Thursday, May 26, 2016

This Is Not Good

I'd been channeling my inner Leia when I first saw the trailer for Warcraft: The Beginning.

"I have a bad feeling about this" was my mantra whenever it would pop up on my blogger list as well as my Facebook feed. I remember how I really really wanted the Dungeons and Dragons movie* to succeed, but all it really did was become a punchline on how stupid the game must be to create a movie this bad. The mini-Reds would laugh at the occasional D&D Movie snippet that they'd find on YouTube, from Jeremy Irons' dreadful overacting to the actual use of the D&D metaterm "low level" in a description of a Mage in the movie.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

But still, I knew that there was a possibility that the Warcraft movie might turn out pretty good. For me, the major issue was going to be not whether they could find decent acting or direction, but whether the movie was going to be written primarily for the fans or for the wider audience. The former would go no matter what, but the latter were needed for sequels to happen. And for that to work, you needed to perform your world building gradually, following the example of Peter Jackson with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.**

The worst thing that could happen? That you'd be required to perform research in order to understand and enjoy Warcraft: The Beginning.

What I didn't expect was to have a reviewer compare Warcraft not so favorably to the John Travolta adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard's SF pulp story Battlefield Earth.

The reviews aren't looking so good at the moment, with Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer sitting at 33% positive critical reviews.

And that doesn't even include the bad review that Kotaku published.

The commentary that I've been reading isn't exactly helping matters. When you've got fans hollering about how people should have done their research or played the game in order to appreciate the movie, that's not a good thing. That's the equivalent of telling fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that they should have read all of the backstory in the comics before they went to go see Captain America: Civil War.

Gee, thanks, Comic Book Guy.

Things might change once more reviews are released, but right now it's not looking good for the Warcraft franchise.

Will I see the film in the theater? Not likely, as I rarely go to see movies in the theater***, but that doesn't mean that I won't hope for a decent turnout. But at the same time, the movie has to earn the turnout by being a good film that is accessible to the general public, and I'm not sure that Warcraft: The Beginning has what it takes.

*It it was at all possible, there were two sequels to the D&D movie. One went straight to the (then) Sci-Fi Channel, called Curse of the Dragon God, and the other... Let's just say that the other one --The Book of Vile Darkness-- is so bad that while it is listed in IMDB as a "TV Movie" I never saw it released onto television at all. If it did, I'd say it escaped more than was released.

**Even then, there were plenty of people who couldn't follow the details in the movie, but still liked it for the spectacle. And that was for an Academy Award winning trilogy. The problem with The Hobbit? Peter didn't follow the world building pace that he did in LOTR. Sure, a lot of the stuff was found in the LOTR Appendices, but it wasn't necessary to expand The Hobbit into three full movies.

***I typically don't have that much time to block off for a matinee, and that kind of leads into the second reason: it costs too much. I'd rather buy or rent the movie for little more than the cost of a theater ticket than have to deal with the decline in movie theater going etiquette. Oh, I've got stories to tell about theater and concert experiences.....


  1. That D&D Movie video made me chuckle, thanks for that!

    Did you really expect this to shape up into the next LOTRO? My own expectation has been pretty much from the beginning that it will be veering more towards D&D Movie territory than LOTRO... but I want to see it anyway, because it's Warcraft and I want to decide for myself. Worst case I'll at least know what everyone else is ranting about.

    1. Also, I don't know why I wrote LOTRO there both times instead of LOTR. Too much time spent talking about MMOs clearly, lol.

    2. Well, I hoped that --if nothing else-- Blizzard would actually have learned from watching others make fantasy movies to get it right. They seem to do that with their own games, so I'd think that it wouldn't be hard to figure out.

      You don't need to approach LOTR's level to make a decent film based on another property, as Marvel continues to demonstrate that in spades. But what really has me disappointed is that Blizzard has a severe case of myopia where their storytelling is concerned.

      Blizzard seems to forget the experience of someone new taking up a game such as WoW and attempting to figure out what is going on. If I tried to explain WoW's backstory to someone new, I'd want to go more complex than "orcs vs. humans" but not so complex as "read the tons of backstory on the website". And even that backstory isn't written with new players in mind, as I couldn't wrap my head around the story effectively until I got to about L50 or so.

      ("OH! The Scourge are the UNDEAD! And the weird ass spiders too!!")

      Starting in a BC zone did me no favors in that regard.

      I think that people so engrossed in the lore fail to see the 500 mile viewpoint from above, and don't have the restraint to truly "get" how to feed the WoW backstory piecemeal to a new player. It is just so easy to overdo it that they completely miss the boat.

      And really, the "required" reading of novels, comics, etc. to keep up with WoW has hurt people's ability to understand just how unapproachable this is. It's like requiring all of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe novels to be read before watching The Force Awakens; it's both unnecessary and excessive, and will push away more players than it lets in.

  2. I think the last time I went to the theater was to see Avatar and it may be the last time ever. I will definitely see Warcraft but I'll probably wait to buy it.

    Knowing me I'll probably enjoy it, bad or good just because it's Warcraft but I was hoping it would have general appeal. I'm wishing it good luck!

    1. I think you'll likely enjoy it, because --like me-- you know the backstory. But not everybody will get that, and that's where the movie will fall down.

      The fanboys out there hollering at bad reviews are missing the point, IMHO. If you have to be a fanboy to understand the movie, then the movie didn't do its job.

  3. Hi, long time lurker here. I live in Europe and went to see it with family last week, we all loved it.

    As well, if you want to check out reactions, the critics in Europe liked the movie too - though most of these are not in English, and fans are loving it.

    I do not get US critics - it's like they have seen a different movie...

    1. Welcome to the comments section!

      I read a translation of Le Monde's review prior to writing this post, and it wasn't so much a review as a riffing on what Warcraft means. I figured that the Google translator must not be doing that good of a job, so I decided to not include that in my reviews for a concern of misinterpreting the article.

      However, The Guardian and the Dail Mail (both UK) didn't give Warcraft very good reviews, so I don't think it's just American critics that don't like the film much.

      The biggest thing I've seen described is that Warcraft is a niche film that is trying to reach beyond its niche (Warcraft and WoW fans, and fantasy in general). If you're within the niche, then you're going to like it. Outside that niche, the movie will have a harder time of it.

      That disconnect might explain the higher reviews by moviegoers versus the critics. It's kind of like the Transformers movies: critics and the broad audience can rip the Michael Bay Transformers movies all they want, but they're not the people Bay is making the movies for. My biggest problem is that --like the Dungeons and Dragons Movie-- Warcraft: The Beginning is going to shape people's opinions of WoW (and Warcraft) for a long time to come. And right now, the Rotten Tomatoes rating is hovering around 19%, which doesn't give me a good feeling.