The Other World of Warcraft

But NOT the same.

Much like the other other world of Warcraft.

Author’s note: This post is a response piece to an article originally appearing on Massively Overpowered, my go-to site for MMO news. And no, I don’t give two or possibly even a single shit if that comes off as an advertisement. They are (collectively) awesome; go give them pageviews so I can continue to consume the content they produce.

I just got back home after watching the Warcraft movie at my local iPic theatre. I don’t often go to the movies anymore on account of not particularly enjoying them and the cost. Between the tickets (two of them), (alcholohic) drink, food, and parking I spent well over $100 today. But you know what? It was well worth it, I enjoyed myself and more importantly so did Mrs. Vagrant. I’d managed to largely avoid spoiling myself by judiciously screening Twitter and was well rewarded with a fairly enjoyable movie.

Nevertheless, this is the internet and we can’t have the internet without someone hating something really hard. Today’s contestant on “I Hates it, I Hates It So Much” is Eliot Lefebvre, a man with a surname even more difficult to pronounce than my own. His editorial “The Warcraft Film is Absolutely Awful” is a hit-piece on the Warcraft movie and I can’t say as I agree with just about any of it.

So what’s a man with a blog to do about it? Blog about it I guess! I aim to address the majority of his points on a segment by segment basis. Here there be spoilers aplenty. Don’t read on any further if you have yet to see the movie.

The first scene, unfortunately, sets the tone. A narration explains that orcs and humans have been at war longer than anyone can remember, then immediately says that this wasn’t always the case. It’s accompanied by a very obviously CGI orc menacing a human who is very clearly pacing in front of a greenscreen with a level of conviction that makes The Phantom Menace look realistic. Then again, The Phantom Menace actually made an effort to give its characters weight and mass and movements that looked somewhat organic.

 

If you think I’m nitpicking here, that’s fair, but it’s also kind of important. This is the moment that sets the tone of the rest of the film, clearly trying its best to set things up a la the single-player Warcraft cinematics. Go ahead and watch Warcraft III‘s intro movie; that sets the tone right away. Sure, the CGI isn’t great (because it was made years ago), but you get a sense of these two opposing forces, a sense of the conflict, a vague shape of what’s going on. It feels convincing. Why in the world the whole film wasn’t made in CGI is a mystery to me; the greenscreen effects in the film are horribly jarring and give it an oddly surreal and floaty quality.

I feel that it is critically important to clarify the scene in question that Eliot just spent two whole paragraphs skewering is in fact, a scene of absolutely no import. It isn’t set in any discernable timeframe of the movie, it features absolutely no characters of merit, and nothing of any consequence happens in it. The point of the scene is merely window dressing to set the mood and to give our eyes something to feast on while the narrator exposits all over us and Eliot just spent two paragraphs comparing it unfavorably to The Phantom Menace. It’s hyperbole pure and simple and I understand that hyper-fans form hyper-opinions but The Phantom Menace? Really? You know that look Chris Tucker gives Jackie Chan every five minutes in the Rush Hour movie? I’m giving you that look right now.

Also worth noting, I found nothing wrong with the CGI. It’s no Avatar, but it got the job done.

We then jump promptly to Stormwind, which has been recreated in loving detail… from World of Warcraft. And here is where I have to start ranting because Stormwind in World of Warcraft is the city after it was rebuiltfollowing this exact war. Stormwind was razed. That’s, like, a major plot point. This is half of what bothers me intensely about this movie’s approach toward fans, that it paid so much attention to the wrong details. The cityscape that we see for Stormwind is a very solid recreation of what the kingdom looks like in World of Warcraft, with a great deal of attention to detail, and it’s all details that don’t match the time period. It would be like very carefully making sure that everyone was using appropriate 1990s-era personal computers in a movie set right after World War II.

Eliot is correct in pointing out that the Stormwind we see in the movie is not from the correct time period. However, he is not correct in presuming that the world of the Warcraft movie is the World of Warcraft world (I didn’t name this stupid game, don’t judge). Who is to say that the history of the two realms is the same and more importantly that it will unfold in parallel. Frankly speaking, I see this behavior with far too much frequency in fandom; the inability to understand that you are enjoying a FICTIONAL world that can and will have a multitude of variations spread across a plethora of mediums. This lack of perspective leads to this behavior of hyper-fans hyper-focusing on the things that are immaterial to the story. Whether Stormwind is “right” or “wrong” (God, I cringed just typing that out), the architecture of the city has absolutely no bearing on the story being told. It’s a literal Non-Sequitur. This lack of perspective is further highlighted by the fact that a real world analogy was chosen to give contrast (the personal computers in WW2 argument). Except the real world, unlike the fictional Azeroths, can only have one absolute history.

Basically, we have much ado about nothing. Let’s move on.

What follows is the first real fight scene in the film, and… boy, there are a lot of problems going on here. For one thing, there’s the simple problem that nothing feels as if it has any mass. Orcs and humans both bounce around and move like this was a Merrie Melodies bit rather than what’s supposed to be a serious fantasy film. The line between humans and CGI is also pretty clear; you can just track everyone’s expression and know that the actors arehoping that the animation lines up with what they’re actually doing when the scene is actually pasted together later.

 

There are also characters randomly able to stand around in the midst of a raging battle doing nothing without anyone so much as nudging a spear in their general directions, along with both of the mages in the cast having a strong knowledge of Plot Magic. Plot Magic ends this particular fight by killing all of the orcs invested with fel energies because that’s how the plot says this battle ends.

I’m not going to address his commentary about the orcs and humans not having heft as that’s purely personal opinion (even if I disagree, categorically). I am, however, going to point out that are no internal inconsistencies in this scene whatsoever. What Eliot “cutely” refers to as Plot Magic is actually him just failing to comprehend that Medivh knows how to kill the fel orcs because he’s the one who’s been summoning them to Azeroth in the first place. I don’t know how he missed that but this is the danger of hyper-focusing on the stuff that doesn’t matter (Stormwind) only to miss the stuff that does (where Medivh gained the knowledge to recognize and dispatch fel magics). This whole scene is our first big clue that Medivh isn’t on the side of the Light anymore.

The humans take two prisoners, Garona and some other orc dude, but the orc dude throws a fit and then Lothar kills him. Back at the O.K Corral, Garona reveals that she’s learned the humans’ language because otherwise the movie ends pretty quickly. She also reveals that she is hated by other orcs because she’s a half-breed, which means that of course the orcs would bring her through the Dark Portal on an important mission because that’slogical. Sure, in the original lore she was Gul’dan’s personal assassin, a secret infiltrator who faced a great deal of personal conflict when she was ordered to kill the only people in her life who actually treated her well, but it makes much more sense if she has every reason to hate the orcs and no reason whatsoever to like or trust them, right?

I’ll tip my hat to Eliot on this one. Garona’s presence really doesn’t make much sense. It was an important piece of information that the movie failed to give us. That isn’t to say that there can’t be a good explanation for her presence, just that one wasn’t provided for us. It’s a serious, but not deal-breaking, oversight.

Or maybe Gul’dan brought her over to feed on her. There’s a scene later in the movie where Gul’dan is supping on the soul of a shriveled human captive. Though if that were true what business Garona has being in Elwynn Forest I couldn’t tell you. Definite oversight methinks.

Our lone bright point is that at least now all of the major characters have been introduced, complete with their total lack of any personal traits or goals or motivations. No one in this movie seems to want anything beyond the most vague directives, the sort of thing that literally anyone would want. Khadgar is motivated by a desire to not have his entire world overrun with horrible demons, which says pretty much nothing about him beyond the fact that he likes to not be killed by orcs. There are no character arcs, no development, no sense of people doing things for reasons but just because the plot says that they do these things now.

 

Case in point, Medivh finds out that Khadgar was researching the portal thing, and so he destroys all of Khadgar’s notes on the topic. That seems suspicious, right? So Khadgar goes to talk with Lothar about what just happened, and Lothar just says, “Eh, probably no big deal.” Yet not five minutes later, Lothar is saying that Medivh isn’t reliably present and is acting odd. So why didn’t he believe Khadgar? Because the plot says he doesn’t believe Khadgar yet. There’s no scene in which he comes to realize he was wrong or experiences growth or changes things, he just flops to a new position when the plot requires it.

There are two points to address here. The first being Eliot’s contention that Warcraft’s characters are one-dimensional and serve primarily as actors that move the plot forward. This is absolutely the case. For ALL of the Warcraft franchise; not just the movie, or the games, or even the novels. Warcraft isn’t known for its storytelling because it tells very little story. Warcraft is to The Silmarillion what Bioware is to The Lord of the Rings. One is closer to a moving history, the other fancies itself a storyteller. That doesn’t absolve Warcraft of the criticism of having undeveloped characters that fly from plot-point to plot-point, but it does frame our point of reference. It’s Warcraft. It’s par for the course by now.

As for the second point, Medivh’s suspicious behavior and Lothar’s response to it. This is no plot inconsistency, I’m afraid Eliot simply wasn’t paying attention again. Lothar did believe Khadgar. The movie slow-pans onto Lothar’s face for a good few seconds and you see him basically warring in his own mind. In that moment, he is coming to grips with the reality that “The Guardian” of Azeroth may indeed not be an ally and exactly all that entails. There was nothing subtle in this scene, I’m genuinely surprised that Eliot overlooked it. Maybe he’d stepped out to use the bathroom?

Farting right along and skipping ahead very slightly, a big dramatic meeting between Durotan and Wrynn takes place in a canyon, with Durotan deciding that the fel is definitely bad and now he wants to help the humans stop the Dark Portal from opening. So he’s perfectly all right with stranding the remainder of the orcs – the people he claims that he wants to save – back on a world he admits is dying, leaving the surviving population as nothing but the fel-infested orcs who he outright says aren’t going to live peacefully with humans. He offers to help the king rescue people that he eventually plans to murder, and Wrynn says yes because the plot demands that he say yes now. Then the orcish horde ambushes them all because Doomhammer sold Durotan out, only before he agreed with Durotan, so who even knowswhat he wants.

Durotan never claims that he wants to save all of orc-kind. Early in the movie, he has a conversation with his mate Draka that some of the orcs are well beyond saving. Durotan does frequently mention that his goal is to “save his people”. However, I took that as “save the Frostwolf clan” as opposed to “save the entire orc race”. He is the Chieftain of the Frostwolves after all and we must not also forget that the disparate orc tribes warred with each other before being united by Gul’dan. When viewed as such, Durotan’s actions are congruent. He made sure that his Frostwolves (who are known for being fierce hunters and warriors) came through the Dark Portal first. Closing the Dark Portal and ensuring the rest of the fel-contaminated Horde doesn’t come through to destroy all of Azeroth and render it unlivable is perfectly in-line with “saving my people”.

As for Doomhammer, in a moment of self-doubt, he nearly betrays his Chieftain only to come to his senses near the end. Considering this plot-line is all but pulled from the Warlords of Draenor (WoD) expansion, I don’t really see the problem. In WoD, Durotan’s brother Ga’nar flirts with the idea of deposing Durotan and assuming leadership of the Frostwolves but in the end sacrifices himself to save his brother and his people.

Khadgar sees Medivh’s eyes flash with fel energy and decides to bugger off to Dalaran, which is floating for some reason, even though – again – Dalaran wouldn’t be floating at this point. As before, this bothers me because it’s a lot of attention to details while overlooking huge important points.

Dalaran floating or not floating, much like the layout of Stormwind, is IN NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM a “huge important point.” How does this in any way serve the story? What possible relevance is there? To the moviegoer, absolutely none. This is just pernicious nitpicking and personally, I find it obnoxious.

Gul’dan beats Durotan by draining his life, which upsets the orcs, but then he just drains the life of a few more and they all shut up, which means that Durotan accomplishedabsolutely nothing in the plot. We’re told he was a great leader, but he didn’t lead anyone to do anything and his death accomplishes nothing aside from his being dead.

This was the single biggest issue I had with the movie. Durotan, who is one of the movie’s main protagonists, dies for essentially no reason. While the writers tried to make his death have an impact they rather spectacularly failed. So poorly thought out, I have no defense for it.

Note that for all the talk of Gul’dan needing souls to fuel the portals, both portals open fine with minimum of any such souls, almost entirely due to Medivh. Have I already mentioned that? It’s still worth noting.

Medivh doesn’t seem to be constrained by Gul’dan’s limitations. He opened the portal the first time and summoned the orcs after all without needing a mass sacrifice (presumably).

Then, because the plot demands it, Garona kills Wrynn because the portal collapsed and that’ll make her a hero among orcs or something. It’s very much an eleventh-hour “twist” that’s mostly in there because it’s already butchered Garona’s character arc and the plot says she kills the king. Lothar tries to fly in to save the king but fails, and the orcs capture him and subject him to the same honorable duel as Durotan and Gul’dan had because…

 

Well, that part isn’t clear. Why, exactly, would they capture him and just fight him? Who knows? It’s never explained, it never makes sense, it doesn’t seem reasonable. He’s not an orc and they don’t respect him; it gains Blackhand nothing to kill him this way instead of any other. It’s a dramatic battle at the end because there needs to be a dramatic battle. Only it’s not a dramatic battle; we just stare at Lothar’s face until it becomes uncomfortable, then he ends the fight in two swings.

Did we actually watch the same movie? Garona killing Wrynn was no plot twist, Wrynn explicitly asked Garona to kill him when he realized that once the portal was closed his death would serve a greater purpose than his life. We see Wrynn’s machinations bear their first fruit when Garona stops Gul’dan from killing Lothar after the Mok’gora.

Speaking of the Mok’gora, it makes perfect sense. Earlier in the movie, a random fel orc is about to kill Lothar’s son when Lothar yells out to him. Blackhand hears Lothar say son and stops the fel orc from killing the boy. Blackhand then looks directly at Lothar and kills Lothar’s son himself, making their feud personal. I do agree that the fight was ridiculously short and completely wasted all the built up tension, but it wasn’t unreasonable or nonsensical.

Do not go to see the film because you’re a fan of the franchise. Do not go to see it because you think it’ll be a fun lark to see a bad movie, which I mistakenly considered as my worst-case scenario. Do not go see it because you think it’ll be a lark to see if it’s as bad as it could be. It is, in fact, crap. It’s not “bad but entertaining”; it’s bad period. If you want to see a film that’s entertainingly bad, you have numerous options; this is not among them.
 
This film’s problem is not that it’s not for critics but that it is just plain bad. It’s an awful film, it deserves every awful review, and it is not worth your time. Save your money and read a book.

It will come as no surprise to anyone at this point that I simply don’t agree with this. While there were issues with the movie, altogether I found it enjoyable enough to hope for a sequel and if I’m being brutally honest; I feel like Eliot went into this movie looking for reasons to hate it and that artificial focus took his attention away from the rest of the movie. It’s why so many of his “points” are erroneous and why he manages to miss so many important plot details. I realize his article was an editorial, but it was riddled with so many inaccuracies that I felt compelled to respond to it and set the record straight.Warcraft is not Shakespeare. It doesn’t claim to be. It is however very much Warcraft. And if that’s your sort of thing then you should enjoy it greatly.

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