If Blizzard (the game’s developer) was banking on the movie inspiring a whole new fan base to start playing WoW they’re in a whole lot of trouble.
Despite being an avid gamer for most of my life, World of Warcraft had always been right outside my peripheral. I had a good friend who played the MMO (that stands for massively multiplayer online game, if you didn’t already know) in high school. I spent countless Friday nights at her place slamming energy drinks and playing video games into the wee hours of the morning. I was usually spending those sleepovers playing Bioshock or any given Japanese role-playing game on the PS3, while she’d sit next to me raiding the night away on her laptop.
My friend was one of the many World of Warcraft addicts back then, but that was nearly 10 years ago. These days she’s dropped the game like the bad habit it was for her. People like her have moved on to different online games like League of Legends, Destiny, and Starcraft. These days World of Warcraft has lost all relevance, and the numbers support this claim. Last November at BlizzCon, the developers of World of Warcraft announced that the game’s subscribers has dropped to 5.5 million; that’s the lowest it’s been since 2005! In addition, the developers announced that they would no longer make these numbers public going forward. Now seems like an odd time to throw a bunch of money at a big blockbuster adaption of World of Warcraft, doesn’t it? Well, they did it anyway, and if Blizzard (the game’s developer) was banking on the movie inspiring a whole new fan base to start playing WoW they’re in a whole lot of trouble.
Warcraft starts off by introducing you to the orcs who are incredibly stupid looking warriors with goblin-like appearances. (World of Warcraft never had good character design. That’s something that kept me away from the franchise in 2007.) (Also, if you’re like me and are inclined to bitch about gender representation know that the female orcs are a rare site. When you do see them, they’re often alluring in appearance and significantly smaller than the males. Come to think of it, there aren’t many females on the human side of things either. This is a movie that could launch a million click bait-y think pieces if anyone actually cared to see it.)
The orcs find themselves needing a new place to live, as their current home is running out of resources. They find some magic portal thingy, and use it to cross over to a relatively peaceful land called Azeroth. Unfortunately, humans already inhabit Azeroth and this sparks a big battle between the two species plus a bunch of side stories that are real head scratchers. Get ready for a movie with lots of short scenes inside of really drab rooms where people get things from other people, so they can go do some other thing. (Seriously, this movie gives me the same feeling I’d have when I’d watch my friend play Warcraft.)
Ben Foster is woefully misguided in his deadpan performance as a corny looking wizard called Medivh. Travis Fimmel (TV’s Vikings) plays Anduin Lothar who’s a conflicted human doing his best to serve his king and queen. I’m not familiar with Fimmel’s work on Vikings, but lord I hope I never see it. Somehow Fimmel has less presence than the CG orcs. His scenes were the most painful of the bunch. Paula Patton makes the best out of a bad situation in her role as Garona, a half-orc half-human slave torn between both sides of the war. Most of the orcs (even the half-orcs) feature motion-capture performances, but Patton is instead painted green and sports ridiculous looking costume teeth jetting out from her lower jaw. (Remember what I said about think pieces? Get ready!) Still, her disposition was interesting and easy to grasp. Plus, her performance allowed Garona’s conflict to be easily felt. A better movie would have spent more time with her.
Warcraft has much in common with last month’s Huntsman: Winter’s War as it pulls from past high fantasy and action/adventure franchises hoping to find a dramatic center, but turning up empty handed. Yet, I’d rather watch Huntsman: Winter’s War, as at least that movie benefits from having some very enthusiastic performances. It was clear the cast of Hunstman has a good time, whereas Warcraft offers no sense of joy whatsoever. Much of this comes from how seriously director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) takes the source material. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it really doesn’t make this flop go down easy. I’m a fan of Jones’ previous work, especially in the case of Moon. He tells engaging high concepts on a very small scale, and somehow this skill translates horribly to Warcraft. Warcraft feels both convoluted in narrative and claustrophobic in scope. Above all, Warcraft’s biggest problem is how impenetrable it is for the uninitiated. In a time where less people play the game than ever, how could they possibly make a movie so unwelcoming to the noobs? | Cait Lore