Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

I’m not too proud to confess that I love watching fuzzy humanoid creatures slam each other with hammers and broadswords. I mean, that’s the best thing in life. So here’s some good news about that Warcraft, the new movie based on the PC games: it delivers quite a bit of orc-on-orc action, especially in the giant hammer department. The gryphons are good too. But despite the action, you are left wanting Lake. That’s because this movie lacks compelling characters whose adventures really interest us.

The plot of Warcraft is unnecessarily complicated, though it all boils down to orcs fighting humans. Gul’dan, the leader of the orc wizard, has gathered the Horde to flee Draenor, the orc’s homeworld, for destroying the environment with evil magic. The Horde prepares to pass through a giant portal into the human world of Azeroth and take over. Meanwhile, the humans have never seen orcs before and aren’t crazy about orc-colonial tactics, which involve the aforementioned hammers, as well as general burning and killing. All of the battle scenes are really fun, and it’s entertaining to watch the humans figure out how to exploit the Orc’s weaknesses in one-on-one combat.

Too many chefs

Instead of telling a relatively straight-forward story about the clash between two worlds battling each other through dark magic, Warcraft zooms from country to country, character to character, delivering a stew of a story that suffers from far too many ingredients. There’s the drama of Anduin, a great warrior whose son has finally reached military age and struggles to overcome the fear that his son will die just like his wife. There is Garona, the half-orc slave girl, torn between the world of the noble Horde and the dimly democratic Alliance. Then there’s Khadgar, a young wizard who questions his powers, whose mentor Medivh is sworn to protect Azeroth, but is stricken with a mysterious ailment. And NO, I’M NOT DONE YET, because then there’s Durotan, a good orc leader who questions Gul’dan’s fierce display of power. And there are also Orgrim and Draka, who secretly support Durotan’s rebellion against Gul’dan.

Suffice to say, two of these characters could have made a rich tapestry for a movie plot arc. Garona’s position between two worlds would have been a major focus, as would Khadgar’s coming of age as a mage. Or we could have delved into Durotan’s battle against Gul’dan, which was really interesting; or Anduin’s complicated relationship with his son. The fact is, even the most action-packed fantasy needs a compelling central character, be it a campy Conan or an emo Frodo. Warcraft‘s lack of attention to good characterization is especially surprising from writer/director Duncan Jones, famous for his intense character study Moonabout a man dealing with lonely weirdness at a mining station on the moon.

Khadgar is a young mage learning to channel his power.  This is exactly what it looks like when I do magic.  No, I can't show you because of my, uh, magician code.  But believe me, my whole face is now glowing with blue glyphs.
Enlarge / Khadgar is a young mage learning to channel his power. This is exactly what it looks like when I do magic. No, I can’t show you because of my, uh, magician code. But believe me, my whole face is now glowing with blue glyphs.

Warcraft

WTB gold

Another major issue with Warcraft was perfectly articulated by a fan who attended the same preview I did: “That was propaganda for the Alliance!” he jokingly complained as we left the theater. He may have been joking, but this fan had a point. The Horde is woefully undeveloped, with only Durotan standing out as a character whose motivations are more complicated than “I like hitting things”. Tellingly, the main orc character is Garona, whose mixed ancestry somehow made her look like a hot human female with slightly greenish skin and dainty mini tusks. She also speaks the human language perfectly, and is happy to give up her orc ways once the human queen gives her a fluffy blanket to sleep on. The attraction of Warcraft the game for many fans is the fact that Horde and Alliance are evenly matched, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. In the end, this movie had to convince us that the Horde was just as awesome as the Alliance. But it was clearly biased towards the Alliance, giving most of its screen time to Alliance characters and concerns.

noticeably absent Warcraft was an important element of the gameplay: economy. Sure, it is possible to play Warcraft and just pay attention to the characters, but mining and cutting down trees are huge obsessions for many players. Campaigns cost money, and the games allowed people to explore many ways to raise money and develop elaborate defenses. This got even more extreme in World of Warcraftwhere the game economy actually became part of many real-world economies, with human trafficking Wow gold for goods and services outside the game (including real gold farming). This may reflect my own biases, but I thought it was odd that we didn’t get a single scene – or even a joke – about people mining for gold.

Despite all his problems Warcraft is a solid B-movie. The action is great and the magic looks appropriately badass. It reminded me a lot of the Dungeons and Dragons movie, which also had great monster action, but flat characters. unlike Dungeons and Dragonshowever, Warcraft is already an international hit. It’s been out for two weeks in many Asian countries, one week in the UK, and is a blockbuster in China. So whatever you think of this movie, you’re pretty much guaranteed a sequel.

List image by Warcraft

By akfire1

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