The much anticipated Warcraft movie has already hit theaters in some countries over seas, and while fans have been somewhat forgiving in their reviews thus far, critics have had fewer nice things to say about it than Leeroy Jenkin’s guildmates after a sabotaged raid attempt.
Though we’ll still have to wait and see if the film does well enough at the the box office to warrant any of the undoubtedly planned sequels, the early reception would seem to indicate that we’ve got another crappy video game adaptation on our hands. So let’s take a closer look and see how this one failed to live up to all our expectations. MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
8. It Will Confuse The Hell Out of Anyone Who Hasn’t Played the Games
There’s no doubt that fans will find the movie immensely more enjoyable than non-fans. Unfortunately for Universal Pictures, movies that only appeal to a single fan base rarely do well at the box office — no matter how big that fan base might be.
Unless you’re a World of Warcraft player or someone who likes to read the flavor text on all the cards in your Hearthstone collection, chances are you’re going to have a hard time making sense of all the people, places, and artifacts the movie assumes you must already be familiar with. Normally, this might be forgivable if there were a lot of jaw-dropping action scenes that could be appreciated on their own, but, as you’ll discover if you read on, that’s another area where the movie seems to struggle.
7. It introduces Too Much, Too Quickly
It was recently revealed that Universal Pictures forced director Duncan Jones to cut close to 40 minutes from the theatrical version of the movie. This has resulted in a final product that feels incredibly rushed and disjointed, with many scenes crammed together with very little connective tissue or breathing room to allow the audience to comprehend the new, visually impressive world they’ve been thrust in.
To give you an idea, Warcraft kicks off by introducing us to the barbaric orc Horde, including main character Durotan and his pregnant wife. In mere minutes we’re whisked away to see several prominent Alliance (human) cities including Ironforge, Stormwind, and Dalaran, which you’re almost certain to mix up later on unless you’re among the most diehard of Warcraft fans.
The movie also introduces characters at a breakneck pace. Rather than letting us get well acquainted with Durotan and his human counterpart, Anduin Lothar, our attention is constantly diverted to other supporting characters like Lothar’s son Callan, the graceless mage Khadgar, and the mysterious mystic Medivh. There are also a bunch of random knights and orcs who get a lot of screen time that probably could’ve been better used developing the central characters. There are just too many players, places, plots for the audience to legitimize caring very much about any of them.
6. It’s Hard to Take Some Characters Seriously
Warcraft is completely unwavering in its sincerity so it never really owns up to just how campy a lot of the characters seem. Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton) is a supposedly half-human, half-orc who finds herself caught between the two warring sides. As Garona shares some tender moments with Lothar, it’s almost impossible to take the character or the performance seriously since the green skin and oversized fangs make her look more like someone you might see standing in line at ComiCon rather than the star of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster.
A good chunk of the movie deals with Garona’s story, which involves her enslavement at the hands of her own people, and eventually her romantic connection to one of the dual protagonists. Though a more capable actress may have managed to make the character a little more compelling, in Patton’s defense she did have a lot of factors working against her. Which brings us to our next point. . .
5. It Takes Itself Too Seriously
Warcraft experiences the same fundamental flaw that’s seems to plague every video game adaptation — it takes itself too seriously. As anyone who’s ever rapidly clicked on a unit in one of the real-time strategy games knows, surreal humor is a big part of the Warcraft universe. Heck, Blizzard even created an entire panda bear race for WoW because evidently one of the developers really liked their own April Fool’s jokes.
But even when the games get into some heavy material they’ve always done a good job of having fun with the player. Sadly, the film lacks this entertaining quality in favor of a darker, grittier tone that doesn’t quite hit the mark in a world where some of the most powerful abilities involve transforming your enemies into sheep.
4. It’s Full of Terrible Performances and Mediocre Dialogue
As we mentioned earlier, one of the biggest problems with the Warcraft movie is that it doesn’t seem to realize how ridiculous some of the characters come across in the overly serious context. For instance, the reclusive wizard Medivh plays an important role as the “guardian” of Azeroth. His peculiarity and propensity for dabbling in dark magic should have provided a great outlet adding some thoughtful humor into the mix, but Ben Foster’s deadpan disposition makes the character thoroughly drab. Dominic Cooper also gives a tired performance as King Llane Wrynn, the ruler of the Stormwind, and Paula Patton is particularly stiff in her role as the half human half orc character, Garona.
Sadly, Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt’s script takes a very dull and unimaginative route by saddling characters with heaps of expository dialogue that will leave even the most narrative-driven audiences feeling weary. It doesn’t help that the bulk of the cringe-worthy dialogue is devoted to advancing a bland and generic plot that will have you wishing you had spent the last two ours raiding with your guild in WoW.
3. The Action Scenes Are Too Generic
Though you’d probably expect the Warcraft movie to be bursting with action, that assumption would prove incorrect as a lot of the movie is devoted to setting up the characters and locations where the action takes place. And, sadly, the action that we do get to see is mostly a bunch of generic hack-and-slash madness that could have been lifted from just about any fantasy film with warring sides. There’s just not much present in the battle scenes that distinguishes it from other movies in the genre, and it certainly doesn’t help that most of the action is broken up by a lot of dialogue-heavy scenes rather than being sustained and built into something much more epic.
2. The Practical and CGI Effects Don’t Mesh Very Well
Other than the CGI orcs, the movie’s visual effects aren’t all that polished or remarkable. Unfortunately, scenes that feature a combination of live-action and CGI elements suffer the most, as the poor compositing makes all the practical environments and props look like cheap set pieces from a made-for-TV fantasy series. The huge rift in aesthetic quality is especially emphasized when a beautifully-rendered orc scene is juxtaposed against a much more clunky looking human one. Simply put, movies with $100 million budgets really shouldn’t have these types of visual inconsistencies, and when your movie is based on a property that’s known for boasting some of the best cinematic cut scenes in all of gaming, the fans will certainly be expecting something much more than what was delivered.
1. It Tries To Set Up a Movie Franchise That May Never Materialize
Despite the film’s numerous shortcomings, it still introduces a massive cinematic world that’s full of promise. The upcoming U.S. release on June 10th will surely be a key indicator as to the likely hood of any planned sequels seeing the light of day, so the next few weeks will be crucial in terms of finding out whether or not Warcraft will be considered a viable cinematic brand.