Fantasy Movie Review – The Warcraft Movie SUCKS

If you’ve seen the Warcraft Movie I’m preaching to the choir

but if you’re trying to find something to do on a Friday night let me tell you, this shouldn’t be it.

I’ve been playing games in the Warcraft Universe since 1996 when Orcs and Humans was first released so I’m a pretty big fan. Some might say that’s why I didn’t like the movie, but honestly the only way the audience could have had any coherent idea of the plot, the characters, or the setting was to have lived intimately with the Warcraft universe for many years.

My first tweet on the subject should sum it up:

I wished the movie had just been animated. Stylistically the Orcs looked fantastic. When they were alone on camera the acting was great, the plot was coherent (for the most part), and I felt empathy for them: specifically Durotan, but I’ll talk more about him later.

The aesthetics of the movie were ruined by conflicted art styles.

Like I said, the orcs looked great. One thing I heard floating around this movie was how great the CGI effects were. I was not disappointed.

First: The costumes

The problem was with the humans. The live action portions of the movie were horrendous – the actors either over acted or under acted – but watching live people walk around with enormous shoulder plate and knitted mail (yes like a sweater that they spray painted silver) was cringe worthy. Trying to use the game aesthetic on live actors caused a lot of problems within.

Second: the blocking

When the characters moved and faced each other they were forced into awkward places on the camera to accommodate their giant armor and weapons. It didn’t help that the armor looked plastic and completely impractical. In many cases the way the actors block makes the audience believe that the main character of the story isn’t any of the characters: it’s the setting itself. One scene, characters stand around an empty dungeon with a flight of stairs leading upwards. If you played the game it’s clear that this is the Stormwind Stockades and the director WANTED you to know that. It has nothing to do with the story – it’s just fan service.

Third: Proportion

Every time the human walked around anywhere they seemed proportionately out of touch with the buildings and trees around them. Stormwind looked like Disneyland. Part of this had to do with the costuming and making sure that the world looked and felt aesthetically like the Azeroth in World of Warcraft, but movies are not video games. There are somethings that just don’t transfer well. A lot of these decisions were made with fan service in mind and that’s what they delivered. Unfortunately with that package also came a bad movie.

The Setting needed more time to congeal.

Which is odd since the world has had twenty-two years of lore to build on. This effected the pacing as well. We jumped around to a lot of different places: Stormwind, Ironforge, Elwyn Forest, Hellfire Citadel, Blackrock Mountain, Moras, Goldshire, Karazahn, Deadwind Pass.

If you never played the game you have no idea what any of these places are, their significance, or why they even have names. The audience is tugged around from one scene to another and no depth is ever built.

Compare this to Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back.

There were four settings: Ice Planet Hoth, Degoba, Space (the Millennium Falcon), and Cloud City.

These places are explored and allowed to develop. Even the magical part of the setting develops which never happens in the Warcraft Movie. We get to know characters, their relationships with each other, we see more of their motivations.

Magic: the Plot line Panacea

Magic exists as a Deus Ex Machina and it’s use, frankly renders the plot irrelevant. Three magic wielding characters do things with no explanation of anything except to move the plot forward. There are no limitations set to its use so the characters just seem invincible until they’re not. This is a big part of setting that didn’t transfer from the game: in World of Warcraft you have limitations set on you because of mana. A director can’t just explain that the Mage’s mana bar was too low to cast the spell and expect the audience to believe it. There needs to be some kind of system or the mage characters need to be Gandalf – Divine beings completely out of the understanding of the normal characters. There was one good magic usage – again I only liked it because of its fan service:

Characters happen.

That’s about as best as I can describe it with the exception of Durotan. All of the human characters exist, things happen to them for unexplained reasons and do stupid things.

In the scene I’m tweeting about, each one of them shares an anecdote from their past to make them more accessible to the audience. Instead it comes across as entirely boring because I didn’t care at all about the characters. It was paced like a World of Warcraft Cut scene that I would skip to get on playing the game. None of the characters motivations or backstories made any sense. Kadgahr leaves the Kirn Tor but is somehow able to travel between Medivh’s home and the floating city of Dalaran without more than a stern talking to? Then he’s supreme mage of the universe at the end?

Lothar was the worst. The supreme General of the Alliance made me tweet this after becoming winded walking up the stairs at Karazahn:

Then, charging into Medivh’s lightning spell to save his son:

I understood the motivation for that last one. It made sense but the close up on the spell effects brought the world crashing down around me. That’s a horrible feeling for a writer.

Plot, Gul’dan, Medivh, and the saving grace, Durotan.

What this story is actually about is how Sargerus, a titan who helped for the world who is then tainted by the burning legion, corrupts Medivh and gives Gul’dan power to make the orc’s powerful. This in turn brings the orcs through the Dark Portal beginning the war.

That is never once discussed.

Gul’dan’s motives are never explored. Medivh’s motives are never explored. The two plot driving characters simply do things for seemingly irrelevant reasons. Once in the movie, Gorana says that she thought Gul’dan was talking to a demon. That’s all we get. With out this motivation the plot is completely irrelevant. Characters do things randomly, the end.

Durotan, on the other hand, has a great story arch. He brings his pregnant wife, Draka, across the gate with the original war party. The baby is still born on the other side and Gul’dan saves it using his Fel magic. Durotan knows the orcs will be destroyed under Gul’dan’s rule and works through the movie to undermine his authority. If Blizzard had delivered a two hour movie that was completely from the Orc perspective it would have been fantastic. Orgrim Doomhammer has maybe five speaking lines in the entire film and has the biggest growth curve of any other character.

In the end

Video games shouldn’t try to be movies. Movies shouldn’t try to be video games. They’re two different mediums for a reason.

If you want to read a good fantasy short, find my book Cloaked in Darkness here and follow my Amazon Author page to be the first to preorder my new book, out July 14th, Immortal Fear.

If you want to have some fun listening to David V. Stewart and I talk about it – check that video out here.

I’ll leave you with this thought.

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