“Adapted from a video game” seems like a kiss of death for your movie. That’s because it’s usually a kiss of death for your movie. I think I’ve figured out the problem, very few video games are actually adaptable for the big screen. The fact of the matter is, the plots of most games are an afterthought, the cut scenes serve a purpose to get you from point A to point B and rarely do they diverge from that format. What studios need is either to gut the source material and try to hammer something functional out of it, or focus on more cinematic IP’s.
Warcraft is the kind of film you play as an example of all of these problems. The plot is derivative to the point of weeping hilarity, sets are basically non-existent, leading to the audience feeling disconnected from the story, the characters have no discernible traits, they all might as well be made out of cardboard, and the visuals of the film as a whole resembles the video game it’s trying to adapt to the point where it becomes an active distraction.
A distant universe inhabited by Orcs is dying, which is why they open a portal to the human land of Azeroth. Our POV character for the orcs is a warrior named Durotan (voice of Toby Kebbell), who doesn’t trust the wizard Gul’Dan (voice of Daniel Wu). On the human side, the king (Dominic Cooper) calls upon Lothar (Travis Fimmell) to lead the fight against the invasion, thus dubbed ‘The Fell.”
The fundamental problem with Warcraft is that, again, in the games it’s based off of, the plot is a placeholder for the player to slice up some green people. So when you make a 161 million dollar compilation of the cut scenes that everyone skips, you just end up with a mess. It’s nearly impossible to get invested in the conflicts of the characters because there’s no human element to get drawn into, you just end up feeling like a fool; and if you’re like me, you’ll try to doze off in the theater.
The film has been in development hell for five years, I imagine the challenge to develop a good product must have been close to insurmountable for director Duncan Jones (of MOON and SOURCE CODE). The only logical comparison I can draw is to the months leading up to the release of the first Lord of the Rings film. Why Peter Jackson succeeded and Jones failed boils down to a few key elements, elements that seem like basics to any functional film.
What LotR does well is that it takes its time developing its characters, and, at the time at least, used a lot more sets to produce a more ‘lived-in’ quality. I realize that 40 minutes have been cut from Warcraft’s running time, I recognize that studio meddling can make a good movie bad or a bad movie worse. Thing is, I look at Jones’ filmography, and I look at what’s required to make a film like Warcraft work, and he seems like a bad fit. Honestly. Where he excelled with MOON and SOURCE CODE was with confined settings that he could use to instead focus on building characters. With Warcraft he doesn’t get that opportunity, he needs to build a big grandiose world and somehow juggle character development with that. It’s demanding, and I’m not sure Jones was ready.
Warcraft is awful. I walked out after an hour. I have not done that in five years, but with Warcraft I had simply had enough.