Thursday, 9 June 2016

'Warcraft' Review (2016): Not Bad At All

Just as 2015 seemed to be the year of the spy, 2016 is apparently the year of the video game movie. Already we've had an Angry Birds movie, and later on we're going to be treated to an Assassin's Creed film. Those two movies are made for audiences of a different age though, and somewhere in the middle you can find Warcraft. Based on the online game everyone and their little brother were addicted to years ago, and directed by near perfect director Duncan Jones of 'Source Code' and 'Moon' fame, Warcraft seemed prime to finally, FINALLY prove that there was a way to do movies based on games right.


21%? That's worse than 'Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice', which is barely even a movie. As I sit to write this review, I can't fathom a score that low. In fact, for all the hate 'Warcraft' is currently getting, I actually kinda liked it.

To get into it, 'Warcraft' starts off the same way every fantasy film does. A nice bit of narration to explain this vast and storied world to us. And as we all know, the only time it's okay to do narration, is fantasy films, Shane Black movies, and Fight Club. The narration tells us of a conflict between orcs and humans that doesn't really do much to contextualize the film. In fact, all you really need to know is Azeroth is your place, the home of the humans, and it's being invaded by Orcs who are looking to escape their dying world, but all is not as it seems. Like a tub of mystery meat.

Probably made with Orc.
As far as the story goes, 'Warcraft' definitely doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to fantasy. It's more than happy to give you an easily digestible tale where you don't have to worry about who is doing what. Its problem however is getting to that point where you actually know what's going on. For the first 1/2 hour, 'Warcraft' has so many scenes with characters traveling from point A to point B only to find out they need to get to point D by crossing the riverlands at point C. It's confusing since you're berated with fictional names of places I assume you're supposed to care about, but so little time is spent establishing the world we're in that you don't really know what's going on. At all.

The saving grace of this is the dialogue, the actors, and the pacing. Had I known what was happening it would've been one of the best openings to a summer blockbuster ever. It's paced extremely well and feels organic. Not a single actor feels like they're phoning in the performance, and the dialogue they're given is quite clever with really charming bits of character thrown in to keep you engaged until the movie finds its footing. Special props is given to Paula Patton and her character, whose concept screams cringe as she exists purely for an inter-species romance, but damned if I wasn't invested in her character by the end of it.

It's not as creepy as it looks...but at the same time it kind of is. 
When it does find its footing, it's a pretty fun ride. Once things become clear and not lost in the overcrowded mess of a first act, the elements of 'Warcraft' that work the best shine even brighter. This is also a gorgeous movie. It has a certain fluidity that makes it feel completely lived in. Like everything is working in tandem together. The character models especially were marvelous. The orcs are the biggest effect in the movie, and it was astonishing the level of humanity that was brought across. Simple things like the way an orc's hand moves when he's in a heated debate with someone else, really puts it a cut above the regular cg effect.

What really surprised me about 'Warcraft' was its sense of character. Everyone feels like they have a purpose, and it goes a long way in making the world feel lived in. All the establishment that was lost in the first act is aided by the character's interactions together. The fact that you know who they are aids the movie from feeling too derivative, as it is painfully generic sometimes. They all fill out roles you've seen time and time again, but their motivations are clear which makes them easy characters to get behind.

'Warcraft' is a movie that has its issues. It has an extremely chaotic first act, a charming second, and a rushed third. It has really well done dialogue, and at the same time a pretty derivative story. Its characters are cookie cutter generic, but also, very easy to root for, care about, and gave me some of the more heartfelt moments in a theatre this summer. It's a mixed bag of a movie, but personally, I thought it was a good time, so I'm gonna say if you see it, see it at Half-Price.

ANR = 7/10

Thanks for reading and for more of my thoughts on confusing and disorienting things, here's an episode of the 'Take 4' podcast on magic.


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