Everyone Takes The Warcraft Movie Too Seriously… Including The Warcraft Movie
I saw Duncan Jones’ Warcraft nearly two weeks ago. I waited to write my review because I found myself conflicted. On one hand, I didn’t enjoy the film as much as I had hoped. On the other, a collection of critics absolutely decimated the film as complete garbage. A notion I completely disagree with.
I felt the same way when I wrote down my thoughts after watching X-Men: Apocalypse. I wanted more from an X-Men film that featured a villain as epic as En Sabah Nur. But I didn’t think the film was a COMPLETE failure.
Some films don’t deliver on the hype. It’s disappointing. I can admit it. I was disappointed in Warcraft too but I wasn’t driven to the point of anger. Warcraft has many redeeming qualities and entertaining moments. But… Before I go to far, I’d like to go back to the beginning of my time in the Warcraft universe.
WHY SO SERIOUS?
I absolutely adored the original video games. Warcraft 1, 2 & 3 are STILL amazing games to play. That was my introduction to the world of Azeroth and the clash between Humans and Orcs. I desperately wanted a film based on Blizzard’s real time strategy franchise for years. So I went into Warcraft with high hopes. Perhaps too high.
Warcraft is about Orcs, creatures, magic, sorcery and mystical realms… It’s a tough world to set up yet, even though I had a strong knowledge of the mythology, I was still overwhelmed by names, locations and references.
As the plot became clear, I found myself following along but slowly I realized the film would not deliver on the promise of it’s source material. This was an expensive film to make yet most of the first hour revolves around humans ‘talking’ about Orcs raiding villages. This is supposed to be the first clash of two proud cultures yet both factions spend more time fighting each other.
Warcraft suffers from the same issues that plagued Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Too much setup. Not enough story. Call it the ‘Marvel Blockbuster Curse’ but studios are trying too hard to duplicate the success of The Avengers. You can’t setup an entire franchise in one film. You have to tell a good story. Period. That’s how you EARN the right to produce sequels and expand your universe.
Warcraft does a good enough job setting up the main conflict and characters but holds back a ton of great moments for ‘future films’. There’s simply too much world building leaving little time to tell a good story.
There’s a fantastic scene (embedded above) where Durotan and Ogrim discuss the fate of their race. Killing Gul’dan would end the conflict and create peace between Orcs and humans. ‘We can’t have that! We have sequels to produce!’ So… (Spoiler) Gul’dan survives at the cost of a hero who essentially sacrifices himself for nothing. This makes great character moments like the scene above feel like filler rather than important plot threads.
My issue with Warcraft is simple. If you’re trying to setup a series of films, why wouldn’t you focus on the initial conflict between Orcs and Humans and slowly build towards an alliance? Instead, we get a final act that’s full of strange character choices, awful dialogue and unnecessary moments. All to service a sequel will most likely be set years after the first film. (I never identified with Lothar so I have to pin my hopes on an abandoned Orc baby…)
The whole thing just felt… rushed…
For example, Jones skillfully sets up a rivalry between Lothar and Blackhand. They encounter each other several times throughout the movie. Lothar slices off a hand, Blackhand kills Lothar’s son. Naturally, the two finally face off at the end. On one side, the fearsome human warrior Lothar. On the other, a giant Orc infused with the power of The Fel. Corrupted by Gul’Dan’s dark magic. Gul’Dan even calls Blackhand the most powerful Orc of all. Great setup right? The result? Lothar slides under the Orc, slashes his nuts and it’s over… Booooooooo.
Maybe it was too much to ask for a Warcraft movie that included more moments like these:
Even now, weeks after watching Warcraft, I find myself complaining about the things I enjoyed the most. So yes, the film is disappointing. It’s disappointing because the film takes itself too seriously and focuses too much screen time setting up future films. It didn’t work for me but, like DC’s Extended Universe, I have hope for future installments.
What I don’t understand is reviewers like Indiewire’s David Ehrlich talking about Warcraft like he expected Saving Private Ryan with Orcs. (Which would be awesome by the way) Here’s a quote from his review:
“Warcraft is finally here, and not only does it fail to bridge the gap between movies and video games, it self-immolates and swan-dives into the void, illuminating a dark rift that’s even deeper than it is wide. A grotesque, funhouse reflection of modern blockbuster cinema, the film is truly a staggering failure, and there’s no joy to be found in its profound awfulness” (David Ehrlich, Indiewire)
I don’t get paid to review movies and based on his vocabulary alone, Mr. Ehrlich can write circles around me. I’m fine with that but this review is absolutely hilarious. ‘A funhouse refelction of modern blockbuster cinema’? It’s Warcraft!? Chill out.
I waited a few weeks and still found much to complain about but is Warcraft a ‘staggering failure’? It’s now the highest grossing video game adaptation of all time and has set a number of records in international territories. Specifically China. Granted, the video game genre hasn’t exactly been… Good… So let’s establish a scale here. To me, a staggering failure in the video game genre would be 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Warcraft has it’s flaws but it’s a gorgeous movie packed with ambitious ideas and a deep mythology. Perhaps the film was overly ambitious but the numbers prove there is a world wide audience for Warcraft.
In my eyes, the movie left much to be desired but I’m not ready to write off the franchise yet. I’m certainly not going to label it ‘a staggering failure’. Busting out a thesaurus on Warcraft makes the reviewer sound spoiled.
The original Warcraft game was released in 1994. 11 year old me would have gone CRAZY for a movie like this. Today, we have the luxury of watching massive blockbusters every week. Some will be hits like Captain America: Civil War and others will fail. I think Warcraft falls in between those two extremes.
I may be disappointed but I’m certainly not angry. They took a shot and missed the mark. Some people want to compare big blockbusters to indie darlings worthy of Oscars. I love ‘awards’ season contenders but I also love a good blockbuster. It’s a fantastic time to be a fan of both so maybe lighten up a little bit?
“For a film that had the time and resources to pave over any potholes, the only logical explanation for a disaster of this magnitude is that everyone involved lost sight of what they were making.” (David Ehrlich, Indiewire)
Yikes. He really did not care for the film. I probably shouldn’t use the word film. Movie? He doesn’t care for the Warcraft movie. Hey Warcraft movie! How dare you try to be a film! Jerk!