Mar 26, 2020
Warcraft (2016), a recap (part 3 of 7)
We’re watching Warcraft…
…where everything’s made up, the points don’t matter, and nothing settles the hell down down long enough to cohere or resonate with the viewer in any way.
In our previous segment, the orc advance guard have crossed dimensional boundaries and invaded the human world of Azeroth, a name that sounds like a sensible mid-sized sedan (Stylish. Dependable. Find yourself in a 2018 Kia Azeroth, now with a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty). They’ve been raiding villages for prisoners for their transparently evil wizard to use as magic fuel, with the eventual goal of bringing their entire civilization to Azeroth. On the case are the general of the kingdom’s armies, the most powerful wizard in the realm (who’s also transparently evil), and a precocious teen they’re letting tag along for reasons that one hopes will make sense later.
The war room scene dissolves to the “Elwynn Forest”. The loremasters of the Warcraft series clearly read the Fantasy Naming Handbook, which mandates 1) to use Ys instead of Is wherever possible, and 2) unnecessary letters are your best friend: the more letters, the more fantasy!
The main characters are trying to find some orcs to take prisoner. The movie skips over anything in the way of a reason why they believe they’ll find orcs in this forest.
Lothar, whose name sounds like a mad scientist’s deformed assistant, is leading a bunch of his soldiers along a path. He encounters an overturned wagon and a smoking tree with glowy green bits indicating the residue of Fel magic. Medivh, whose name sounds like an obscure plant that your essential-oil-selling cousin swears will cure your diabetes, examines the tree with consternation. “It can’t be,” he says. Um, okay. Why not?
Then the orcs ambush, and we get our first taste of the hilariously lazy fight choreography in Warcraft. Even allowing for the fact that it must be hard to shoot these scenes when half the fighters are going to be digitally doubled in size later, the fights are lame and bad. The combat could hardly be any slower and less engaging if everyone were fighting underwater. The only real movement happens in slick, sterile, CG-animated sequences that utterly fail to impress any sort of physicality or danger. In the next couple of weeks, I hope to learn how to make GIFs, because words don’t do justice to just how shitty the fighting is.
Durotan, whose name sounds like the First Tanning Oil Just For Men!, is doing all his killing offscreen, so he can still be sympathetic later on. He tries to attack Khadgar, whose name sounds like a Turkish dish with a lot of onions in it, but the latter shouts a spell and envelops himself in an impenetrable magic cocoon. Durotan bangs on the cocoon and his facial expression suggests his entire world is being turned upside down by this.
Lothar is the only human who’s holding his own against the orcs at all. He stabs one and saves his son from another by chopping its head off. He seems to believe that thirty seconds of orc combat has turned him into an orc-fighting expert: “Don’t try to take them on with brute force,” he snottily lectures his son. “They’re stronger. Be smarter.”
But sometimes the best advice is your own, as Lothar finds when he’s grabbed from behind by Macho Orc Randy Savage and flung away. Lothar pulls out his new “boomstick”, Randy closes his hand over it, and in the first cool thing to happen in this scene, his hand explodes in a grisly shower of meat, leaving a charred stump behind.
Meanwhile, Medivh deploys a spell that makes cracks form in the ground and reach out to touch the orcs, who are enveloped in green light (ruh-roh… green!) and start to wither and die. Not all the orcs, though; it’s a very plot-friendly spell that only kills orcs who haven’t appeared in the movie prior to this scene. Durotan, Baldy, and Randy vamoose, with the former two jumping on horses that they have no idea if they can ride, nor do they know whether these horses will support their weight. They can! And they will! And they gallop just as fast as if they were carrying humans. Fuck you, physics!
Good Guy Durotan pauses to free the half-orc slave woman, who’s chained helplessly to a now-dead orc who apparently saw no reason not to fight while chained to somebody. She scampers away but runs straight into Khadgar, who pins her against a tree with magic. Along with an old bearded orc that Lothar knocked out using his superior orc-fighting skills, they now have two orc prisoners. Well, one and a half.
Soon the slave and the old orc are chained up in a wagon. Lothar’s trying to interrogate him, but the slave informs him the orc doesn’t speak human language. In an… interesting… stylistic choice, the orc speaks half a sentence subtitled in orc language (“Say one more word in their language”) and then switches to English for the next clause, “and I will wear your tongue.” He gets angry enough that he pulls his chains out of the floor and rushes at her, prompting Lothar to stab him through the neck at an… interesting… angle.
Smash cut to the king’s throne room. The slave’s name is Garona, which sounds like that of another recent movie character played by an athletic black woman with her skin painted green.
M-m-m-my Garona brings the humans up to speed on everything we already know about the orcs, but on all the subjects we don’t yet know, she’s frustratingly vague. For example, she straight up blows off the question of why she looks more human than the rest of the orcs. She also says that she learned the humans’ language from the human prisoners they took, which is a throwaway detail which dicks up the movie’s timeline considerably. How long ago was the gate first opened, exactly? Was it open at any point prior to that one time we saw at the beginning of the movie? Did Garona learn the human’s language before then, or since? If before, why hasn’t anyone in Azeroth noticed all these people being snatched away without a trace? If after, then are we to understand that the orcs have already been in Azeroth for the several months it takes to achieve basic fluency in a new language?
At the orc cap, Gul’dan is punishing Randy (whose real name turns out to be “Blackhand”—fitting) for running away from a battle by making him dip his hand in a magic green fire that causes death magic to slowly eat him. Super Good Guy Durotan can’t countenance this, and chops Blackhand’s arm off at the elbow before the green spreads to the rest of his body. “We fought hard!” he tells Gul’dan. “Their warlock used your Fel against us.” Gul’dan insists Durotan is mistaken, saying that only he controls the Fel. Durotan backs down from the challenge and runs off to commiserate with his wife, ruing the fact that so many orcs have been “infected” by the Fel magic, his own son included. We have no way of knowing whether he means “infected” metaphorically, or there’s something actually wrong with his son. Hope they’ll straighten that out later! But probably not!
Back in Stormwind, Garona is chilling in a jail cell when Medivh appears in the room and asks her who showed this door to their people. Garona says it was a demon with a voice of “fire and ash”. Then Medivh disappears when he hears the queen and Lothar coming to bring Garona blankets. They’re telegraphing his eventual reveal as a bad guy so hard they might as well give him a slicked mustache to twirl.
Meanwhile, Khadgar the Wonder Teen is upstairs in a bedroom fervently leafing through a pile of books looking for
masturbatory material clues to understanding the Fel magic. He comes across a drawing of the Great Gate, with the scribbled note “From light comes darkness, and darkness light. Ask Alodi.” This seems to unlock a huge epiphany in him. Hope they straighten that out later!
Durotan and Bald Guy, whose real name is Orgrim, are back in the orc camp. Durotan remarks that the orc world started dying when Gul’dan came to power, and even now, they’re seeing the land start to die wherever Gul’dan works his evil magic. “If we are to make a home here,” he says, “Gul’dan must be stopped.” Orgrim says they’re not strong enough, and Durotan broaches the subject of an alliance with the humans.
So if you’re keeping score at home, Durotan burned through most of a character arc in the space of a couple of scenes. Is Duncan Jones a competent enough screenwriter to keep him busy for the next… hour and twenty minutes? Ohhhh mercy, I need some Dramamine. See you next time.