Warcraft the Movie: A Fun Ride for Fans (no spoilers)

[SPOILER FREE]

So I knew the reviews were bad going in to this movie. I recalibrated my expectations to see a bad movie that could be potentially fun for World of Warcraft (WoW) players. I’m not an active player, but I was at one time. My wife has a current account with several max-level characters. Both of us went expecting a fun experience.

I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. I also don’t think it’s as bad as the critics assert it to be. Don’t get me wrong; taken on its own, it’s a mediocre movie at best from a story-crafting perspective. However, it’s certainly no Battlefield Earth!

On it’s own, it’s a somewhat passable fantasy movie, better than the The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, and better than parts of The Desolation of Smaug. Worse than the first Hobbit movie.

I compared it to the other horrible movie of the season: Batman v Superman. Warcraft was better, because it didn’t murder and rape its own characters in the same way that BvS did to Superman. It was true to its source content.

Hell, I just saw Jurassic World for the first time last night. I think Warcraft was as good (although less accessible). The thing that annoyed me in Jurassic World were characters acting stupid for the sake of plot. There were only one or two instances of that in Warcraft. For the most part, the characters held together. (Hell, Jurassic World was relatively well received. If that were the case, then I think the majority of Movie Critics must have decided to hate the movie before seeing it, and falsely deflated a mediocre movie to horrible ratings.)

But it was dense, and for a non Warcraft fan, or for someone not already predisposed to the genre and Blizzard content, then it probably seemed a dense mashing of scenes that didn’t earn the audiences “care about”. I think the greatest sin is that you need to be a fan of the Warcraft content, or at least Blizzard games in general, to enjoy what was on the screen in front of you.

However, for those who already like Warcraft, it delivered. A testament to the directing and production, it was able to render the WoW world and feel like WoW, without hitting the cheesiness buttons too much. WoW costuming can be absurd, but they pulled it off in a live action setting.

The stars of the show were the orcs. I’m amazed the pulled them off in a convincingly cool way. And they feel amazing powerful with a savage nobility, the way Warcraft orcs should feel.

So, I’ll rate this on two scales, like I did Force Awakens. I give the movie an overall 4/10 for non-Blizzard fans, a 6/10 for non-Warcraft Blizzard fans, and a 7/10 for World of Warcraft fans.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no illusions that this was a great, or even a good movie. But it was a fun movie, and a beautiful movie, with respectable acting, art and direction that honors the source content, and it was successful in that it makes me hope they do a sequel.

And I think I’ll go log in to WoW and get reacquainted with old friends.

Batman v Superman: A Slow Motion Train Wreck

Batman v Superman suffers from too many ideas competing for attention in the same crowded theater. Too many theses posed, and not enough time to get in depth with any of them, so the plot feels overly “directed” between explosions. Characters do things because the plot demands they do them, rather than because of who they are.

Man, I wanted to like this movie. I’m in the minority that loved Man of Steel. I think Man of Steel is a great movie, and largely unappreciated. I heard the critics panning Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and I thought to myself, “Self, no worries. Their small minds failed to appreciate Man of Steel too. You’ll go and see DoJ and be even more thrilled than last time, if the previews are any indication. It won’t be the first time you enjoyed something others didn’t like.”

And my self said, “Rock on.”

(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW)

So I went to see it. Ugh! Oh, there were some great individual pieces to this movie. But…

PROLOGUE 1: The opening scene is Batman’s prologue. Don’t care. We’ve all seen the cave scene, the parents get shot, etc etc etc. We didn’t need to see it again. This was just a minor annoyance that became major because of how they set up the climactic turn for Batman to decide not to kill Superman later. It all comes down to the fact that … wait for it … have mothers with the same name.

After watching Bruce remember his dad call out “Martha” to his dying mom… we fast forward to where the movie should have started: the JEEP Commercial.

PROLOGUE 2: The Jeep Commercial. Where it should have started: the ending of the Man of Steel… the Superman-Zod fight, but from the ground. Bruce Wayne is darting into the action with long dramatic shots of a Jeep Renegade that looks geared towards a car commercial. I say this tongue in cheek, as this really didn’t bother me. This entire scene, I thought, was great, and set a stage for a great movie. I settled in with my popcorn thinking, “Yeah, critics can suck it. This will be awesome.”

Ugh. And then things start to unravel. You can see it unravel bit by bit, and the more moments I have where I think, “Huh. So that’s how they’re going. Okaaaay …” add up, I start to realize with sinking horror that the critics are right.

Oh, I like DC grimdark. I like the more realistic portrayal of how the world would react to a super alien who doesn’t answer to anyone. At least, I like the premise. By the time that story arc reaches its zenith, I feel like no character grows into nuanced, and the Moral Depth the movie aspires to never gets beyond a sophomore level.

MOVIE START: After we get through the prologue and go 18 years later, we see Superman rescue Lois from an African warlord, without saving or intervening on anyone else’s behalf. It looks childishly fun. Lois calls him on it later, but it was my first moment where I thought, “Huh. They need to show us his heroic and selfless side to counterbalance Bruce’s perception. The audience needs to feel the world’s conflict over Superman, which means seeing the positive too.” We don’t get that, other than a brief montage, until what feels like the middle of the movie.

The rest of this isn’t necessarily in chronological order. I’ll hit on what I think tank the movie for me before getting into the stuff I did like. It can be summarized by: IT LOOKS LIKE THIS MOVIE WAS MADE BY A COMMITTEE, WITH LOTS OF DOWNWARD DIRECTED BITS FORCED IN. They all got in a room and initiate all these cool plots/threads into the movie of how Batman would be pitted against Superman… and then tried to execute them all while not really delivering on them. The whole Bruce-Clark discussion about Batman’s vigilantism could have been given its own movie treatment, instead of a parallel thesis in a crowded theater of competing theses. This is true for many of the great ideas spawned in the first half of the movie.

Dream sequences. These had no place in the movie. Don’t surreal the frack out of scenes if it’s not surreal movie.

The WORST part of the movie: Batman’s vision of the Injustice: Gods Among Us future. Flash warning him not to let Lois die. This has NOTHING to do with the movie, and the ONLY thing that helps me understand that scene (after five minutes of WTF, why is Batman suddenly in the desert fighting Superman Cops?) is drawing upon extended DC lore knowledge. The audience should not have to do that. And it was so hamfisted in there, without any kind of graceful transition in and out of the narrative…

The rest of the movie suffers, essentially, from pacing. It’s as if 22 episodes of a season were crammed into 2 hours. Nothing is earned. The problem, ultimately, boils down to the writing (plot problems mostly, some character problems I could overlook, and minor dialogue issues).

And Batman deciding not to KILL Clark (note: he didn’t go for a containment strategy: he immediately went to murder… I have a hard time with that for Batman) because Clark’s mother’s in danger, and the only reason he cares about that is that she’s named … wait for it … MARTHA!

My final disappointment: Hans Zimmer! You dialed this one in! I’m a huge fan of Zimmer, and love the Man of Steel soundtrack. This soundtrack is awful, jarring, and doesn’t feel cohesive between the themes. The Wonder Woman theme made me snigger. No, I laughed at its cheese. Which is sad, because the movie wasn’t inherently cheesy. I get he was going for an ethnic feel, but it was the CONTRAST with the rest of the score, and the sudden shift from “Oh shit serious dark dark dark nihilism” to “exotic fight cheer let’s go have some fun it’s smack-down time” that threw me right out of immersion (for the umpteenth time in the movie).

THE LIKES: I liked all the actors. I really liked this depiction of Lex. He was scary. I liked both Batman and Superman, and of course Wonder Woman. OTOH, everyone talks about how great she was like this was the single best heroine depiction we’ve seen. Sure, she was good, but she wasn’t on screen enough to be great (no fault of the actress). What audiences are reacting to is the contrast with the rest of the movie.

I liked the Batman v Superman fight. I didn’t like the plot surrounding it, or the dialogue, but I liked the fight itself. It did both heroes “realistic” justice. Batman won, because Superman didn’t go all out from the start. (dammit. Except Superman could have used his speed to dodge the second kryptonite mist grenade).

I liked Superman’s use of powers, and I like that by the end he was, mostly, a good guy. I don’t like his statement “no one stays good in this world.” Superman has too many doubts in this movie.

The bottom line thesis of this movie is “There are good people in this world.” The problem is, it doesn’t come across as inspiring hope when the characters say it. It comes across as the writers don’t believe it themselves, and are trying to protest actual reality by creating a fiction. Nihilism is not what I expect from Superman.

Still… I had fun watching it. I didn’t get bored. It’s probably one of those movies I should never watch again, because I think if I start to notice even more, I’ll get angry with it. Like I did with the Hobbit movies.

Hmm… the Hobbit scale. I’d say this movie was better than the third Hobbit Movie, but worse than the 2nd Hobbit movie.

I wanted to like this, but my enthusiasm for Justice League wasn’t stoked in any way. 🙁