Monday, 20 June 2016


Hello again, everyone. Anyone who watches my counterpart, the Cynic, knows that we don't have a theater in the town we live in, and so we have to travel to see movies. This weekend, since we had gone into the closest city anyway, we managed to hit up the theater twice. And so, I will be doing reviews of both Warcraft and Finding Dory. As usual, spoiler warnings in effect.

    First up, Warcraft!

I have to start with a little background. The Cynic and I went into this film very differently. I played World of Warcraft for several years, and have a decent grasp on the lore of the games, albeit a bit rusty as I haven't played in quite a while. That was, however, an advantage over the Cynic who went in with a rudimentary (at best) grasp of the story of the world of Azeroth. And that seemed to be an important distinction. This film does not hold your hand and explain you through the characters and the factions involved. It helps to have foreknowledge of the world going in. So fans of the games, you'll have a good time with this. I know I did.

A lot of skepticism I heard before this film came out was the CG and motion capture characters (especially the orcs) and how that would look on the big screen. And they looked great. In fact, this whole movie looked amazing. The orcs were fantastically done, and the locations! Seeing Ironforge, Stormwind, the Dark Portal, it was awesome to see places and think, I've been there! And they looked incredible on the big screen. Hat's off to Duncan Jones and all the other folks who made this movie, because the cinematography was gorgeous. There were a lot of great shots too, different angles and approaches that were outside the standard, predictable fare, and it makes me want to go back and visit Duncan Jones' other films. Because I really like what I see here. Also want to make mention of the use of the Wilhelm scream and the Murloc cameo. I appreciated those. And were those Draenei at the beginning? Methinks so.

Looking at this as a fantasy film, outside of the property it's attached to, I still enjoyed it. The armor and outfit's the characters wore were, while very Blizzard and very Warcraft, were far more practical than was often the case in the games. And the characters were beautifully realized, they looked individual, not like all identical. This was especially true for the orcs. Every orc was personalized in their look; hair, clothes, armor, piercings, decorations, right down to the smallest details. There was no horde of faceless mobs who all look the same, this was a massive crowd of individuals, and that was amazing. the attention to detail was rather staggering. The humans were less so, as the human soldiers all wore the same basic armor, outside of King Llane, of course. There were a few characters we get to know, but really, this movie is about the orcs. The central character in this story really is Durotan; his struggles to help find a new home for his people, and his conflicted feelings about the methods they are using to do so. The actor portraying him, Toby Kebbell, is no stranger to giving excellent performances in motion-capture, as seen in the other film I'm familiar with him from, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, where he was the (understandably) aggressive and untrusting Koba. Here he is a much more sympathetic character, and one that you really root for; a father wanting to ensure the future of his family, and a leader wanting to ensure the future of his clan. If you cared about anyone in this movie, it was Durotan.

How awesome was this entrance? Super awesome.
One thing, as a fantasy fan, that I also liked, was how the more fantastical elements were incorporated into the world. Here, it was as everyday as any other thing in the world. Riding a griffon? Floating city? Magic? No big deal, it's all just a part of the world. I liked the way the spellcasting worked: small spells were cast quickly, while bigger, more difficult ones took longer. It's hard to explain, it just seemed more organic than it seems to be a lot of the time. I also liked the look of the magic onscreen, the teleport spell, the wall of lightning, the drifting magic of the ley lines around Karazhan, the polymorph (which gave me a laugh). Even Gul'dan's fel magic, which he uses often, is something that, while vile and demonic, is no big deal to this character. Too often, magic in fantasy is either cheesy or horribly toned-down, and I liked that this was neither. I don't want to necessarily ooh and ahh every time magic happens, especially if it's supposed to be somewhat commonplace, and I really appreciated how normalized it was.

And the action, the fight scenes. They're brutal. There's no mincing about here. Orcs throw horses about, smash soldiers to paste in their armors, and pick up men like ragdolls and crush them. That's not to say the humans are completely defenseless; their swords taste plenty of orcish blood in once scene, they mow down scores with dwarven boomsticks. At one point, the wizard Medivh literally melts a group of fel-touched orcs. Draka, the wife of Durotan, tears out a fellow orc's throat to protect her son with nothing but her teeth. This is to say nothing of the throwdown between Durotan and Gul'dan. There's not a lot of flipping around and fanciness, this is straight-up, visceral combat. The movie is PG-13, so it's not going to show Deadpool-levels of blood and guts, but the battles don't skimp. They're also not quick-cut and shaky and hard to follow. You're in the thick of it, but you can see what's going on.  

This shot. I loved the way they did this.

 But let's face it, this movie is not perfect. In fact, basically everyone else is lambasting the hell out of it. And I'm not going to pretend there aren't problems. There are great, touching scenes between Durotan, his mate Draka, and their son Go'el (Thrall), but there just aren't enough of those character moments. I was hoping for more. You really don't get invested in the human characters, other than maybe Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer). But I wanted to get to know them more, go deeper into their characters. Give a little more on Medivh and why he was helping Gul'dan bring the orcs through the Portal. I know that there's so much to explain and and only so much you can do, but it just needed a little more. Or did much of that end up on the cutting room floor? With so dense a mythology, did scenes get sacrificed to keep the pace fast, or where they never there at all? Is there a director's cut of this? Because if there is I'm there, even if it's five hours long.

So what to say in conclusion? This movie is not as bad as others are making it out to be. It really isn't. This film is gorgeous; it looks fantastic, it's shot in really amazing and creative ways, the fights are fun, and the characters look awesome. It just needed a bit more in the story, especially to make it easier for people without knowledge of the Warcraft universe to get more involved in the characters. But in a genre of absolute, unfiltered shit, this really is one of the best video game movies I've ever seen (the other being the first Mortal Kombat). It's certainly the best looking, and you can see it was made with love, and by someone with real talent. So you know what, the haters can stuff it. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie and I would happily recommend it. Even my counterpart, the Cynic, who isn't a fan of Warcraft, and indeed not a fan of fantasy in general, has already said he wants to see it again. And I would be perfectly happy to do so.  And that is my final verdict.

 Until we meet again (to talk about Finding Dory),

 The Scholar 

 Post Script: So, are we going to be doing this all over again in a few months when the next video game adaptation film comes out that looks really cool and is being made by someone very talented and passionate about the property? Cause if I have to listen to this same crap all over again when Assassin's Creed drops...