Friday, 10 June 2016

Warcraft is the critical bomb of the summer. I kinda liked it.

The critical consensus has spoken when it comes to Warcraft, the new fantasy epic adapted from the video game series, and it is dire. With Rotten Tomatoes andMetacritic scores circling the drain, it would seem the film is the bust of the summer, a massively overpriced stinker that nobody really wanted (except for China, where the film is setting box office records).

Takes big step back from microphone.


I kinda liked it.

Yes, it’s a mess. Most of it feels adapted from a Wikipedia page. None of the emotional beats land — even the better ones needed a lot more time to build. (There are hints of a much better three-hour film here; then again, there are also hints of a much better 45-minute film here.) And it ends on a pseudo-cliffhanger that ultimately makes it feel like a really expensive television pilot.

But at all times, Warcraft goes big. It goes ambitious. It goes for the crazy when it could simply go for the safe. The film has real narrative stakes, vaguely complicated characters, and a genuine conflict where both sides are a little bit right. It lets itself down in the end with some cheap "slay the demon" antics, but it’s also not afraid to make major changes to its status quo throughout.

So let’s see if we can’t figure out what this movie was trying to accomplish, by reverse-engineering the recipe behind it.
Ingredient 1: 3 parts the

One of critics' most common complaints about Warcraft is also what I liked best about it: The film simply drops you into the middle of a complicated alternate world and assumes you’ll catch up, tossing out weird names (Gul’dan or Lothar) and strange terms ("the Fell," "the Frostwolves") and hoping you'll figure everything out.

I’ll be honest: Unless you are a student of the Warcraft video games — or at least theWarcraft Wiki — there is probably no way to catch everything the film talks about. It’s never immediately clear how its two governments (orc and human) are structured, and lots of the movie's plot revolves around lines of succession and obscure political and religious rituals. If you’re expecting Warcraft to provide explanations for everything, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

RelatedThe Warcraft games and mythology, explained

But if you can somehow let go and lose yourself in the movie, you’ll realize that understanding every little detail probably isn't necessary. All you need to know is that the Orcish homeland has been corrupted and is collapsing, so the Orcs have invaded the human land of Azeroth. The humans, justifiably, fight back, and that’s that.

Seemingly dozens of characters are caught in the middle of the fray, from troubled warrior Lothar (Travis Fimmel) to mysterious Orc slave Garona (Paula Patton) to the protective wizard Medivh (Ben Foster). They occasionally fall into the "and then X character did Y, so A character did B" of Wikipedia plot summaries, but Warcraft at least makes an attempt to differentiate their hopes and desires from each other.

Hey, if nothing else, the movie made me spend a good hour clicking around on the aforementioned Warcraft Wiki to try to figure some of this out. If you don’t mind your popcorn movies giving you extra-credit assignments, Warcraft might be fun for you.

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