Jan 11, 2020
Warcraft (2016), a recap (part 2 of 7)
Last time on Warcraft: The peoples of the orc dimension, beset by environmental catastrophe, are seeking asylum in the wealthy lands of Azeroth. But be warned: when the orc dimension sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing crime…
…they’re bringing necromancy…
…and some, I assume, are good people.
Look, I’ve talked a lot of shit about Warcraft, and I’m going to talk a lot more, but I always give credit where it’s due, and Warcraft deserves credit for (for lack of a better word) humanizing its orcs. Where most fantasy properties treat orcs like a uniform loaf of evil, the orc contingent in Warcraft boasts a varied texture, with some intriguing chunks that merit thoughtful chewing-over. The orcs have a variety of different backgrounds, personalities, values; they seem like a real society, and for better or worse, they form the emotional core of the movie. The downside here is, I can’t tell if Duncan Jones intended this to be the case, or if it happened by default because every single human character is about as appealing as a vomit-filled shoe.
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We open on an iron forge called Ironforge…
…where a human named Lothar (Travis Fimmel, of TV’s Vikings), who looks like he has a ball python, a katana, and a sparsely-viewed FetLife profile (M/M IS A DEALBREAKER – DON’T ASK!), is conferring with a
ghastly mo-cap abortion dwarf. Side note: why are dwarves always depicted wearing huge beards? Seems like that’d get tricky around the forge, what with all those sparks, and a million places to catch a beard; this is definitely not OSHA compliant.
The dwarf is presenting Lothar with “a mechanical marvel: a boomstick”, because what better way to establish your fantasy cred than by cribbing a line from a fantasy movie that was ridiculous on purpose?
A messenger dwarf waddles up comically and hands a scroll to the main dwarf. “You’d better go home, big man,” he says to Lothar. “Someone’s attacked one of your garrisons.” And after literally less than a minute in Ironforge, we cut to a different location. For as awkwardly shoehorned-in as that last location was, surely it, or the dwarves, will figure heavily into the movie later, right? Wrong-o, idiot! Duncan Jones: 1, Chekhov’s Gun: 0.
This establishing shot takes pains to make the city look bright and immaculate, so of course the next shot is in a dank, grimy location. Duncan Jones: 1, Coherent Visual Composition: 0. An entire garrison full of soldiers is dead, but instead of just telling Lothar to go there, they’ve brought every single one of the bodies back to the city for him to have a look. Because how else were they going to get that sweet visual up there?
Lothar asks whether anyone saw anything. His men answer no, but almost as an afterthought they mention that they did find a guy messing with the bodies. Said guy is being detained in a side room. Lothar walks in to find a dweeby, pedo-stached teen (Ben Schnetzer) whose default expression is “getting yelled at by his supervisor for leaving the onion rings in too long”. Lothar unceremoniously throws him on the table, pins his arm down with a compass, and hikes up his sleeve to reveal a scabby tattoo.
The accosted young ruffian’s eyes and hand grow blue, but Lothar covers his mouth before he’s able to utter a magic spell.
“This is the mark of the Kirin Tor,” Lothar remarks. “What are you doing in my city, spellchucker?” Wait, “spellchucker”? Spellchucker? Spellchucker. Wow, Okay. Um, Duncan Jones: 1, Fantasy Slang That’s Cool, Natural-Sounding, And Not Two Letters Away From A Racial Slur That Got M*A*S*H‘s First Season Pulled From Syndication: 0.
“Let me complete my examination of the body across the hall,” Spellchucker implores. “Within that body is the secret to your attacks.” Lothar lets him, without hesitation, because why wouldn’t he? I, for one, always let sketchy magic teens I just met poke around corpses all they want.
In the examination room, Fry Boy sticks his fingers into the corpse’s mouth (like, he really dives in there—it’s uncomfortable), roots around a bit, and a mist of green magic squirts out. Consult your notes: green = evil. The sharp-eyed viewer will also note that the kid is covering his face. Let me repeat that. He’s covering his face, presumably so the particulate magic doesn’t get into his nose or mouth, attack the soft tissues of his upper respiratory tract with magic, and cause a magic infection. This movie is hilarious.
This magic booger cloud seems to confirm the kid’s suspicions, but he won’t just tell Lothar what the hell it’s all about. “You must summon the Guardian. It should be he who explains it.” But only the king may summon the Guardian, so it looks like we’re off to our third location in as many minutes. There is absolutely no reason for the Warcraft movie to be this ADD when its target audience will happily stay in their chairs for the duration of a four-hour raid.
The next location… fuck it, nothing happens here. All you need to know is:
- The king is Dominic Cooper, and you’ll never need to know a single thing about him.
- The queen is Ruth Negga and she’s Lothar’s sister, even though they have different accents.
- Lothar’s son is like 13 and a soldier already.
- Fry Boy’s proper name is Khadgar, and he’s an impertinent magic school runaway who sensed the evil magic, “almost like a smell”. Everybody disrespects him but nonetheless does exactly what he says.
The king summons the Guardian (read: gives Lothar a blue ring from the Chuck-E-Cheese prize counter), and Lothar and Khadgar fly away on a Not-Hippogriff and soon land in Not-Isengard, which features a gigantic tower with a pulsing blue astrolabe on top.
Meanwhile, in still yet another location, Durotan and his bald friend are petting his direwolf and watching Macho Orc Randy Savage raid a human village. The latter rides up with a crying child under his arm and chides them for not taking part. “We prefer our enemies armed with an ax,” Durotan says, “not a child.” Wait, he prefers an enemy armed with a child?
At the tower, Lothar climbs an exorbitant number of stairs to find the Guardian, Medivh (Ben Foster) chilling by an overturned Stargate, conspicuously shirtless, and sculpting a golem. Lothar gives him the Crackerjack ring, to let him know he’s been summoned.
Meanwhile, Khadgar is downstairs, dorking out over all the books. A ghostly figure appears and beckons him to one of the back stacks…
…leading to a book that causes his magic tattoo to glow. He moves it closer, and it literally starts making clicky Geiger counter sounds, which is the kind of thing that often happens in sensible movies that respect your intelligence. Khadgar takes the book, rounds the corner of the stack, and comes face to face with Medivh, who’s changed into his finest orgy robe. “Have a good look around?” he asks, picking Khadgar up with magic and slamming him into the stack with unwonted violence.
Apparently, Khadgar and Medivh have some sort of bad blood, because Khadgar was training to replace Medivh before he ran away. Khadgar makes it clear he’s only here because Medivh has to be the one to explain the “Fel” magic because reasons and like such as. Said explanation runs as follows:
Medivh: A magic unlike any other. It feeds on life itself; it pollutes the user, twisting everything it touches. It promises great power, but exacts a terrible price.
Medivh tells Khadgar he did the right thing, and whisks him and Lothar downstairs so they can teleport to yet still another God damned location: the king’s throne room. The king holds off the guards and pulls Medivh into the his war room to confer.
He talks to Medivh about the attacks by “giants, huge unstoppable monsters”, and Medivh nods knowingly, even though he was summoned because of the Fel and hasn’t heard of these monsters before. Also, when did they find some eyewitnesses? Between which two locations did that happen?
“We know nothing about these so-called monsters,” says Lothar. “We need prisoners. Even a corpse would tell us something.” We’ll just have to take that line as an affirmation that they plan to take an orc prisoner.
“What are we going to do with…” the king asks, motioning to Khadgar. “He’ll be coming with us,” says Medivh, to Lothar’s displeasure. Why he’s going, where they’re going, and most importantly, why in the holy hell he’s going, are not elaborated upon.
Wow, it’s been a real eventful day for li’l Khadgar. He looted some corpses, rode an eagle-lion with Yoda ears…
…met the King a couple of times, saw a ghost, got checked against the boards by his old professor, and now he’s gonna go on an orc hunt. All in fifteen minutes of screentime. What’s in store for him tomorrow? Find out in the next totally watchable installment of Warcraft.