So I checked out a Thursday showing the new movie Warcraft, based on the Warcraft/World of Warcraft PC game franchise. Quick reaction…. not a very good movie and if you aren’t familiar with the mythology and storylines, you should probably just stay home since they didn’t make this movie for you.
Me? I didn’t play the first three strategy games that this movie is kind of a prequel to but I played the hell out of World of Warcraft, the MMO. Played WAY too much of it so I have a passing knowledge of the story this movie is telling. And, I’ll tell ya, while not high art, the lore of Warcraft is kind of extensive with one plot linking into other plots so you end up going down a crazy rabbit hole of plot lines once you start tracing them all.
Which leads to the biggest problem with this movie… it tries to be too faithful to all that lore in too little time and doesn’t really stop and really try to explain anything to people who aren’t familiar with these various stories. And the sick sad thing is, they left a fair amount of the subplots out of the movie and they still had a movie too stuffed with subplots.
So what is the main plot? Orcs live on a dying world so their not-at-all-evil evil warlock leader opens a dark portal to Azeroth, land of humans (and sometimes dwarves and elves too). They both want to live but the orcs aren’t into sharing (and the humans probably aren’t either). Pepper in some wizards, flying cities, demons, golums, half-breeds, kings, brothers-in-law, griffons, some backstabbing and some squabbling and misunderstandings and you sure have a movie that sounds like its simple but tries to stuff itself too full.
The movie is rushed, jumping from one location to the next assuming you’ll be able to catch up because, you sir must have played the game. If you hadn’t… well… MAGIC! NOISE! ORCS! Or something. They don’t seem interested in even trying to explain much of the world they are playing in.
The movie also tragically undersells the characters and tries to get us to care about them without doing the legwork necessary to succeed. This is partly due to them rushing through and using short hand to get us to care… but it doesn’t work. Maybe the actors are wrong, maybe the dialog is just bad… but really its just that it’s all rushed.
The action set pieces aren’t terrible. They aren’t very exciting or engaging either though. They are just kind of there – a lot of CG creatures attacking a lot of humans (who are probably all CG models) and it’s pedestrian. Not boring and not confusingly shot… just low interest and low motivation.
For Warcraft fans, the movie looks exactly like what it should look like. They were definitely fans and were definitely following the visual playbook. There’s a ton of fan service moments and locations that will cause you to say, “Hey – I know where this is!” Unfortunately, non-fans will not even have that experience. Gurgle-burgle-burgle indeed.
And, finally, we get the tragic realization they were padding bits of the movie with sequel bait. They really really want to make a sequel and, to be fair, there are pretty good stories to tell in this world. Maybe they should have started with those… or maybe that would have made it worse. Hard to say. Hard also to say whether or not this movie will make each cash money to rate a sequel.
So, there ya go. I suppose if you are a fan of the games, you’re gonna go see it anyway. I’d be in that boat if I wasn’t already committed to seeing every darn movie out there (more-or-less). Fans of the fantasy/sf general who aren’t familiar with the games might want to support it too. I’ve seen worse movies and, hell, if the Transformers movies (which are infinitely worse) can have the unironic audience they have, this could too. But my money is on a casual audience just being baffled and bored… if they were even sold on the mediocre trailers.