Warcraft - The Final Film Friday of 2017
I’m Old School C.J., so when I hear the word WARCRAFT, I do not think of the hugely successful MMORPG or even the game’s popular third iteration. I think of Warcraft II on compact disc. I think of PC’s linked by a physical ethernet cord. I hear soundbites of “Your grace”, “Job’s Done”, and “I Like blowing things up”. I recall the Warcraft of yesteryear when Orcs fought against Paladins, Dwarves, and Elves on custom maps.
And my memories are fond ones. Warcraft II is one of those old gems I’d rebuy for my Mac if I made time for gaming; This was an experience I remember fondly, even if I admittedly wasn’t very good at it.
Of course, Warcraft II was only good enough for the gaming community. It would be Warcraft III and the landmark, global juggernaut of WORLD OF WARCRAFT that would trick Hollywood into thinking that pop culture at large loved the brand and would gladly embrace a multi-million dollar adaptation of it. From what I understand, these games finally brought the property to the silver screen; and if box office receipts are any indication, folks preferred to play in this fantasy world rather than simply watching it onscreen.
But that always seems to be the case with video game adaptations, doesn’t it? With these properties, it’s pretty much a given. If we’ve learned anything over this series, it’s that adaptations of video games are akin to adaptations of books, it’s the original medium that remains most beloved and cherished. The Hollywood adaptation is, typically, just an echo. But some echoes are beautiful. So, the question becomes how does Warcraft stand on its own as a fantasy film? Well, let’s discuss that.
Warcraft is not a horrible movie, but it’s not very good either. It’s the type of film I would never recommend to anyone, but if asked for my opinion, I would probably say, “Well, I didn’t hate it, and some folks might like it”. If that’s faint praise, then it’s faint praise. It’s the best I can do. Warcraft is light fantasy fare that pales in comparison to many other releases in the genre (Willow, Lord of the Rings, and even the Hobbit), but it’s not an unmitigated disaster either.
In fact, the team behind the film seems to want to make something better than one might expect, and that intention is pretty clear from the opening. The film starts with our developing sympathy with the Orcs and, in a way, finding members of their race with whom to side before we visit the human kingdom, who has its fair share of heroes also. The opening moves on the chess board are not bad. BUT by the second act, the writing is on the wall that an Orc and Human Alliance will be necessary to defeat “The real evil”, a narrative decision that is both obvious and obnoxious. Given the premise of those opening scenes, the film could have held original ground and created a real, “who do you side with” conflict for each and every audience member; instead, it falls into pretty standard tropes of betrayal, revenge, and clunky revelation. By the end, the audience is given a few solid surprises, but they must endure the aforementioned cop-outs and also some ludicrously bad set-pieces and CGI makeup, not to mention a complete and total tonal disparity due to uneven acting and pacing issues. Like I said, the intentions to create something compelling are all over the place in the first act, but the promise of an engaging story beyond it goes unfulfilled. Good Intentions are admirable, but as the saying goes, “Execution is everything”.
In the end, the best point of comparison I can make for Warcraft is the Narnia films (the big releases, not the BBC miniseries). This motion picture is an adaptation that on its own is serviceable but not great, a blend of good ideas and mediocre (and at times, poor) execution. It’s a movie you may want to like more than you actually do, and it’s a pale reflection of the property it’s adapting; but again, I didn’t hate it. It’s light fantasy if you don’t want to invest in the rich depth of Middle Earth or the grounded practical effects in the Dark Crystal, Legend, or Willow. Warcraft has some real ideas behind it, but the execution is merely fine…except when it’s pretty bad.
SHOULD DADS BOTHER?
Maybe. Probably not. If you’re a fan of fantasy films in general, you may enjoy this flick but there are far better options available. As I said, the opening scenes and some moments throughout are interesting and effective; however, the film’s attempts at complexity fall flat, and you may ultimately find yourself disappointed. Of course, if you are just looking for fantasy landscapes and CGI action, then maybe Warcraft will scratch the itch for 2 hours without too many cringe moments. Of course, you could also just play the game, and you may have a more valuable experience doing so.
SHOULD THEY BRING THE KIDS?
Maybe. Probably not. I don’t know. I would say that if your kids want to watch a fantasy film and they refuse the laundry list of far better options (Willow, Lord of the Rings, Legend, Dark Crystal, even The Hobbit films), maybe this will do it for them, but if they’ve witnessed the better examples of the genre, then it’s time to cultivate the next generation a good rule of thumb: It is better to revisit something great than experience something new and novel but inevitably mediocre.