Earlier this morning one of my friends who works for a local theater told me he could sneak me into an advance screening of the hotly anticipated Warcraft, the movie adaptation of the profoundly popular game World of Warcraft. Although I've never played the game before, I've been looking forward to seeing this since I've been waiting for a solid video game movie to be released. A while ago, I wrote a piece heavily complaining about various video game movies I disliked. Within that piece I expressed my high hopes for Warcraft, as director and co-writer Duncan Jones is a promising young talent who has made two really good movies, Moon and Source Code, and he has expressed that he has a lot of passion for the source material. The movie held a lot of promise, and I went into it hoping it would be something really good, albeit slightly worried by its 17% Rotten Tomatoes score. A Rotten Tomatoes score isn't usually a deterrent for me unless it's below 30%, but I still went into this movie with some hope in tow. Unfortunately for me, however, this movie is completely egregious and unbelievably soul-crushing. Warcraft is what Lord of the Rings would be if it was directed by HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey if HAL wasn't interesting and was also a rock that is the farthest thing from sentient.
This movie's plot is so convoluted and nonsensical that it's going to be difficult for me to describe it. In essence, the homeworld of the orcs, Draenor, is dying, and they want to invade and pillage Azeroth in order to save their race, where a bunch of humans live. There's also a lot of stuff about the Fel draining life in order to sustain the portal between the two, a lot of names that I don't remember and forgot how to pronounce, a horde, and some strange orc/human hybrid that I'm pretty sure even diehard fans of the video game won't be able to explain. I'm sure that someone who has actually played the video game will be able to understand and remember all of the names and other things that I can't recite back, and that's probably just a shortcoming on my part. Regardless, there are a lot of underdeveloped storylines, questionably constructed character motivations, and terribly cookie-cutter characters that we've all seen in a myriad of better fantasy movies. The plot to this movie is somehow so simple and mindless yet so terribly and confusingly executed that it is a phenomenon in how contradictory the mere existence of this movie is.
As I stated above, the construction of this movie is fundamentally awful. Jones sets up a simple plot about a homeworld dying and the desire to take another world in order to further one species, and then makes it as confusing and muddled as he can. As someone who loves the games, I'm sure he made a valiant attempt to stuff as many aspects he likes into this movie, but Christ, Duncan, the movie is barely over two hours long. If you're going to cram so many characters and references into one movie at least give it some more breathing room. Jones goes from forgettable location from forgettable location with complete apathy, not really acknowledging if casual viewers are going to be able to remember which is which, since the color palette in this movie is such a depressing shade and makes everything look the same. The pacing in this movie is something to behold as well, dragging along almost as slowly as 2014's Transcendence. Perhaps that's where this movie fails the most, however, in the fact that's it's just so boring. One would think that with all of this character and reference cramming, there would be a fast pace to this movie, but alas, one would be wrong with that assumption. Jones tries his hardest to develop these characters into real, tangible people, but he just fails on so many levels and ends up simply extending the runtime of this mess. Nobody is developed, there is nothing at stake here, and all seemingly profound and "epic" moments are rendered flat by Jones' stage-like direction and his apparently bored writing.
Speaking of stages, Jesus, this movie looks awful. I saw it in 3D and my word it is an absolute eyesore. This movie cost $160 million to make and I have no idea how. Each CGI element looks very cheaply-rendered and half-baked. Some CGI elements look rubbery or like they belong in Toy Story. In fact, some parts of Toy Story look better than this ugly mess. This is especially present in the orcs, which are just giant motion capture beasts. They look, in a word, ghastly. They don't look real, they don't look intimidating, and they don't look tangible. There is one scene that is supposed to be touching, regarding Durotan and his pregnant wife (whose name I don't remember) that's supposed to establish how much he cares for his family. They're all CGI behemoths, however, and the whole thing is so ugly that it's almost laughable that the scene is supposed to be touching. The computer generated effects in this movie are just so awful and so unrealistic and I have no idea where all that budget went. There aren't any notable actors in this movie, Duncan Jones isn't an expensive director, so did it really go all to effects? Good Lord. I'm really frightened if it did. In addition to the awful CGI, the sets and costumes are pretty lackluster as well. Some of the sets look like they are the work of a really high-quality high school play, and the costumes have no rugged features or wear and tear. The costumes look way too polished and neat, while the sets, in contrast, just look hokey and pathetic. At least the unrealistic looking sets don't really clash with the unrealistic looking CG. There's a plus. Oh, and I cannot discuss the aesthetic of this movie without bringing up the editing which almost destroys the movie. The editing of this movie is atrocious, with poorly cropped characters, jarring cuts from one location to another, and rapid cut action scenes that are almost incomprehensible even though they are almost entirely composed of computer generated imagery. The editing is inexcusable. Editor Paul Hirsch co-edited both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and won an Academy Award for the former. How did he come to this point where he edited Warcraft to make the movie look like it's having a never-ending ADHD seizure?
I don't know if this movie has a protagonist we're supposed to be focusing on. Jones gives us motivation to root for the orcs, but then subverts that and gives us motivation to cheer on the humans. While I'm perfectly fine with giving the audience an unclear vision of who to root for, this is not really the way to execute it. In a movie like Traffic where everybody is an antagonist or Babel where everybody is a victim of circumstance, Warcraft sits somewhere in the middle, where everybody is just existing. Since no real motivations or development is given to any of these characters, the focus of the narrative goes all over the place and is so jumbled. Even most of the shots are ridiculous, convoluted messes, where a lot of happening in the frame but there's no focus to it. It's as if Jones was wanting us to focus on everyone, which, again, isn't possible for a 124 minute movie. Maybe a 350 minute movie, but that's obviously a joke, because you can't focus on everyone. I think Jones was trying to set up a protagonist on each side, but they aren't really given much background other than vague attributes that people can relate to (i.e. a pregnant wife). Since these characters are so shallow it's difficult to want to follow them on this slow, ponderous journey where nothing really happens. The movie ends in an anticlimax where absolutely no arcs are granted endings, and it feels like there was no payoff for sitting through this two-hour bore. It also tries to set up a sequel, which, c'mon, are we really going to hang onto that notion? The day Warcraft 2 comes out is the day I give up on movies and change my major to Starbucks.
Jones obviously threw a lot of ambition and passion into this project, and I feel sorry that the end product is so unforgivable. This is the work of a very talented filmmaker, and I really want to hope that he was just too passionate to give this movie an objective go. I want to say he was too focused on bringing the things he loved to life that he forgot to make a movie. I want to give him that, and I'm going to, but that's not an excuse to make a movie this bad, nor is it a recommendation. If you're a fan of the video game, then of course you're going to go see this movie, and you might even find something to like in it that I didn't. The point of an adaptation of anything, however, is to give enough to the fans of the source material to hold onto to justify the adaptation but also branch out the script enough so that other viewers aren't lost. I was lost, and that's because Jones made this movie for himself, and not for us, and that is an absolute accident.
Warcraft is the worst movie I've seen so far this year, and it will probably go on to become the Fantastic Four of 2016. I'm deeply disappointed to end this review with that sentence.