Mar 26, 2020
Warcraft (2016), a recap (part 4 of 7)
Our story begins in the mid-1960s, when a musician from South London named David Jones decided to change his last name to avoid confusion with the then-famous Monkee Davy Jones. Taking the mispronounced surname of an American frontiersman as his own, David Bowie went on to sell 140 million records, influence thousands of musicians, and fundamentally redefine pop music, fashion, and stardom. In 1971, the birth of his son inspired him to write the hit song “Kooks”.
This son, initially known as Zowie Bowie before changing his name to Duncan Jones in adulthood, became a filmmaker who won a BAFTA in 2009 for his outstanding directorial debut. David Bowie finally died in 2016 after a legendary five-decade career, and Duncan, finally freed from the pressure of living up to the accomplishments of his iconic father, made a colossal three-flush turd of a movie called Warcraft.
In what we’ve covered of Warcraft so far, the orcs have invaded the human world of Azeroth, and they’re having a war about it. One of the orcs is good, and one of the humans is evil. This is called “complexity”. The orcs have been brought to the human world with the help of evil green life-sucking magic called Fel, controlled by an evil orc named Gul’dan. A human named Medivh is similarly evil, but everyone’s pretending they don’t know yet. Lothar, a general of the King’s armies, must get the captured half-orc Garona to bring them to the magic gate, and for some reason teen runaway Khadgar has to go too.
Lothar is fitting Garona into her own set of armor for the journey, while trying to hypnotize her, cobra-like, by beaming overwhelming waves of horny at her. It’s skin-tinglingly uncomfortable, and she finally has to hint at him to knock it off.
They ride for ten seconds or so, with Khadgar furiously leafing through a book while he rides, and suddenly it’s nighttime. Lothar tells Khadgar he’s got first watch. Khadgar is offended, but Lothar insists: “I thought we bonded when I didn’t put you in a prison cell for breaking into the Royal Barracks.” Yeah, um… why didn’t you do that again? It’s not like he’s been a huge help so far.
Around the campfire, Garona declares of Khadgar, “He wishes to lie with me.” This line is awkward in itself, but made more awkward by how this movie can’t seem to settle on a language register to use. Sometimes they talk in highfalutin Tolkienese, sometimes in Primetime CW, and sometimes every point in between. Khadgar affirms his honorable intentions, and Garona says, “Good. You would be injured.”
“How’d you survive?” asks Lothar. “You don’t look all that different to us.” To us? To us. Remember, folks, there’s one character in this scene who’s not a native English speaker, and it ain’t him.
Thus begins a massive depressing circle-jerk of oversharing. Garona intimates that her name means “cursed”, and that her mother was burned alive for giving birth to her, but Gul’dan kept her alive for reasons. She was beaten a lot, and hints that she was raped a lot too. Unprompted, Khadgar decides to start moaning about how his parents gave him to the
Jedi Kirin Tor when he was six and he never saw them again. He’s very sad about this. Not sure it measures up to being a chattel slave and target of physical and sexual abuse, but go off.
They’re soon at the Great Gate. Like, they’re literally up on a ledge, looking down at it. Lothar asks why there are so many prisoners, and Garona, who if you recall went over this back in the throne room, explains, “Like wood for a fire. Green magic takes life to open the gate.” “How many orcs are they planning on bringing?” Lothar asks. “All of them,” says Garona, again. She literally explained all of this back at the throne room, so why are they here? Like, did they not believe her?
Lothar tells his men to go back to Stormwind. “We’ll ride ahead,” he says. Great. Again, why did they come here? Oh, that’s right, because Duncan Jones couldn’t figure out any other way to get Durotan and Garona in the same room. Durotan grabs Khadgar and knocks out Lothar so he can talk to Garona about meeting the human kind for an alliance. They arrange a time and place. It’s an emotional encounter. Durotan is anxious and conflicted, but resolved. Garona looks like she took too much cough medicine and is trying not to fall asleep during church.
The camera then zooms over a series of CGI landscapes featuring human towns being wrecked and burned, and it’s so fake-looking I keep expecting the Game of Thrones credits to roll. Cut to Medivh’s Fortress of Bachelortude, where Medivh apparates in his study and thirstily dips his hand into the blue magic pool. “The Fel is everywhere,” he tells his manservant.
Medivh refuses to stay in his tower and play it safe, because the kingdom needs their Guardian. “Maybe the boy could help?” asks the manservant. Okay, this is really starting to get confusing. Khadgar seemed to make it pretty clear that he renounced his vow and quit his training to replace Medivh, but everybody else is still talking like that’s a thing that might happen? Why? Are they the only two sorcerers in the whole kingdom?
Back in Stormwind, there’s a circular table where a whole lot of stuffy political types are rabble-rabble-robbing at each other, and all are extremely mad for obscure reasons. From watching them argue, you’d get the impression that there’s a complicated internal political situation with a lot of angles to it, instead of a situation that’s no one’s fault, everyone’s problem, and very straightforward to deal with.
King Llane Wrynn (superfluous letters and a Y instead of I! That’s a Fantasy Name double score) plays the resolute leader and says if they do not unite they perish da da duh bluh bluh. There’s a random elf at the table who wants to know where Medivh is.
Lothar bursts into the meeting to tell the King some shit that Garona already told him, i.e. that the Orcs are building a portal. King Wrrynnnh suggests a recess and one of the delegates at the table says, “Take as long as you like… we’re done here!” What the fuck are they so mad about?
Somebody tells Lothar that his son’s unit took heavy losses, and that his son got injured. Lothar runs down to the medical tent, where Callan has a gash on his head but is basically fine. Lothar frets a lot over him, and by “frets”, I mean makes a face like he’s glancing from his UPS delivery confirmation to his empty porch.
In the throne room, Lothar, Garona, and the king are musing about Durotan’s offer to meet. Lothar smirks and suspects it’s a trap. “It is not,” says Garona. “Could be,” says Lothar. “It is not,” says Garona. “Could be,” says Lothar. “It is not!” insists Garona. That pretty much sets the tone for this scene.
After the king decides he’s going to do it, the queen gives Garona a dagger to defend herself with, as a sign of their trust in her. Or her trust in them. Or something. It’s not really clear. What’s important is that Garona gets a really distinctive-looking dagger that the camera lingers on for a while, so Duncan Jones can prove he really does know how to use a Chekhov’s Gun, after all.
Cut to Khadgar’s fap chamber, in which Khadgar walks in to find Medivh staring at all the dozens and dozens of pages of stuff he’s copied out by hand and hung around in a very conspiratorial fashion. This is all his research, see, and he’s been doing it ever since he felt the presence of the Fel. Medivh magically burns it all. “Don’t presume you can help me,” Medivh hisses. “You have no idea of the forces I contend with.”
Khadgar runs downstairs to show a blithely uninterested Lothar the one drawing he was able to save from the conflagration. It’s a copy of the Great Gate picture we saw him look at earlier. He turns it to the side, touches the paper, and makes some Harry Potter magic happen in which what previously looked like a mountain now grows animated hands that beckon. He says this means that the orcs were let into the gate from the other side. Pssh, of course it’s going to look like that if you add the moving hands.
In a volcanic valley, Orgrim, Durotan, and a couple of Durotan’s clan are watching the human delegation trot up on their horses. They meet, and the king and Durotan start talking. Durotan, obviously, can only speak Orcish, so Garona acts as interpreter. When the king asks why Durotan wants to betray Gul’dan, he launches into a monologue in English. He’s still speaking Orc, of course, but we’re suspending our disbelief. It’s weird, but at least it happened earlier in the movie so the precedent’s established.
Here’s where things get kooky. Before, when Durotan was still speaking Orc, Garona was telling King Llane what he said in English. But once he switches to English, Garona carries on in the background in Orcish! Why? Why would Durotan need Garona to translate his words into Orcish? Is Warcraft afraid we won’t understand what’s going on if there aren’t two languages being spoken? Why would you even have him switch to English in the first place if you were going to do this? I just… I… I feel like I’m having a stroke.
The camera zooms in on some random piles of rubble to reveal orcs hiding underneath. Once Khadgar and King Llane formally enter into a conspiracy to kill Gul’dan, they pop up and attack Durotan’s clan, led by the guy who lost his hand earlier. Durotan gives Llane a meaningful look and smacks the nearest enemy, spilling green blood (even though orc blood was purple in previous scenes). The humans try to retreat but more unfriendly orcs pop up out of the ground, and they start fighting with all the ferocity of siblings tussling over a Nintendo DS that their mom said they had to share.
I kept my promise from last week and figured out how to do video capture GIFs. Here’s one, and keep in mind this is supposed to be one of the highlights of the battle:
If anything, the compression I had to do to make the file size small enough to upload is making it look more kinetic and exciting than it really is. This GIF also highlights one of the main things making Warcraft’s combat so boring – namely, that the orcs get stabbed too easily. Garona’s spear goes into his belly like a hot spoon through ice cream. It lacks any visceral impact; no visual indication of resistance, almost nothing in the way of sound effects, little blood. It’s extremely cartoony. I know by making this criticism I run the risk of sounding like a serial killer, but physical impact is what makes fight scenes feel more involving than a very expensive dance. This is an especially egregious offense in a movie that actually wants us to emotionally identify with orcs.
All the humans are wondering where Medivh is. Where he is is way up on the valley’s crest, and he’s… heh heh… having a little trouble… ahem… getting the magic to happen.
Lothar throws Garona a spear to fight with. Callan is feeling big for his britches and leads a charge against Blackhand, who’s riding on a direwolf. They get into a shield formation and stab his wolf when he rides over them. At this moment, Medivh finally gets his magic to work, but instead of one of these life-sucking spells which would come in handy right now, he erects a magical barrier across the valley. Lothar looks up, grins, and whispers, “Medivh.”
This allows most of the humans to escape, but it has the unfortunate effect of trapping Callan’s squad with a bunch of orcs on the other side. Lothar notices and screams at Medivh to take the barrier down. But he’s shit out of luck: it’s one hour into the movie, and according to Save the Cat, something huge has to happen right now. Callan’s sword is stolen by a nameless orc, but Blackhand holds him off until he knows Lothar is watching. He holds up the new gnarly claw attached to his stump and drives it into Callan’s chest. Brass cries, strings wail, and Lothar looks gassy.
Whew! What a lot of something or other. See you next time!