Brace yourselves gamers. This Friday marks the release of Warcraft, the film based off of the immensely popular videogame franchise (for those of you unfamiliar with it). Now, before beginning I should state right of the bat that I have never actually played any of these games before. This probably comes as no surprise for if I had I might not of been able to rip myself away from an overworked keyboard, tower of empty mountain dew bottles and paid subscriptions long enough to sit through the entire film… Ok, that was a cheap shot, I promise it’ll be my one and only. I mention my unfamiliarity with the games as, because of which, I cannot speak to the films relevance and/or interconnectedness to the well-established fantasy world in which they take place. It is possible that fans of the game, seeing their beloved characters on the big screen, had a fun time. However, for myself, basing my opinion on the film alone, it was, to speak kindly, a rather large mess.
Warcraft tells the origins of a great war between humans and orcs. The film commences with orc leader Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) opening a portal, using black magic accumulated by sacrificing the lives of hundreds of (nameless) blue creatures, to another world. The orcs must do this because their own home world has been destroyed, assumingly sucked dry of all resources, forcing them to find another. However, since Gul’dan only has a limited number of the blue creatures to sacrifice the portal can only remain open for a short period of time. This means that the orcs must send only their biggest and strongest warriors through the gate into the new world where they will collect more prisoners to sacrifice in order to reopen the portal and finally bring all their people through. After sending over their warriors, the orcs find themselves in the human’s homeworld and begin to lay waste to city after city acquiring as many live prisoners as they can. This sets off the film’s main story arc of a war erupting between the humans and orcs.
Overall, Warcraft feels like the type of film trying to cram too much story and too much content into its runtime ending up becoming overly rushed in it’s telling. However, the story here is not so convoluted and overlong as to require such an inorganic pace. Characters reach decisions so hastily they are diminished to simple instruments put in place to service a plot they have been seemingly pasted into. Even worse, the film does not take the time, or effort, to properly set up many of it’s ‘big moments’ reducing scenes that could of ended up inciting strong emotional responses to ones that merely conjure up indifference. For instance, during one battle between men and orcs, Anduin (Travis Fimmel), the principle human character, fights alongside his young son who, judging from his looks, can’t be too much older than 16. During the skirmish a magical wall is erected in the middle of the battlefield that separates the young boy from his father. Anduin is placed in a position of safety but his son is put in one of danger. Unable to break through the wall, despite continued efforts, Anduin is forced to watch as his young son becomes outnumbered by orcs and eventually killed. This scene marks a turning point in the film for both the plot and Anduins character. The problem here is not with the construction of the scene itself but the fact that before this, would be tragic, moment the boy and his father have briefly shared the screen only twice. These two scenes are also the only instances the boy has appeared in the film at all, and in both occasions father and son have only spoken a few lines of dialogue to one another. It’s fair to say the relationship between them is so poorly set up and the audience is so thoroughly unacquainted with the boy that the moment of his death fails to muster any sort of sympathy, making a large turning point in the film a rather forgettable one.
However, it’s one thing to have bad pay offs that have been poorly set up but quite another to have set-ups with no pay off. Unfortunately, in addition to the former, the film is ripe with the latter. Again, I’ll clarify and say that I have never played any iteration of the Warcraft games. Perhaps, for the filmmakers, to those more familiar with the fantasy universe simple explanations might have seemed like tedious exposition. However, as someone entering completely fresh, I left with several questions. The biggest of which surrounds ‘the fel’, the dark magic that has possessed Gul’dan and (without spoiling anything) one of the human characters (the films two antagonists). The fel is described as a magic that when encountered promises increased power and abilities but will end up causing devastating consequences to both the ones who use it and those around them. At the beginning of the film it is presented in a mysterious nature, inciting the audience to want to learn more. The problem, we never do. Not once are we given any more information about this neon green aura that has possessed the bad guys and made them commit their villainous acts. Not where it has come from, if anyone created it, why it has come, nothing. Therefore, digging the slightest fraction of depth below surface level we find that the true antagonist in this film is nothing more than a faceless entity that has no motivation or any explicable reason for being there. That is, no reason other than being a convenient plot tool used to incite some conflict.
But, despite how uncomfortable a film might be or how seriously it has you planning your escape route over that woman with 30 bags between you and the exit, what’s the one thing that has any sort of hope of saving such a piece of work? That’s right, a good ending. Well, I’m sorry to say, this film was not saved. The conclusion was so lackluster that I was affect twofold. Firstly, I was plainly unsatisfied, and second, I had a moment of fright when the though came to my mind that the sequence I had just sat through and thought to be the film’s climax was not in fact that at all, as it failed to wrap up so many story threads, meaning that I would still have to endure more of the film to come. Well, it turns out that wasn’t the case, and that woman has probably never seen something fly over her so fast.
Universal Pictures Canada releases Warcraft on Friday, June 10, 2016