Warcraft (2016)
June 10, 2016 10:04 PM - Subscribe

The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens ...

NYT: "Probably the best way to experience 'Warcraft,' a generally amusing and sometimes visually arresting absurdity, is stoned."

The Guardian (first look review): "That’s part of the problem with Warcraft: there’s a lot going on and yet we’re never quite engaged with it. In The Lord of the Rings, we had the Shire, the Hobbits’ idyllic pastoral realm, as an image of what everyone was fighting for – one that 20th-century Europeans could easily relate to. Here, we barely see Azeroth outside the royal castles and wizards’ towers and epic battlegrounds."

The Verge: "It's a knock-down, drag-out fight between storytelling, franchise-making, and fan service, and some casualties were inevitable. But even a messy fight for nuance is better than an apathetic sell-out. 'Warcraft' won't go down in history as a ringing success, but people who see it aren't likely to forget it easily, either. It's much more of a commercial endeavor than Jones' other films, but it doesn't abandon art by the wayside."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (18 comments total)
This has been getting awful, awful reviews - except for Kermode, who seemed to like it. Apparently Jones was compelled to cut forty minutes from it in theatrical release, leaving the inevitable question of if they would have made the film better.

It doesn't open here til next week, but as an unrepetant fantasy nerd, I'm still kind of curious to see it...
posted by smoke at 11:39 PM on June 10, 2016

I am, I suppose, the target audience for the movie - I've been playing World of Warcraft for almost seven years, I have seventeen level 100 characters, I know the lore and history of Azeroth better than I know actual history. And I absolutely, positively, unapologetically loved the movie. I'd say 90% of the people I know who play WoW or have played the Warcraft RTS games in the past have reacted similarly, or at least enjoyed it to the point of being completely perplexed by the critics' reaction.

That being said, there is a novelization of the movie that was released earlier this week, which I read in between the two times I went to the theater. The novelization had the advantage of being able to include inner monologues, of course, but there were scenes and even just bits of dialogue here and there that were cut from the movie, including at least one that closed a huge plot hole. So while the first viewing had the sheer exhilaration of seeing a world I play in come to life on the big screen, the second viewing was more emotionally resonant for me in terms of the plot. I really, really hope I get to see the full movie that Duncan Jones intended to make, maybe with the BluRay/DVD release.

Will the movie appeal to non-Warcraft fanatics? Apparently not to the critics. But my husband has played WoW for maybe twenty minutes of his life, and he really enjoyed the movie and didn't have trouble following the plot. He did, however, ask me all sorts of questions afterward about the original lore (because the movie deviates from the game lore, and he knew that much), and asked me questions about the eventual fate of some of the characters, which may or may not come about in sequels.

The only complaints I have are that the acting was a little stiff at points, and I wish there had been more character development on the human side outside of standard Hollywood cliches. But I'm still going to drag every friend who has ever played anything related to Warcraft to the theater, and encourage my non-gamer friends who like fantasy to come along with us.
posted by Meghamora at 12:10 AM on June 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've played WoW on and off since the friends and family alpha and beta phases and the previews for this movie make me want to garotte myself with my own wrist tendons.
posted by xyzzy at 3:33 AM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes, I thought it was obvious in parts--especially during the climactic battle, which has a noticeably sudden shift in tone--that there was footage missing. I too hope that there will be an extended cut when this comes out on disc and that that film will flow a little more smoothly.

I really enjoyed this and agree with Kermode. He kept comparing it to John Carter, but it reminded me much more of Lynch's Dune--the stunning visuals, the infodump, the style of characterizations, the sense that you're seeing a small part of a big universe. That's another divisive movie, but it's one of my all-time favorites. I look forward to seeing Warcraft again because I think it will be similarly more rewarding on rewatch. I played WoW for some time and still felt like there was so much to take in during each scene of this film that I wasn't keeping up. Devin Faraci also made a lot of good points in his largely negative review. I particularly agree that the weakest link in this film is the humans, and that the ambition of this film alone makes it very interesting.
posted by heatvision at 4:53 AM on June 11, 2016

I've played WoW on and off since the friends and family alpha and beta phases and the previews for this movie make me want to garotte myself with my own wrist tendons.

That's the same reaction I have to WoW, so it seems like they captured the essence of the thing successfully.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:12 AM on June 11, 2016

The saving grace of this film is the underutilized Paula Patton. She was a delight to watch on screen and I wish that more had been carved out for her. She actually made me care about her character. The rest of the cast was mostly forgettable, though I think that had more to do with the cardboard characters that they were given to work with. Ms. Paula Patton, to her credit, just managed to do something with her role that the others were unble to. Definitely worth seeing if only for her performance.

Also, at one point, an Orc picks up a horse and throws it at another warrior. That was pretty badass.
posted by Fizz at 8:55 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I played World of Warcraft for two years, give or take a few months. I played the hell out of the earlier RTS games, so I was pretty stoked when I learned that they would be going back past World of Warcraft to the original material.

The result, as far as I can tell are...really, really uneven? I tremendously enjoyed the art design choices. They didn't do what so many fantasy films have done in the past decade or so and given everyone brown leather armor and had them wander around brown desert-ish landscapes and occasionally splatter the screen with blood. Nor did they try for LotR or Game of Thrones style 'realistic' armor and weaponry. The arms, armor, architecture and scenery is all lush and colorful and over-the-top. Although the visual portrayal of magic, albeit true to the source material, felt kind of off? Every time someone started glowing it kind of pulled me out of it a bit. I did feel it was a good choice to enforce a Star-Wars-esque good/evil color scheme (blue=good magic, green=bad), made the difference much clearer visually than it would have been with just the infodump dialogue.

Which is where the film really kind of fell apart for me. The visuals are beautiful and arresting and whimsical, but the dialogue and the acting (to some degree, and mainly on the human side) was awkward and trying very, very hard to be DRAMATIC and DARK in a way that really didn't seem to map well onto either the characters' personalities (insofar as they had personalities) or what was going on around them. It felt like the dialogue had been written by someone who was just using whoever was in the scene to stack up boilerplate fantasy dialogue, regardless of who they were supposed to be. By about halfway through the film every time someone opened their mouth I started to cringe a bit inside.

It's one of those films where I can't call it good or bad, really, because it doesn't feel like a unitary, whole artifact. I kept being jerked back and forth between a sort of first-half-hour-of-Avatar romp through a beautiful world and a rather clunky and poorly mapped character drama. I'm glad other folks really enjoyed the film, and it wasn't a chore to watch, for me it was an ambitious but deeply flawed attempt.

The saving grace of this film is the underutilized Paula Patton

Moviebob just came out with a quite negative review in which he notes (and I kind of agree with him on this, if not on most of the rest of the review) that the movie would have done better to make Garona a more central, if not the main, character. She's vastly more interesting than Lothar, at least. I know they couldn't really have done it, but I almost feel it would have been a better film if it had been just Orc characters, following just their point of view as they emerge onto a new world and encounter the hostile locals.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's my fault for expecting to be entertained by a movie when I hadn't played the game or otherwise engaged with the brand, but damn. This was the worst movie I have sat through in years. I really liked Moon, and there was a lot of visual innovation in this, but even so I was so bored that I would have walked out if I had been alone. It was like one of those 80s fantasy movies where solemn bullshit is constantly going on, unless it's fighting or clunky comic relief instead, and it is difficult to imagine giving the least of craps. At least this one didn't feature any misty forests of dry ice or overly oiled people in leather.

Everyone did their best, although the young mage looked so smooth-faced and bewildered that I would have believed he'd won an in-game contest by Blizzard to star in the movie. Still, I know it cannot be easy to make that kind of dialogue come out of your head.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:38 PM on June 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've played a number of Blizzard games, Warcraft/WoW/Diablo, and it did not help to lessen my hatred for this movie by any considerable amount. This movie was so terrible I went to bed angry that night.
posted by cazoo at 2:52 PM on June 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Haven't really touched the RTS games, played maybe 6 months of WoW about five years ago. Saw it yesterday, and found it much better than I expected - it's a game movie, you don't go in expecting Serious Cinema anyway. The human side could have moped a bit less, and the guardian character didn't really sell it for me visually, but overall it turned out a lot more interesting than it needed to be.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:25 PM on June 11, 2016

Apparently Jones was compelled to cut forty minutes from it in theatrical release, leaving the inevitable question of if they would have made the film better.

Adding 40 minutes to a movie that is already over 2 hours long will almost always make the film worse.

Whether it was the right 40 minutes to cut is of course a different story.
posted by dersins at 2:47 PM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

So it semi-bombed here in the US but it's a gigantic hit in China. I'm guessing that won't be an uncommon pattern in the future.
posted by octothorpe at 6:29 PM on June 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I watched it twice now and was somewhat surprised how different my viewing experiences were. First time was unbashed fangirl squee delight (a Murloc OMG!!1!) and I left the cinema with a big grin on my face.

Second time I left the cinema rather sad because holy fuck beneath the Warcraft cheesyness and esthetic this is one dark and sadass movie. Putting the war in Warcraft indeed.

About the love it or hate it reaction this movie seems to cause. Weird. It's plain mediocre which seems to be worse than bad for some. (I love it obviously).
posted by ZeroAmbition at 1:33 AM on June 18, 2016

I played World of Warcraft for a decade. I loved the story, the richly colorful world, the music, the characters. I never played the RTS games that led to WoW, but I knew a little of the history. I wanted to be excited about the movie, but like others have said, the embarrassing trailer made me dread it. I went into it assuming it would be a disaster. So, I was pleasantly surprised that it actually exceeded all expectations. It wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting.

I had issues with the human male casting. It's hard to take these hardened warriors, wise old guardians, and mature leaders seriously when they all look like kids playing dress-up.

My greatest disappointment was seeing how bland and boring they made Moroes, one of my favorite characters ever. This was a missed opportunity for some great comic relief.

Also, I agree with AdamCSnider that they should have kept the focus on the Orcs. There's an interesting story there, and I would have appreciated getting to know the characters behind these legendary names. Having spent so much time in Durotar and Orgrimmar, I wish I knew more about Durotan and Orgrim.

However, seeing the great portal and Karazhan portrayed on the big screen was immensely delightful. And here's where I'll disagree with AdamCSnider - I loved the depiction of magic. Having played a mage for over ten years, I loved seeing spells come to life like that. I wanted to see more of that, honestly. But maybe in a different movie...
posted by MsVader at 8:40 AM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

And one question - I'll admit to my own ignorance when it comes to Alliance-side lore in particular - was there a reason that Lothar spent the last part of the movie barefooted? I remember being baffled by it in the previews, and though I now know how he ended up that way, I still don't really understand the point. Was it somehow important to the story that he be barefoot in that final confrontation? It took me totally out of the story.
posted by MsVader at 8:48 AM on June 19, 2016

He had to take off his boots that got stuck on Medivh's stone golem while fighting it.

I just saw the movie, and had a terrific time. I understand that professional critics value mature, complex plots and characterization, but I thought the movie did a good job of transmitting the narrative content of the MMO—if one reads the in-game quest lines and cut scenes, the themes about loss, conflict and conflict resolution, sources of dramatic tension, etc., are there at about the same level/depth of discourse.
posted by polymodus at 6:03 PM on June 21, 2016

Like I said, I understood HOW he lost his boots, I just didn't understand the ultimate point of it. Why did he need to lose his boots and spend the rest of the movie barefoot?
posted by MsVader at 10:06 AM on June 22, 2016

I thought that it was a visual cue to the audience that he had flown straight to Black Morass after the fight in Karazhan. Like, it helps answer the question of why Lothar deserves to be the new king when he wasn't leading the main army—he had been on badass a mission fighting a demon, etc., didn't have time to pick up new armor, and killed Blackhand through sheer skill/ability, which harkens back to the opening scene of the film. Lothar's so high level, he doesn't need to equip all his gear. Lol.
posted by polymodus at 4:40 PM on June 22, 2016

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