NOTE: There will be a video review of the film with my buddies at RagTag Riot later on, so stay tuned!
As the video game genre begins its exodus into the mainstream film world as a genre that is worth taking seriously, we put our hopes into the talented director (and son of David Bowie!) Duncan Jones, but early reviews were harsh and more dramatic than the film itself. I got to see the film last night and I walked in with fairly low expectations at best. The CGI looked terrible from the trailers we had seen and I couldn’t make out much a story in the process, but once I saw the film, I still said those things in the beginning. Like a changing tide, the film lifted me up and lowered my excitement, but I give the movie this much, it’s hard not to keep watching.
To a degree, I want to call this a guilty pleasure of movie, but I will give film it’s due and say that I was more pleased with it than I planned on being. Again, Duncan Jones is one of the more underrated young directors in Hollywood and has shown to audiences on more than one occasion that he is good film maker. Sci-fi films like Moon and Source Code gave fresh blood to a genre that was still for a small amount of time, but with lower budgets and bolder ideas, Jones was able to give us works of art with those two movies, and you see where he tries his best to adapt the popular online game, but it proves that video game movies still have some bugs to work out before they rise in popularity.
From the start of the movie, I was curious at what was yet to come for me and the audiences here in America. If you are not familiar with the game like me, you will find yourself slightly confused at the terms and mythology of the universe’s landscapes, but common sense will end up prevailing with the overall set up. It’s a fantasy world with Orcs, humans, dwarfs, and sorcerers galore with no British accents in sight, yes that’s what I said. It was something that I didn’t think anything of until I realized how casually most of the actors were speaking and for certain characters, their lines read as some average fan film instead of a multi-million dollar blockbuster film that it was, and that’s something that sticks with me to this very moment, where is the money actually going for these big ass movies?
With all this money going into the movie that is Warcraft, I would expect there to be far more impressive CGI animation for characters and landscapes that actually felt realistic in comparison to what we’ve been given in the past for films like Lord of the Rings which the director chose to compare. The only similarities this film to LOTR is the usage of the word “Orc” and maybe some stylistic battle scenes, but the look and sound of the films are what divide these two franchises in half. If there was one thing the studio, as well as Duncan Jones, could have done to enhance this film’s scope and look would be to use more practical effects. Thinking about it, I’m not sure this film will hold up within three years to the above average SyFy Channel movies you see on weekdays, and the overuse of the CGI makes this feel like the film wanted only to target World of Warcraft fans and not the general public.
To be fair, there are plenty of fun moments that involve Toby Kebbell’s mo-cap performance as chief Orc Durotan who shined as a compelling and motivated character each time he was on screen. When he spoke, you’d listen, and when he fought, you’d hope he win, and that emotion wasn’t spread well enough for all the characters that had potential to be far more interesting than what they turned out to be. But what the heck was Ben Schnetzer doing in this movie? To help you find him when you see it, just look for the cosplaying wizard who looks like he doesn’t belong. Not that he was bad, but he felt like a fan sneaked on set and no one noticed nor cared. I can’t say the same about Viking’s star Travis Fimmel whose steely blue eyes and awesome beard help at humor, humanity, and bad-assery to this cowboys and Indians-like story in a fantasy world.
I think this will be a film you hate to admit you enjoyed, but at the same token, the person next to you will likely be thinking the same thing. The genre of video game movies is not exactly shocked with new life all of a sudden, but you see where the potential lies if filmmakers and studios can just conclude that making a good film is the most important part and that the fan service will all come together in between. It’s semi-mindless fun with the nerdy touch of a director that loves the property as much as anyone. At times it feels like Dungeons and Dragons meets the okay parts of The Hobbit movies, but it ain’t no Lord of the Rings.