Contrary to popular belief, the oft-repeated phrase “Hollywood has run out of ideas” has been popping up for quite sometime now. During the ’60s and ’70s, television producers would take two-part TV shows or standalone TV movies and release them theatrically abroad, luring (mostly) European filmgoers into cinemas to see an extended episode of something like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in order to take advantage of an outrageously gigantic demand for all things James Bondian at the time. It would have been foolish not to take the chance, right? It was a most cunning strategy on their part.
In the early 1990s, a brief barrage of motion picture adaptations based on television shows from the 1960s began to hit cinemas. We laughed at the notion. “A big-screen version of The Addams Family? Truly, this is an indication of the end times for Tinseltown!” we cried, only to take it all back when we realized The Addams Family was a pretty fun movie, successful enough to spawn a theatrical sequel (and that direct-to-video thing nobody rented), to wit we demanded further contemporary movie versions of old TV programs ‒ a plea which soon backfired come The Brady Bunch Movie.
It didn’t stop Hollywood from continuing to follow suit, however. In fact, we’re still seeing TV shows from yesteryear being turned into films. The only thing that has changed, perhaps, is the quality of these moving pictures overall: The A-Team wasn’t necessarily bad as it was totally uncalled for and completely forgettable ‒ something banal limp-dicked disasters such as The Green Hornet or The Lone Ranger only wished they could have achieved. (And don’t even get me started about that big-screen version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E..)
And yet, despite a lack of noticeable talent of ingenuity, movies like 21 Jump Street somehow manage to earn sequels; thus indicating that Hollywood hasn’t necessarily run out of ideas. Rather, they have changed their strategy to the point where actual storytelling is no longer relevant. Instead, it has become a matter of heavily promoting and subsequently shining an already established brand onto the silver screen. Another Transformers movie? Sure, it’s bound to be just as bad as the other installments in the series, but it still sells tickets because viewers are familiar with (if not brainwashed by) the brand.
In addition to the uncalled-for trend to turn established television show brands into film franchises during the ’90s, there was another ‒ far worse ‒ concept which was born at roughly the same time: the converting of video games into full-length features, which has been growing like a deadly cancerous growth on the film industry itself ever since. Look, at this point, I’m fairly certain you can guess where I’m going with this article. And so, I’m just going to skip the part where I take up sixteen paragraphs alone trashing unmemorable examples of the many bad movies spawned from video games and get to the topic at hand: Warcraft.
Based on the immensely popular strategy game franchise from Blizzard Entertainment, this international production from not on the U.S. and Canada, but China and Japan too, is quite the awkward ode to things such as bad computer graphics and blatant plagiarism. It seems to show little to no sense of strategy itself at first, until you stop to realize how popular the movie was abroad, wherein we realize that, just like TV shows released theatrically to unsuspecting Europeans, we, boys and girls, have been duped into seeing a shifty, mostly-animated “movie” manufactured solely for international markets.
Well played, Blizzard Entertainment ‒ now that’s what I call a strategy game! Devoid of any originality or actual entertainment whatsoever, Warcraft comes to us courtesy director/co-writer Duncan Jones, who had previously brought us the very popular flick Moon, and who is himself the son of the immeasurably talented late musical god David Bowie. Several minutes into Jones’ big-screen adaptation of Warcraft, however, another (much older) idiom ‒ something having to do with an apple falling far, far away from the tree which gave it life ‒ comes instantly to mind.
I mean that with all due respect, of course. Jones, as well as the entire company of cast and crew who were under his direction for the creation of Warcraft undoubtedly have their own individual special talents. Alas, the production of Warcraft itself seemed to cast an anti-talent spell over all who were assigned to it. Throughout its seemingly longer two-hour, three-minute runtime, Warcraft creates a banally bland world of uninteresting characters and hackneyed adventures, wrapped within an overcooked shell of indeterminate plot. There is a lot going on here, yet nothing is actually happening.
The story centers on a race of big barbarian-like CGI eyesores called orcs, who venture into a world of dull, bored-looking and medieval-like humans (all of whom are portrayed by out of work actors, voice actors, over-actors, non-actors, and bad actors alike) via magic created by characters whom only a complete buffoon will fail to realize are villains. Warcraft is so uniquely uninspired, it generously borrows elements we have already seen in other, better works of science fiction and fantasy, such as the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, the Star Wars prequels (you know, the bad ones?), and even The Bible (what’s good for the geese is good for the gobbler).
Sporting enough poorly-written and clichéd scenes/dialogue to possibly earn it a notable listing in the Guinness Book of World Records (although the line “In my entire life, I have never felt so much pain as I do now” was particularly spot-on from a viewing standpoint), and a hero named Lothar (of the Hill People?), Warcraft lazily meanders about from one wearisome moment to another, coming dangerously close to giving 2000’s Dungeons and Dragons a run for its money, concealing its ethnic characters behind veils of CGI whitewash (or greenwash, in the instance of actress Paula Patton, who plays a half-human/half-orc with goofy Wolf Man teeth).
Whitewash. Greenwash. In the end, it doesn’t matter, as it’s all backwash. We’ve tasted this all before, people. Simply transferring from one mouth to another isn’t going to improve the flavor in any way. And yet, now that the spitball has been set into motion, an inevitable sequel ‒ which the movie painfully sets itself up for in a grand, cringeworthy Return of the King moment, as the dumb picture concludes with absolutely no ending whatsoever ‒ will probably be washing ashore soon like a decrepit freighter inhabited solely by thousands of plague-infested rats. But of course, that’s what film is all about now: all style, no substance.
A surefire winner for the forthcoming Golden Raspberry Awards, Warcraft arrives on home video from Universal Home Entertainment in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD/UltraViolet combo pack sporting a flawless 1080p HD transfer and Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Ultimately, it’s comparable to polishing and gift-wrapping a lemon, but there it is just the same. Since the bulk of the film was shot on primarily bare stages, computer-generated special effects are aplenty, and tend to stand out in a crowd like the many passionate gamers/gatekeepers who feverishly defend Warcraft, refusing to believe it is anything other than a boring travesty.
And it is for those folk that the special features for Warcraft are catered exclusively to. Fourteen minutes of deleted/extended scenes, wherein the FX look even choppier, beget the bonuses. These are followed by the unfunniest gag reel ever assembled (which features so many dumb sex-oriented jokes, one shudders at the notion Warcraft‘s actors are registered to vote), and well over an hour-and-a-half of materials only a fan will be able to appreciate. A concept teaser trailer shot in 2013 (footage of which can be seen at the beginning of the film, just to try and connect the two) is the bow on the lemon.
Yes, kids, Warcraft is bad. And it’s not a funny kind of bad, either: it’s just a big, long, dumb, boring joke of an “epic” that tries way too hard to make itself interesting when it truly has nothing to offer. Its performers ‒ most of whom would be booed off stage during even a drunken Renaissance Faire presentation ‒ never bother to take themselves or their work seriously (and honestly, how could or why should they?). Its story ‒ what little there is of one, rather ‒ feels like it was comprised entirely of cutaway sequences from a really bad video game from the ’90s, complete with embarrassed live-action actors.
I cannot say my viewing experience was completely without merit, however. For, had it not been for Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, I would never have enjoyed that nice little nap, fold my laundry, or worked out a cunning strategy to keep myself amused in the construction of a fort made entirely out of my couch cushions, wherein I discovered a valuable cache of untold spoils: sixty-three cents, a heap of pocket lint, and several halves of discarded sunflower seed shells. But it certainly doesn’t help disprove the increasingly-popular theory that Hollywood truly has run out of ideas.