Director: Duncan Jones

Genre: Fantasy

Year: 2016

This is what all the fighting was for? Decades of clamoring, millions of aggressive comments left on IGN forums, and hundreds of hours of YouTube confessionals all begging for filmic adaptations to have some fidelity to their pixelated source material finally paid off with a fan of the massively popular RTS franchise, WARCRAFT, helming a massively-budgeted live action version of the game—that fan is none other than Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie and mind behind one of the best unofficial video game films ever made, SOURCE CODE, not to mention the spectacular MOON. Hollywood has been seized by nerd culture and the results have been, for the most part, disastrous. With the arrival of WARCRAFT, the new wave of jock-nerdiness has hit its latest phase: outright catastrophe.

warcraft aim for me

Please aim for me, instead. Dive bomb into my apartment and put me down.

What is the primary reason that video game-to-movie adaptations are never good? The source material is garbage. Top technicians are hard at work in the games industry, but, your Druckers and Levines aside, very few are legitimate storytellers.  Poorly paced, stretched thin, and blatantly ripping off your favorite movies and TV shows, video game narratives have fallen short time after time. Compared to its big brothers, hoo boy, it’s a real lousy art; by this time in film, we were in the golden 1930s. Now, according to the gamer community, this film apparently “gets it all right,” this is the most faithful adaptation possible. And if that is even remotely true (I can’t judge; I am an avid console gamer, but I’ve never quite hated myself enough to become a PC one), then why, why, nerds, have you chosen this beacon, video game storytelling and mythos, as your towering inferno on which to burn?

warcraft gif

End my misery

Taking place in the human-populated fantasy land of Azeroth, a portal opens up from an orc planet. The humans take notice and war and race (species?) relations commence! War! There is such an abject laziness in portraying the humans of WARCRAFT. Cast spells emit strobe lights of energy, yet the light reflected on actors is a static wash. Key plot points and chunks of mythology are listed off in between pronouns, to the point where Azeroth’s colloquial terms just become odd tongue twisters inserted into the middle of screenwriting fundamentals 101 dialogue. The primary mage, who halfway through the film reveals that he was supposed to be the goofy comedic relief the whole time, looks like the kid in the fifth row of your communications class if he was dragged to BlizzCon and forced to cosplay. The whole film is woefully miscast, with our lead being a Johnny Depp/Tom Hardy-Cronenbergian-THE FLY-hybrid hunk and Paula Patton taking yet another thick(e) L with a Party City-purchased vampire-fanged underbite and a cucumber green spray tan. Every line is spat out as if the actors are dry-swallowing their C-list grade paychecks and choking.

warcraft what are these

Huh, what, who are you?  What are these?

Duncan Jones, having the worst 2016 out of any of us combined, front-loads his disaster with the most impressive scenes (a cleverly staged stand-off, a breathtaking motion capture pillow talk session, and hordes of uniquely designed orcs). He clearly has a character preference in the orcs, the goofy-looking, man-crushing saving graces of the film. Besides aesthetic, the orcs’ motivations are comprehensible, their arcs follow through, and Toby Kebbell, aka poor man’s Andy Serkis, carries the movie on his tusks.

warcraft cultural appropriation

Also, is this cultural appropriation?

2016 has seen ninja turtles flop, super mutants flounder, ghostbusters reveal nerd culture’s deeply rooted misogyny, and the most legendary superhero team-up of all time resulting in one of the most panned titles of the year. Nerds have everything they’ve ever wanted, the goofiest characters realized on screen, and we are currently seeping in the rancid afterbirth. If WARCRAFT is what the fans want, then so be it. They will come. And they shall revel in the nostalgia and brand loyalty. For the rest of us? WARCRAFT is prime evidence that American pop culture is due for a wedgie.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

Deserted in a video store as an infant, Kevin was raised on Fulci, Tarantino, Kubrick, and Whoppers. Now he's a junior film production major at Chapman University who acts as guest contributor for Crossfader on the side: what a success story.

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  1. November 4, 2018

    […] first film since the death of his father, the late David Bowie. This is also his first film since WARCRAFT, a film that failed terribly in the US box office. He’s proven that he does wonders for the indie […]