a younger mage’s room, sees all these pages of magic and what not strewn about, and starts screaming, “Where did you find this!?” Like some parent discovering his child’s nudie-mag collection. Maybe that wasn’t meant to be funny, but I sure laughed.
And the poor, poor, poor, poor Patton, reduced to wearing green makeup and uncomfortable prosthetic jaws, forced to spend time wearing a Slave Leia-esque garment. No doubt a big purpose was for her to appeal to horny gamers looking to validate their lust for fantasy-realm women. “She’s an Orc, but human-looking enough to not make me feel weird for thinking about her in the tub!”
As for the utter lack excitement, it’s probably because the actual scenes of action and Orc discussions were clearly so insanely expensive. Jones and his producers literally couldn’t afford to show anything else but humans in uncomfortable clothing talking about nothing. This is even sadder when the expensive scenes look so cartoonish. The Orcs and their environment look like the worst effects from “The Hobbit” series. The Orcs are so unintimidating and oafish. Granted, some character expressions, mainly in the eyes, look detailed and emotional, but in wider shots everything just looks messy, bright and silly. The Orcs smash and bash, but all that money was spent to make them seem so much more realistic, but they look about as real as pixelated video game minions.
This is such a shame, because I hoped the visuals would at least bring some enjoyment. Nay, because of the inability for even talented filmmakers like Jones to make gaming worlds simple and fun, instead opting to cram in an overabundance of game references with ham-fisted style to try and sell it to new audiences, video game movies will always be pointless. Warcraft has done nothing to prove otherwise, therefore, by the transitive property, Warcraft itself is pointless. At one point, even, amid all the self-indulgence, a young, dorky mage says something along the lines of, “It is a great honor for parents to send their kids to Donkleburr to be trained by the Vilbusters, the most powerful mages in the land.” Those names are complete gibberish, but that’s how it came off to me. Fans will likely find some sort of pride in the characters, having spent so many hours in the game itself that the world seems vibrant and real, saying the movie isn’t meant for us common folk. But this then begs the shout-to-the-heavens question, “Why on Earth did this movie need to be made for a mass audience with an almost $200 million price tag?” Gamers have their world, everyone else has theirs. Maybe it’s not best to blend the two.