Monday, July 4, 2016

Movie Review: Warcraft

The critics haven't been kind to Warcraft, and it's not hard to see why. The producers basically made a checklist of the things that critics typically expect out of a movie, then systematically made sure none of those were handled well. You want acting? A coherent story line? Explanations for what's happening? A self-contained plot? Not a chance.

But that doesn't mean the movie is all bad. Visually, it's a fascinating production, and there's a great deal of campy fun to be had. This is schlock fantasy, nothing more and nothing less. If sitting through two hours of that sounds like a chore, this isn't the movie for you.

Was it the movie for me? Honestly, I'm still trying to sort that out. I had fun with quite a lot of this, including a handful of scenes that were actually intended to be watched that way. One of the nicest things I can say about this is that some of the comedic moments managed to be funnier than the dramatic moments. It was a close call, but few movies manage to come close to that line without crossing over. It is, in fact, a delicate balancing act.

The movie is exceedingly weird. I went in expecting weird, but I wasn't prepared. If you think the trailers looked weird, you're in for a world of surprise. They throw new CG sets at you at a rapid-fire speed without offering any explanation for why you should care. I would estimate there were something like five or six elaborate locations which appeared briefly and where nothing significant occurred. Keep in mind, my estimate might be off by a few hundred.

Also, some major characters die without actually contributing much to the plot. It's difficult to overstate how jarring this is: these are characters who seemed like the main characters, only to wind up fridged to set-up what I assume will be the fifth or ninth movie. Meanwhile, nothing much is resolved or dealt with at the end of the movie. You kind of get the feeling that every surviving character, including the film's antagonist, walks away having no idea what the hell just happened. Even more so than the audience.

In other words, this was not plotted like a Hollywood production.

Is that a bad thing? It depends what you want to get out of this. If you want anything resembling a complete story, you can forget it. If you want the first installment of what may be a dozen films chronicling the history of an unapologetically generic fantasy world, you're going to be much happier.

But, again, you're not really going to find much in the way of characters to pull you through this. The movie provides, by my count, four POV characters. The least significant of which seems to be the driving force behind the theme of the movie, which - and I'm at least half serious here - seems to be that it's awesome if you want to play video games for weeks on end, but it's really important you play multiplayer with your friends.

That's what I got out of it, anyway.

Beyond that, there's a great deal to like and dislike. The magic's cool, some of the fights are neat, the CG's decent... you know the drill. On the other hand, I'm not sure I can think of teeth more distracting in a movie than the half-orc's perfectly aligned, white chompers. Seriously - everyone else has tusks, while she could get work as a spokesperson for Crest.

What else? They tried making the orcs believable by basing them off a real-world culture. Only someone forgot to tell them that Klingons aren't real. Eh, that's fine. I like Klingons.

If you want this boiled down further, I'm happy to oblige. In my opinion, this was as good as Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. And I mean it was exactly as good; no better, no worse. Eerily so.

If you're still torn on whether to check this out before it leaves the last theater in town forever, I'm afraid you're on your own. It's an extremely dumb, but kind of fun, ridiculously absurd fantasy movie about warring nations. Only, again, it's really about working with your friends to beat the next level.

That's basically something someone says in this movie. I'm not even making this up.

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