2016, Movies

Warcraft (2016, Duncan Jones)

I’ve seen lots of video game adaptations but most of them have been action and horror games, not fantasy games. This fantasy game, which I played at some point in the distant past, has the added disadvantage that at least some of its basic species types have been stolen from Tolkien, giving it even less of an original feel than even most video game adaptations, which is saying something.

I don’t know much about Warcraft, having only played it a few times when I was in my late teens or early 20s. So I don’t remember if there was any kind of plot to earlier, pre-multiplayer versions of the game. But whatever this plot is seems to have nothing to do with the actual game plot but rather seems to be some kind of the prequel to the world of the game, as far as I can tell. There’s a lot of information in this movie in terms of mythology, and it’s kind of information overload. We’re supposed to absorb all this stuff, most of which is just briefly explained in the interests of time. (Much of it is also expository, of course.) As Jenn pointed it out, the film feels a bit like a Saturday Morning Cartoon series smushed together, but missing too much of the world building.

Speaking of cartoons, the film has so much CGI in it that it’s basically a cartoon. Some of the CGI has already dated poorly in only a few years but most of it is okay, though it does leave you wondering why they even bothered to put live action actors in it. But why not make it like Beowolf?The thing feels very much like a green screen film, why not embrace it?

There’s not a lot for the actors to do here but some of them are not great, despite the relatively prestige cast. I’m not sure if it’s poor casting or the characters themselves but Schnetzer in particular leaves a lot to be desired. (Though I feel as though his performance improves and I don’t know whether that is because it gets better, he gets more to do or I just got used to him.)

Somehow, even the film doesn’t really do a good enough job of handling its own mythology and its world-building, it still manages to be too damn long. There are multiple climaxes to wrap up the different stories and there’s just too much that’s trying to set up the world of the game. The movie audience which hasn’t played the game doesn’t care about setting up the world of the game. But it’s the only thing this movie cares about as denouement is all just setting up the world of the game. 

If you don’t have good characters – and, shockingly, this movie doesn’t – and you don’t have good world-building, what do you have left? Basically, this movie feels as though it was made to help expand the game’s backstory to those who already enjoy the game.


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