Thursday, June 16, 2016

Warcraft Review

This is the year that the future of video game movies is being held in the balance. Hollywood has been obsessed for quite some time with trying to make this marriage work with video games on the big screen. But to say it's been a messy marriage thus far might be putting it nicely. Sure, there have been some that I have personally enjoyed and others that have made decent money, especially when you look at overseas totals, but you really can't point to one video game movie that was liked across the board AND was a big hit at the box office. It's been a disaster, but Hollywood keeps trying because they think this is going to work. But perhaps the moral of this story is that video games should remain video games and movies should remain movies. Maybe we should stop trying. However, I say this is the year where the future of video games is being held in the balance because we have two hugely popular video games this year with deep, interesting mythologies that are being adapted to the big screen. Warcraft and Assassin's Creed. If these don't work, is it really even worth trying anymore? Assassin's Creed is out in December, so we'll wait and see on for that one. But Warcraft is out right now with very mixed results across the board to say the least, so it's time now to dive into that one!

Honestly going into this movie I really didn't know what to expect. None of the trailers sold me. But I was willing to give it a shot. Reviews from critics were very poisonous as it currently stands at 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is an 82 percent. In addition to that, it currently has a 7.6 on IMDb with over 60,000 votes in and it scored a decent B+ on cinemascore. So it seems like audiences are enjoying this much more than critics are. Maybe this is one of those instances where tons of critics practically had their reviews written in their heads before they saw the movie and were just looking for things to hate about this movie? I went into the movie hoping that I would at least have a fun time. I obviously didn't expect this to be as epic as The Lord of the Rings, but I was just hoping to have fun. I also saw the movie in 3D IMAX, so I was hoping that experience would be great. Speaking of The Lord of the Rings, perhaps that's an unfair comparison to bring up because few fantasy movies will ever even get close to that bar, but I'm going to be using that comparison throughout this review simply because this has much of the same type of characters. Orcs, humans, dwarfs, elves (I think?), wizards, etc. The potential for this was pretty high and if they were to at least follow the formula set by The Lord of the Rings, they'd have a solid movie on their hands.

But no, this movie is a slog. Before I go any further, I feel obligated to inform you of my history with the Warcraft game. I've personally known a lot of people who love the Warcraft games, especially World of Warcraft. But me? Nope. My total lifetime hours playing any Warcraft game is most likely less than one hour. I just never got into it. I was more of Starcraft person. Two very different games, obviously, but they both have "craft" in their title, so I feel like I needed to bring that up. A Starcraft movie? I've always wanted one of those, but I think the time is long passed to pull it off, so let's just leave that a game at this point. Back to Warcraft, even though I've never spent much time playing the game in my life, as far as the movie genre goes, I'm a huge fan. Like with most people on this planet, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of my favorite trilogies ever. I've also found myself loving other fantasy movies with similar elements, so I'm not just another old, angry critic just waiting to hate on another giant Hollywood blockbuster. I had high hopes for this. I wanted it to be good. And if I'm being honest, there are a lot of reviews that I have read that I think are being way too harsh on this. I've been hearing some people say this is as bad or worse than something like Jupiter Ascending. Heck to the no on that.

Before I dive into where this movie fails, I do want to spend some time saying how this succeeded, because there is a lot of good. First and foremost, I love this universe that they have set up. I'm not going to try to explain which specific Warcraft game this is based off of, although I hear it's pre-World of Warcraft, but don't quote me on that because I know almost nothing about the games outside perhaps the types of characters in the game. I'm just going with what I saw in the movie. And in this movie, the orcs' world has been destroyed, or something like that, so they jump through this portal into this new world with all the humans. They're plan is to take over this new world because they need a world to live on. Obviously the humans aren't down with this idea and thus we have our conflict. This is a pretty great setup actually. What I really loved is that there is no black and white answer as to who is good and who is evil. In most incarnations of the orc vs. human battle, the humans are good and the orcs are bad. That's how The Lord of the Rings did it. But in this there's a lot more gray area. Sure, we have our fair share of evil orcs, but there's plenty of good orcs in this who are conflicted with what their leader(s) are telling them to do. The fact that we are humanizing our orcs and making us feel for them was a fantastic idea.

Also, visually speaking, this movie is phenomenal. I was a little worried going into this that it would be a huge CGI mess, but that wasn't an issue for me at all. I'm all for practical effects over CGI if you can believable pull that off. CGI should be used as a tool to improve your movie, not a means to create a movie. I think the Star Wars saga has taught us that. The Lord of the Rings vs. The Hobbit trilogies also taught us that. The Lord of the Rings went mostly for practical effects while The Hobbit was all CGI. Honestly I thought the CGI in The Hobbit was horrible in all three movies, especially the orcs. I hated The Hobbit's version of the orcs. Hated. And that totally ruined the whole trilogy for me. That's why I was kinda worried about this. I didn't want Warcraft to suffer the same fate as The Hobbit given that I knew that there was as much, if not more, CGI used in Warcraft as The Hobbit. But do know what, it worked. If you are going to rely on CGI, at least do a good job and Warcraft does a dang good job. This is an absolute visual treat that's gorgeous in IMAX especially. And I listened to an interview with director Duncan Jones where he says that in addition to all the CGI, they did build a lot of actual sets for the movie, which I also appreciate. Movies should never be made the way George Lucas made the prequels.

Also worth a lot of praise is the score of the movie. If we once again think about The Lord of the Rings, one of the many beautiful things about that trilogy is that it has one of the best scores in movie history. It's so good that I bet that you could walk up to almost any random stranger and ask them to sing something from The Lord of the Rings score and on command they'd be able to do that. That score also makes any situation or moment extremely epic when played in the background, whether it be a long road trip, a game of Risk, or whatever. Warcraft obviously doesn't come anywhere close to The Lord of the Rings in terms of the score, but the point of this is that key to any movie, but especially a big-budget fantasy epic, is the score and Warcraft's score is pretty great. This once again made my IMAX adventure with this movie pretty entertaining. We had amazing visuals and a great score and put that together on an IMAX screen in an IMAX theater and it was a lot of fun. It was especially good when we got to the battle scenes in the movie, which were a lot of fun when they happened. So like I said, all this put together means this movie had a pretty good setup with high potential. A lot of things done right.

But there are two major elements of this movie that were a complete swing and a miss for me. Those two things are kinda essential to every movie and if you completely fail on both it's unfortunately an unforgivable sin. I'm talking about plot and characters. Let's start with the latter. Characters. I honestly can't tell you the name of a single character from this movie. I could describe to you some of the characters as far as what they did or what they looked like. We had the pretty orc girl who got captured by the humans and kinda joined their side. We have the main orc couple. We have the evil orc leader. We have the human king. We have the two magic human dudes. We have another human that was kinda cool. But literally none of these character names stuck in my mind and part of that is because none of them were really interesting. I don't know if it was the actors' fault for not caring about the movie or the screenwriters' fault for not writing interesting characters that you really cared about. It was probably a combination of both. Something went very wrong somewhere and it led to a disaster because when you don't care about any characters in the movie, it's hard to get invested in any movie or franchise. And as I said earlier, the premise they set up was a good one. You have a handful of great characters and you have yourself a solid movie.

That is if you have a good plot to go along with your characters. I mean holy freaking fetch this was a bore. And considering how great of a premise this was and how great of a universe they set up, this was very disappointing. The first 10 or 15 minutes were pretty great, but then the movie got completely stuck in the mud. And when I say completely stuck in the mud, I mean completely stuck in the mud. Nothing interesting happened for the longest time. I wanted battles. I wanted intrigue. I wanted mental, emotional and/or physical conflict. But the movie dragged. And dragged. And dragged. I was practically bored to tears halfway through. It got so bad that mentally I just checked out somewhere during the first half of the movie. I just didn't care anymore. Things happened in the second half of the movie and some of them seemed like they might be interesting or partially emotional, but I couldn't tell you even if you asked. I was never planning on doing a spoiler review for this movie, but I honestly don't even know if I would be physically able to do so without reading the plot on Wikipedia and trying to memorize the thing followed by seeing the whole movie again. And none of that's happening.

The Lord of the Rings is practically perfect in every way. They have a great premise. Great visual effects (that hold up better than The Hobbit movies). Great universe. Great score. Great characters. Great acting. Great story. Great everything. Warcraft didn't need to be as epic as The Lord of the Rings to get a pass from me. But if they just did a good job at those things, I would be happy. What really frustrates me about this movie is that they did do a lot of things great. We had a good premise. We had great visual effects and great character designs for the orcs. We humanized those orcs so that you don't know exactly what side your supposed to be cheering for. We had a good score and well-done battle scenes (when they happened). Everything was in place for this to be an epic adventure and possibly a fantastic franchise. But when you have no plot and no characters that are worth anything, it doesn't matter how good everything else is. There was not one character that I was invested in and there were very few moments of the plot where I was invested it what was happening. That's a problem. And we had a good director in Duncan Jones putting this all together. Don't know what happened there. No, this is not as bad as some critics are saying, but it's certainly not good. My grade for Warcraft is a 6/10.

1 comment:

  1. I did not like the Warcraft movie at all, but I totally agree with your takes about Lord of the Rings being perfect haha.

    - Zach (