Contrary to what some say, video game movies can be good. Their interactive nature does not inherently handicap them for cinematic translation. Some games, you know who you are, are so close to film their interactivity makes no definitive difference to the experience. What people are really arguing is for Hollywood to stop making movies that try to be games, emulating their characteristics in cheesy reference to the source material and consequently ruining their childhoods. When making a video game film, don’t – make a story that just so happens to come from games.
Warcraft is actually quite good at applying this tenet. Foregoing the self-aware allusions many such films resort to. The only nod to its origin being the world it inhabits.
The matter of being a good film is Warcraft’s real struggle. At its heart is a relatively simply story made unnecessarily murky by the way it’s told. By no means is anything difficult to understand, but puts itself off-balance with unnatural narrative cadence. The entire first-half feeling, not like one seamless story, but a collection of scenes unaware they comprise the same movie. While never an issue of discernment, severely impairs the impact such a simple tale should’ve had for high-fantasy.
This is largely due in part to Warcraft’s unsuccessful attempt to promote emotional weight – spending a lot of time trying to equally characterise a cast too large for a single film. Wrestling with the cynical and ambivalent attitude many have for video game movies – Warcraft feels restless, trying to prove all the better for the failings of those who tried before. Correctly aware of the goal it should attain, but without the skill to do so – never finding composure along a two-hour quest to validate its own existence, with characters unable to carry the sentimental load it wants them to.
It seems a little obvious to say Warcraft succeeds as visual entertainment, but this is probably the best feather in its cap. Illustrating the Warcraft universe for film could have easily gone wrong for a series with such eccentric style. Though it is a special effects free-for-all, that’s no blemish against itself or others of its kind. CGI-heavy projects have a stigma for destruction porn, but that isn’t Warcraft’s problem.
Rather Warcraft has the framework for a good story that was told the wrong way. The intentions and ideas were present, but without the competency to see them through to fruition. It’s future as a cinematic franchise is almost guaranteed regardless – having made double its budget. If there’s any redemption to be found, it’s that Warcraft shows games are malleable for film despite the difference of medium, and reassures Hollywood they’re a viable business strategy worth weathering the critical reception. The remaining learning curve means we’ll undoubtedly suffer the desecration of more cherished franchises terraformed for the silver-screen, and despite Warcraft’s general failure as a story, is some small encouragement that at least someone has the basics right.