Friday, June 10, 2016

Warcraft - Movie Review: For the What and Why?

What does it take to make a great movie adapted from a video game? Whatever it does, Warcraft didn’t do it.

Warcraft is the latest video game to be adapted to film and stars Toby Kebbell, Paula Patton, Travis Fimmel, Ben Foster, and is directed by Duncan Jones. The movie tells the story of an Orc invasion to the land of Azeroth were humans and a host of other races live. The Orc world is dying, and they must leave it in order to survive. The reason their world is dying is because of a magic called “The Fel” and it draws life out of the world. A powerful Orc mage, Gul’Dan, has harnessed the fel and uses it help him rule over the orc people and convince them to invade Azeroth.

For someone who has never played World of Warcraft I didn’t know what type of story to expect from the film. The trailers had been all over the place in regards to tone, and with some of the early negative buzz I was worried going in. The film starts with a brief exposition monologue from the orc Durotan.  What was impressive about Warcraft was the Orc storyline. I related to most of the main Orc characters and wanted them to succeed. The CG on the Orcs was fantastic and their look did not take me out of the film. Durotan’s story is compelling and Toby Kebbell does a great job with his motion capture performance. He stole the movie and was one of, if not the only, saving grace for the film. Duncan Jones makes an extremely bold choice with Durotan’s story, maybe it wasn’t bold if you know the game, but then it is ruined right after the choice was made. There was no payoff for the decision he makes for Durotan’s character. It has very little bearing on the course of the movie after it is made. This is a shame, because of the story told up to this point in the film.

The Orc story, even with the disappointing conclusion, is still leaps and bounds above anything on the human side. Most of the actors who play the humans disappoint, but none greater than Ben Foster. I like Ben Foster as an actor. He has been in some great movies, and played some fantastic characters in them. He almost completely steals 310 to Yuma over Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. His performance in Warcraft as The Guardian is comically bad. I’m not sure it is all his fault, because much of his story feels truncated and maybe many of his scenes were cut. His character has zero motivation for his actions in the film, and what he does throughout the film makes no sense. Maybe it will for fans of the game, but that is a fault in the story. Someone who has never played the game should be able to go into the movie and not have questions about why a character acts a certain way. It’s disappointing because Foster could have been great if used in a different way.

Not far behind the comical role Foster plays is another magic user Khadgar played by Ben Schnetzer. He has very little backstory or motivation behind his actions either. We know he leaves the magic order, but we never find out why. There is a more backstory for him than The Guardian, but not much. Most of his lines come across stiff and unbelievable. I’m not sure if this is more to do with writing, his acting, or Duncan Jones directing. He however is not the only who comes across as unbelievable within the film.  

Travis Fimmel plays the main hero Lothar in the film and while he gives the most competent performance on the live action side, it still isn’t great. He was at least believable as a competent warrior, unlike Dominic Cooper who played the King.  Which is strange because Cooper’s performance in Preacher has shown he can play a badass. It makes me think the performances are more on the writing and direction than the actors.

An interesting choice with Cooper’s character is made as well, and it ultimately sets up a sequel. If the human story hadn’t been so poorly developed I might not have minded setting up a second film. However it was, and they did, and it was an extremely poor decision. They tried to franchise the property without making sure they made a good film to start with first. Yes many properties are doing this now, and I’m a major fan of one of them, but there was a basis for Star Wars, because of the previous movies, this has none. Since video game films have never taken off, they should have focused on making this a contained well put together story first, and then if it did well go for the sequel. The way it was setup here is pretentious.

There were things to like in Warcraft. Like I said the Orc storyline was well put together and their motivations are fully developed. Aside from Ganora’s the half human half orc. Paula Patton does a good job in the role, but we don’t find out much about her backstory, which could have added to the overall human story in the film. The action overall is well done and the devastation the Orc’s wreck is impressive. I still can’t recommend this movie other than for people who have played the game. I think if you have played the game its worth seeing, because you probably will understand the undeveloped human storyline. If you have never played the game then this is not worth seeing. Watch it for free when it comes to a paid channel, but don’t pay for it. A sequel will probably still happen because it is doing well internationally, but I won’t be seeing it if it is released.

What did you think of Warcraft if you have seen it? If you have played the game did the human storyline make sense?

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