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Wednesday
Jun152016

Warcraft. What were they thinking? 

Six questions that trouble me still from the Warcraft screening last week...

What on earth does Glenn Close need the money for?"

For some reason they only hired sexy men to play these monsters

That's just one of many questions I screamed into the abyss whilst watching this expensive, silly, over-stuffed but under-nourished video game adaptation. What's more this was only one of about 7 questions I screamed to which no answers came in a single scene of the movie. I couldn't even begin to tell you what was going on other than it was important enough to precede the climax of the movie. But I'll try. A young sorcerer (Ben Schnetzer) enters some sort of black gooey CGI cube and meets some sort of anthropomorphized supernatural force with sounds just like Glenn Close and finally looks just like Glenn Close as it solidifies and turns to camera upon which she/it/they bestow(s) on the young sorcerer some sort of magic that they've been withholding from some sort of bureaucrat mystics association so that he can return to battle another sorcerer to become "The Guardian" of the world of Azeroth where this all takes place...and that's not even the A plot!

The A plot is slightly less confusing...

(it's basically orcs invading a new world filled with mostly humans) but with a dozen more characters and at least three male actors (Daniel Wu of Into the Badlands, Robert Kazinsky of True Blood, and Toby Kebbel of many things) whose utter gorgeousness is wasted on audiences because they're trapped in the offscreen motion capture graveyard playing these giant ugly orcs.

Good genetics don't always pay off onscreen

Why why whyyyy?

Actually I can answer that question. It only proves once again that most people involved in filmmaking are straight men and don't think it's an issue to keep wasting male beauty (see also: Idris Elba's 2016 in which he's played numerous animals and one alien but never a sexy human man which he, in fact, is). Gorgeous Paula Patton, the only orc that looks like a human (half-breed you see) gets to go without CGI because they know not to waste female beauty.

Who is narrating?

Generally speaking it's a good idea to make sure your audience knows who is narrating, whether you want to surprise them (I've been dead all along!) or let them get inside a particular character's head. I thought I knew who was narrating but that character dies with a good chunk of the movie still left to go so how could they have narrated it in retrospect without some kind of acknowledgement that they had, in point of fact, died? 

Why are some actors so atrocious at the stylized acting that genre films require?

Though actors clearly do not respect the acting demands of the fantasy and sci-fi and horror genres (given the lack of awards that follow such work) all you have to do is watch a couple handfuls of genre films to know that it's not easy to do well. It's easy to survive such pictures, sure, since they are rarely "actor's films" but it's extremely difficult to ace them. Actors have to pitch their voice and their body and their emotional registers into a kind of just-this-side-of-real zone in order to capture whatever heightened alternate reality they're supposed to be inhabiting and sometimes it's a completely alien one. Once the actor has done this they still have to believably convey traditionally relatable emotions (often with nothing to act with given that the scene partners are often computer generated).

Like many a genre picture there's a wide range of success rates, acting-wise in Warcraft. Ruth Negga and Travis Fimmel (both no strangers to genre fare) are quite successful and feel like they exist within this particular imagined world. Paula Patton and Dominic Cooper slightly less so but they mostly get by. But it's with the sorcerers -- who actually have the showiest roles and thus the most potential for popcorn pleasure -- that we run into trouble. Ben Foster understands stylization but either he's taking this too seriously or he's not taking it seriously at all because he's a mess as the land's supreme sorcerer "The Guardian" who may or may not be looney tunes after all his time in his private mountain palace. Ben Schnetzer (who showed so much promise as the aggressively political ringleader in Pride) is even worse. He never once feels like anything other than an green actor who stumbled onto a fantasy set after a round of CW pilot auditions. He's not part of any reality presented, not "magical," and always hopelessly 2016. 

How is sex going to work between these two?

Travis Fimmel is the rogue widower hero (such a trope!) of this particular franchise and, though they meet in battle, he clearly has bedroom eyes for Paula Patton's half-orc fierceness. She warns the human men who capture her that they'd they'd never survive sex with her (she'd crush their bones -- euphemism not intended -- and she implies this is an orc situation and not just that she's a soldier). So Fimmel might die if they hook up but also she has tusks coming out of her mouth so '69 is also out. 

Why does Hollywood think its okay for first films to end on a cliffhanger?

Warcraft has the cockiness / stupidity to end on a cliffhanger rather than providing a full story as if it already deserves our dollars in 2018 and 2020 and so on. Note to franchise-happy Hollywood: You do actually have to earn franchise status with the proven popularity of a first movie in a potential series.  Remember how The Golden Compass  ended on a cliffhanger and audiences didn't like it enough and that cliffhanger was never resolved. Since Warcraft began as a video game, rather than a book series with a very specific plot, there is literally no excuse to make-up a cliffhanger when you're shaping the story other than to be an asshole who has placed future profits ahead of audience pleasure. Future profits are tough to come by if you don't pleasure the audience in the first place.

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Reader Comments (33)

What the fuck, Glenn Close is in this?!
She needs to be in Oscar prestige movies, not shit like this.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

Glenn's in it well she was a no show on the promo circuit,she has GOTG why bother with this.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermark

So I shouldn't see this then?

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Is the first pic of Glenn Close????????

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersummer

This is the kind of film that you could not pay me to watch it! No desire whatsoever.

"He never once feels like anything other than an green actor who stumbled onto a fantasy set after a round of CW pilot auditions."
Thank you for this line. Hilarious.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterdam

summer -- no. she goes uncredited in the movie so i don't think they've released pics of her.

June 15, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I really can't believe who lets the these people write crap like that? You're complaining because movie ends up on a F Cliffhanger, yet the movie is based on existing lore and you can't tell "full story" in a 2 hr. movie. If you didn't wanted a cliffhanger go slap Peter Jackson in the face for not killing Sauron in Fellowship of the Ring. This movie like title suggests is "The Beginning". If you're mentality is that low to unable to understand that, then you should stop posting things like that. You're the one who needed to do some thinking before creating this article. Did you thought about it? Of course not, only thing what was on your mind is attention and money, you know that poor suckers like me will not be able to help ourselves and will click on uneducated crap such is this.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersen sdeath

No Oscar chances for this one? :P

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

'If you're mentality is that low to unable to understand that, then you should stop posting things like that.'

The irony of him calling this article uneducated. The audacity! I never usually bite but this was too good an opportunity to pass up.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan

I enjoyed the movie but I wasn't expecting much from it- ( and yes I am a big movie sci-fi fantasy fan)

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Disappointing to see Glenn Close in movies like this. But to be fair - a LOT of A grade actors make movies like this ...usually for the money or maybe they read a draft script which was better than the final one?

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

I'll probably watch this when it's on the TV just to support Duncan Jones. Besides, I just hope he's getting well paid to make his next film. He just can't live off entirely on his dad's music royalties.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Daniel Wu's new Hollywood career is fascinating. I hope someone casts him in a true male lead role soon. There's no reason why he cannot be in a romantic comedy or an action/thriller. I mean look at him. Plus he did quite well with those roles in HK movies, even though he comes off a little stoic (wooden?) sometimes.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterkin

Glenn Close needs her honorary asap!

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

sen sdeath - It's only called Warcraft in the states, so why should Nat point out a title that doesn't have any meaning here? Also, LOTR was shot at once, so you were getting the next parts whether you wanted them or not.

Anyway, for me, Warcraft was just... meh. There's not enough about it I liked to say I enjoyed it; but there's also not enough about it that I hated to say I truly despised it. As for things in the article; I kind of get the not covering up the beautiful people thing but A) They're actors, so they have to play the role as written. B) Paula Patton looks terrible in this film and her skin was digitally turned green, so technically she didn't escape the computer's reach; and C) If you have nothing but a bunch of humans walking around in a fantasy epic about a land filled with all types of creature then that kind of takes away from the whole idea, doesn't it?

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

Like Duncan said in an interview.. if you didn't play the game you might not get the movie. I personally enjoyed the movie very much because I'm a fan of the franchise. I think they did a good job trying to bottle so much lore into an introductory story so that maybe people who have no knowledge of Warcraft would find it entertaining. It is pure gratuitous CG fluff cinema and that's the only way to do it. For those of you that seem to have so much vitriol about it just remember it a movie about a video game franchise.. it's not meant to be Oscar winning material. For the love of small animals don't hate on it if you haven't seen it.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterjscott

Glenn Close like everyone else needs a job. She was very effective in her brief scene. Yes I would also love to see her in a great role worthy of her talent. The movie is a huge hit in China which means there will probably be sequel.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

jscott - As someone that's never played the game, the biggest problem I thought the film had was that it just threw you into the world and expected you to make sense of it without a lot of explanation.

On one hand, that's a bold move; and with the right script that could work. Unfortunately, on the other hand, Warcraft already had a problematic screenplay and really couldn't afford to do that. As much as some might dislike this trope, you really needed a proxy character like Ellen Page in Inception or the young guy in the first Hellboy to come into the world, so that there's an excuse to explain what the hell is going on.

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

I love how people who haven't seen the movie keep bashing it in the comments. By all means, keep adopting other people's opinions, why would you ever need to form your own?

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterManos K

So this is a beginning movie to a story that spans over 13 books, based on an original video game series that has been around since 1994. The story has been worked on since then, but this movie is based on the very beginning of the story.
Now, is some of the acting cheesey and bad in the film, whilst awarding all you ladies some male beauty out of my boy Ben Foster? Yes, it is. I think some scenes were very soap-opera esk, but all of the "Orc" character performances from Tobey Kebbel, Clancey Brown, Daniel Wu, and Rob Kazinsky were, not only outstanding, but a saving grace to the entertainment value of this movie. By the way, Glenn Close, who I had never heard of, because Im not old or a lesbian, is in this film for all but 30 to 60 seconds at best in a scene that is just there to bullshit the audience a little before a big event happens. All that said, this is the worst movie review Ive ever read, and Im disappointed in you.

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSal your Pal

As I was watching this movie, thinking various "whys", I thought of "Labyrinth", the movie with David Bowie, and how this one covered some of the same territory, in a different era.

It was also a high spectacle, low stakes way for Duncan Jones to increase his skill set.

Skills added: large cast, crowd scenes, battle scenes, extended CGI in both characters and setting, satisfying an audience familiar with pre-existing material.

The actors seemed game and happy to be there, and happy to work with Duncan Jones, and hoping to work with him again. Glenn Close is now one of his go-to actresses. Great, can't wait. And it was nice to see Paula Patton with a lead role.

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Warcraft is #1 in Germany... in it's 3rd week! o_O
I really had no idea it could be that popular here. *lmao*

I'd watch it only if Glenn's short cameo is as glorious as it was in Hook. But I doubt it is.

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

And... *cough cough* I liked The Golden Compass.... Well, mainly because of Nicole Kidman. She looked marvelous in it.

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

Dear Sal your Pal

If you're bragging about how you've "never heard of Glenn Close" because you are "not old or a lesbian" your commentary is worthless. Come back when you've graduated from the 6th grade

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterken s

Warcraft definitely isn't getting a sequel. This thing, with a production budget of $160 million, looks to have a gross that will bottom out somewhere around $340-350 million. Low enough to be a failure, but not so low that Duncan Jones has any threat of being removed from circulation completely like Josh Trank probably has been. (And I just saw that Spielberg burn. NICE.)

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Sal your Pal:

Glenn Close, who I had never heard of, because Im not old or a lesbian,
haha. you've stumbled onto the wrong blog if you think it's cool to not know who 6 time Oscar nominated actors, even if they came before your time. See some of her 80s classics. Or her Emmy winning role which was only 9 years ago.

But i agree with you that the orcs were the best part. I probably should have listed a couple of pluses (but this wasn't a review so much as 6 things that were bugging me). I especially liked the villain played by Daniel Wu. Too many films have dumb or boring villains and at least the villain was good.

Adri -- that's a good perspective i hadn't thought of... if Duncan really took this as a paycheck job (though he didn't initially seem the type)

Daniel -- I like being thrown into stories without a lot of explanation. I just didn't like it here because the story was such a mess. My favorite example of entering stories en media res without all that bullshit exposition is STAR WARS. It worked for everyone back then but that's because the execution was so good and the story so focused. If you're not going to explain you've got to really make sure the story plays throughout. There was obviously way too much here for a single movie. It felt like a miniseries with several key episodes missing.

Jaragon - golden compass was a hit overseas too and didn't get a sequel. To justify its 160 million budget plus P&A Warcraft is going to have to do a lot better than just breaking even which looks like where it's headed -- generally speaking you need to make something like 2.5 times your budget to break even given that the studios don't pocket all ticket money and P&A is expensive, It's actually performing very similarly to Golden Compass thus far (with a similar budget).

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Do you have a photo of Glenn's character you can add? Sad. I don't think there are many film options for the 25+ age group. If you read the trades, all the interesting film roles are largely going to Jennifer Lawrence. Even Helen Mirren signed up for the Fast and Furious sequel, just to keep her foot in the door? Tough times but movies are on the way out anyway. Better to get a gig on streaming on a quality show since that is already replacing adult cinema.

"Warcraft definitely isn't getting a sequel. This thing, with a production budget of $160 million, looks to have a gross that will bottom out somewhere around $340-350 million. Low enough to be a failure, but not so low that Duncan Jones has any threat of being removed from circulation completely like Josh Trank probably has been. (And I just saw that Spielberg burn. NICE.)"

Warcraft made almost 300 million on it's first week, before even opening in all countries. I'm sorry to disappoint you but a sequel looks very likely!

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterManos K

I hope there is a sequel and I will pay to see it in IMAX -3 D- I hope Glenn Close gets a bigger rol next time- Nathaniel you should do a post of Movie Divas hired to give class to a Sci-Fi fantasy films- Judith Dench was in "The Chronicles of Riddick" ( 2004)....Francesca Annis was in "Krull" and " Dune...

June 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

I went along last night to check out the movie. Reason no 1. .Like Duncan Jones work. Moon and SourceCode. Not that familiar with Warcraft the game but right into gaming.

From my perspective it did take some time to gain understanding of the storyline and maybe i was expecting LOTR type film. I was aware that this was only the first of a series. Walked away enjoying the movie but it ranks 3 out the previous movies I mentioned. I hope it is profitable and we get to see the sequel.

June 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRhalleyf

The movie was pretty entertaining to be honest, the kind of entertainment that you would get from a marvel movie, if you are expecting this to be the next lord of the rings, it isn't.
I don't get why critics are so lost when it comes to the film plot, it is pretty straightforward without knowing anything about the warcraft video games maybe their attention span is really low I don't know, as you can see the only ones giving it really bad reviews are the professional critics as the movie stands at 7.6 at imdb according to user votes and it's growing in popularity though there is some bad acting but I give it more to inexperience from the actors, it has minor errors as any movie but it was a good movie.

Anyway watch it, isn't bad like the critics say and I'm not even a fan of this franchise.

June 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGuabaloso

You're all stupid and don't know a good movie when it smacks you in the face. 300 $ million is hard to argue asia ate it up and so did i great storytelling as well as effects worthy of seeing in theatres. Go see it in theaters don't wait

June 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

I'm just a fan, not much worried at who's who and doing what. Just enjoy watching a film for relaxation and not think of all the drama around it. Entertaining pos thank you!

September 12, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterbdk

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