Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Warcraft

It’s not often that I’m inspired to write a review of a film that by all standard and objective metrics of measurement, can be considered a ‘bad movie’.  In this case, my drive to write the review comes from my intense connection with and dare I call it ‘love’ for the source material itself. And in most cases, I’ll admit, I think this is one of the most dangerous positions from which to assess the quality of a film. Very rarely does a film adaption live up to the unjustly high expectations that fan boys place on them.

It’s for this reason that I entered the cinema with, what I believed to be a very open, unassuming frame of mind regarding what to expect from Warcraft, a film adaptation of one of the most iconic strategy PC games ever created. Sadly, even with my open minded approach to what I was about to experience, I have to admit, Warcraft was a massive disappointment that is unlikely to satisfy fantasy film lovers or fans of the original game series.

The first and most painstakingly obvious issue with Warcraft is the negative impact of an extreme degree of post-production editing. Most (if not almost all) scenes of the film feel like they were cut short by a considerable amount more than what was originally planned or expected (possibly to try and get the final film down to a specific runtime), resulting in a constant feeling that every scene in the movie has been rushed. Not only does this lead to a muddled up plotline (many motivations and plot mechanisms feel poorly contextualised), but even more damagingly, leads to a apparent lack of character development and ultimately, a group of characters that you don’t care much for.

Durotan is the only character with a considerable degree of depth.
This became most apparent to me when I realised I had experiences no sense of emotional significance during a scene that I presume was attended to be one of the film’s most moving. This bland and uninvolving quality to the film is by far the most frustrating and disappointing aspect thereof, as when I look back at the Warcraft gaming series itself, the games’ distinctive personality and atmosphere are one of the series’ greatest accomplishments. Sure, director Duncan Jones (best known for directing ‘Moon’ and also being David Bowie’s offspring) might have not intended on creating a film with an immense of amount of depth and substance (the Warcraft games don’t have the most profound story anyways), but this didn’t have to be at the expense of the film’s heart and conviction.

Something that amplifies the film’s overarching issues even more are some painful casting, dialogue and acting issues. Most of the film’s characters come over as so stereotypical in their personalities and approach that you sometimes wonder if some of them weren’t meant to function as ironic commentary on the fantasy film genre. From the sickly righteous, but ignorant king to the awkwardly insecure young mage figure – Warcraft’s cast doesn’t do much to elevate the film above the clichés of its genre.

"From the sickly righteous, but ignorant king to the awkwardly insecure young mage figure – Warcraft’s cast doesn’t do much to elevate the film above the clichés of its genre."


But it’s not all doom and gloom, humans. On the bright side, Warcraft boasts some amazing CGI and action sequences that complements a generous helping of cinema popcorn. For fans of the game series itself, the film contains a deliberate sprinkling of fanfare and nostalgic nods to the source material that you’re sure to appreciate. The film’s score is also aptly anthemic, helping to lend some much needed drama to some of the film’s bigger moments. 

There are some amazing action sequences, but it's not enough to redeem the film.
Considering the heritage and potential that the source material offered for creating an epic and immersive fantasy experience, it’s impossible to ignore the magnitude of the missed opportunity that Warcraft the film represents.  And to make things worse, I’m not even confident in labelling Warcraft as an ‘average’ film. If the Narnia series of films represent the average quality of the fantasy film standard, then I’m afraid that Warcraft is far below the standards of what we’ve come to expect from the genre. To be completely frank, Warcraft actually manages to put the genre back a few years to a time before Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s my sincere hope that Blizzard learns from the failure that is Warcraft and uses it as a case study of how not to approach their next cinematic outing.

Lowlight: The film includes (in my opinion) one of the most painful, derivative and cheap ‘my family has died and now I need to go get drunk to illustrate to the audience that I am grieving’ scenes that I have ever witnessed in a film. Luckily, due to the film’s baffling degree of editing, the scene isn’t long enough to cause any permanent mental damage.