McMillan’s Codex #45 by C.T. McMillan
When adapting a work, all media struggles with the same dilemma. What do you include to maintain the spirit of the material while keeping within the bounds of the new medium? Song of Fire and Ice has depth that readers like, but most of the content would not work as a television series. Lord of the Rings was peppered with tangents that make more sense in print than film. In the case of Warcraft (2016), there is a lot to consider.
The first installment came out in 1994 in the form of a relatively simple real-time strategy game. To my knowledge, the lore became more expansive as the series went on. I played Warcraft 3 and some of World of Warcraft before I lost interest, but I never absorbed the series’ complex lore. Going into the movie, I had no idea what the backstory was outside of characters and races.
I think that makes me an ideal critic.
The problem with Warcraft (2016) is that the film is not complete. There are places where content was obviously edited down forrunning time and the cuts also took out essential exposition. Story and character motivations were clear, but there were missing parts important to world building. I had no idea the state of the Alliance, the other human kingdoms, the broader world of Azeroth, the deal with the mages, and I did not know anything about the Orcs’ place of origin.
Exposition is essential to fantasy because a rich universe is key to its appeal. A New Hope had an opening title crawl, Fellowship had an extend flashback on the history of the One Ring, and Game of Thrones is anachronistic enough you can figure out what is going on. I had no clue what was what and who was who in Warcraft (2016) because some idiot trimmed the movie for the sake of time.
The film is better served as a spectacle and fan service on an aesthetic level. The armor, color pallette, and architecture mirror the series to perfection. Most of the props and sets carried the handiwork of an artisan with clean and pronounced details. My viewing time was spent in awe of the craft in the over-designed armor and weapons taken directly from the games. The standout is the Orcs, thanks to computer-generated effects and motion capture. They are these tall beasts with huge hands, a large underbite with tusks, and they looked marvelous.
While unremarkable, the acting performances were passable. Travis Fimmel (also known as the only good part about Vikings) brought his signature charisma to the lead as Lothar. He adapts his energy into sharp wit and expressive emotion. Toby Kebbell as Durotan did a good job with the effects not getting in the way of playing a believable character. Ben Foster did not care in the slightest and read his lines as fast as he could, while Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga were counting time before their return to Preacher. Paula Patton and Ben Schnetzer were fine and came through with their dignity.
Warcraft (2016) is not bad and relatively watchable compared to what usually comes out. I understood character motivations and the story despite the lack of exposition. Taken as pure fan service that only a niche audience will enjoy, the film is worth a matinee or a rental, if you are trying to waste time at a fraction of the cost.
C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer. He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.