Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It’s 300 Avatars But With Orcs, or I Watched Warcraft, So You Don’t Have To

Full disclosure: I’m not a gamer, I’d rather watch movies.  I mean I used to play Tetris when it was bundled into the old Windows Entertainment Pack way back in the ‘90s, and that was about as close as I got to understanding the attraction.  That being said, I do have a history of watching and enjoying movies based on videogames, from the first Mortal Kombat (1995, I even bought the soundtrack) and Jean Claude Van Damme’s (Street Fighter 1994, and Raul Julia’s last role) all the way up to the Resident Evil (2002) series and the Silent Hill (2006) trilogy.
From director Duncan Jones of Moon (2009), who you may not be aware began his life as Zowie Bowie, David Bowie’s only son, comes a perplexing mélange of historical styles, mythic creatures and wizards and warriors entitled Warcraft (2016).  In the 50’s they referred to this kind of movie “Swords and Sandals”, with plots based on biblical stories and the Roman Empire.  70 years later, we base our movies on video games.
Watching Warcraft the movie, ironically, is much like the orcs themselves: loud, impressive, larger than life and a spectacular summer blockbuster.  Also green, in the sense that this movie is making truckloads of money from a worldwide fanbase.
The plot is confusing; I got the impression that I was being introduced to characters and a premise in order to get me watch the inevitable two more sequels and reboot.  From what I gathered there is a war between humans and orcs, both sides have access to magic and most interestingly for me, neither side is clearly good or evil.
The CGI is distracting and unimpressive, watching a green-screen movie is no different than watching an animated movie, except nothing was hand-drawn.  The digital slow motion fight scenes, crafted with wires and zeros and ones are fun to watch but not brutal enough to jeopardize that precious PG-13 rating.
The question for any modern fantasy movie that builds an immersive world and mythology is how does it fare against Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings Trilogy (2001)?  The manufactured landscapes of Warcraft are no match to the actual scenic geography of New Zealand.  Part of the joy of watching Peter Jackson’s  Tolkien opus is the level of detail; artisans made that chainmail link by link, those swords were forged and hammered by blacksmiths, and the scrollwork on the Elven costumes were hand-embroidered.  All of the details and art direction in Warcraft are basically an elaborate and repetitive process of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V.  There’s no joy in that, no passion, and it shows in the final product.

With Dominic Cooper, who is showing great promise in AMC’s Preacher, as Llane Wrynn, the ruler of the Stormwind Kingdom, and I had to look that up because it wasn’t clear in the movie.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.