[THERE ARE NO SPOILERS HERE … YOU ARE SAFE]
Today I’m going to be talking about Warcraft, specifically if I found the film enjoyable as someone who has never played the game, never delved into the world or even watched someone play the game.
Before we get into specifics, positives and negatives, we must address the first question coming out of Warcraft: is this the film that breaks the video game movie curse? Is it good enough to be that turning point?
The answer? Yes and no. The key to a video game adaptation is making it so that its enjoyable for fans of the product as well as general audiences, just like Marvel is doing with their shared universe. Warcraft is very much made for fans of the product with general audiences being an afterthought – and there’s nothing wrong with that … unless you want to reach a larger audience.
There are moments in Warcraft that are so obviously tied to the game, referential and crazy that oblivious viewers, like myself, wont have any reaction other than: ‘okay, I guess that wasn’t for me’. And to be perfectly honest, there are a lot of moments like that.
But the biggest problem with Warcraft, ignoring all the ties to the video game itself, is the human performances. Everyone except Travis Fimmel as Anduin Lothar seems to be yawning and walking through the film. It feels like the actors read the script, scoffed at all the fantastical words and cashed the pay check. 99% of the humans don’t invest the viewer which is a huge issue considering how immersive this film needed to be.
Having said that, the orcs are fantastic. Playing more like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Warcraft’s portrayal of the non-humans is far superior and oddly more human than that of actual humans. They seem to have more nuance, better actors behind the digital make-up and a far better story than the bland humans we have to work through.
Also, on a purely visual level, the orcs look fantastic and as smooth and textured as say the Hulk in The Avengers, only times a thousand and with a little more surface detail. The battles are great, the world is sufficiently built and the realisation of magic is pretty damn cool as well … but Warcraft is ultimately unsatisfying.
Essentially, the crux of the film, the moments that are meant to make you feel empathy and sympathy are crafted with the notion that you have played the game or know something of the world. No moment hinges more on this preconceived idea of Warcraft than the final scene, which was obviously a call to Warcraft fans but a throwaway to someone who has never touched the game. There isn’t enough introductory storytelling here.
Basically, Warcraft feels like a sequel rather than the first film in a budding franchise. And that’s the biggest problem with Warcraft, it is a continuation of the games strand of storytelling rather than its own things and that is its biggest hurdle in attracting new audiences.
Having said all of that, the film is perfectly enjoyable. If you’re not a fan of the games, or never even heard of World of Warcraft, watch it for the fantasy, the battles, the visual effects and most importantly, watch it for the orcs but know that there are moments that will fly over your head faster than you can say: ‘Why did that guy just turn into a sheep?’