According to IMDB, the title has been changed to Warcraft: The Beginning. Franchise unlocked! Thanks, China, I guess?

Not long ago I was dragged to this movie, not against my will, but with less than normal enthusiasm. But hey, temperatures were approaching 120° F so it was almost economical, even at current ticket prices, just for the air conditioning. Also, popcorn.

If you can’t see the appeal of MMORPGs or the sort of sword and sorcery pulpy fantasy novels that inspired epic van art of days past, you probably won’t like this movie. Heck, even if those things do appeal to you, you may still not like this movie. If you’ve come to expect good quality fantasy like Game of Thrones, you won’t get it here. This is more your Legend of the Seeker fare (season 1). But with a better CG budget. 

Warcraft is visually stunning throughout as one might expect, but gets dragged down too much in the first half with world building. It sets up and sets up and sets up, promising a pay off it can’t ever reasonably deliver, while also trying to equally portray both sides of the conflict between human and orc as sympathetic. I’m not one who argues that every story needs to be idiot-friendly, but there’s a sweet spot between simple and overly complicated that’s completely missed here. The consequence of portraying both human and orc origins is that both sides then get their own heroes and villains, with hero and villain counterparts on the other team, and the number of necessary characters to tell two simultaneous but interwoven tales doubles. And double the characters equals half the time to develop anyone into anything beyond the 2D insert-your-screen-name-here game character archetype. It’s frustrating because there are just hints, in a few lines of dialogue and a throw away connection, that characters on both sides of the conflict could be way more interesting if they were just explored through a singular protagonist who can ideally stand in for both races.

And the sad part is, such a character exists, but for reasons, that character is never more than secondary or even tertiary. I think they may even have tried a moment’s romance with the character for the two minutes I was in the bathroom- yeah, viewers won’t miss anything integral getting up in this flick.

Then the second half happens.  It’s predictable and uninspired- sometimes deviation from the source isn’t a bad thing- but it’s also more entertaining and you might find yourself actually becoming more invested. Really, you’re sort of dragged in, kicking and screaming, like after you’ve been playing a so-so game for 12 hours and you’ve just put in too much time and effort and caffeine to give up half way through, so maybe you lower your standards a bit, but it counts. You’ve come this far and leveled up; you’re going to see it through to the end! By the last few levels acts of the movie, those tertiary characters become the ones you might, sort of, a little bit, care about. You’re at least curious to see what happens to them. Because stuff does happen, and not everyone is coming back for the next one.


17bjxwAnd that’s what Warcraft is really about. It’s a blatant set up as the beginning of a franchise with so many loose ends that it practically begs forgiveness for its failing, shouting into the viewer’s mind that the next expansion, I mean, sequel, will improve upon the gaming experience, I mean, story.  Just you wait and see how the next one is going to be so epic because of this one!

Bonus points for all the genre TV actors you’ll see and hear scattered throughout. You’d almost think it was filmed in Vancouver; here’s Howard Stark, there’s, um, a character Ryan Robbins plays.  Of course, any movie that features Clancy Brown’s voice work can’t be completely terrible.

Time to add up all the bodies and loot. Did Warcraft get enough XP to manage the final boss that is the Geek Stranger Score? Or did it go full Leeroy Jenkins?

As far as game adaptions go, it’s better than Battleship.Warcraft achieves the distinction of being both overly complicated in world building and devoid of depth in character and story. The franchise is on the easy play level with the first outing. The question is, will future installments up the difficulty, telling a real story with real characters now that they don’t have to explain how humans and orcs are just the same? We both like the blood of our enemies, a good app game on the toilet, and mindless entertainment during a hot summer weekend.

Warcraft (the movie) on the Web:
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