May 28, 2020
Warcraft (2016): a recap (part 6 of 7)
Last time on Warcraft: The relentlessly plot-driven narrative continues to toss our hapless characters around like mice in a dryer. Durotan’s tenure as a clan leader has come to a dramatic end, Draka’s on the run with their baby, Medivh’s been possessed by (or possibly has turned into) a demon who’s working with Gul’dan to let the orcs into Azeroth because… well… it just seems like the kind of thing demons do, alright? King Llane still, bafflingly, exists and is going to lead an assault on the gate that will bring the orcs through, and Lothar isn’t going because he’s in jail for attacking Medivh. Not because Medivh is a demon (Lothar doesn’t have any clue about that), but because he just really doesn’t like that guy. Khadgar went on a completely unnecessary errand to a city in the sky, where he met up with a ghost who didn’t tell him anything new and talked to some wizards who won’t help him.
The camera threads through a bunch of cages filled with human prisoners. The prisoners are helpfully saying things like, “We’re thirsty!” “Free us!” “Take pity, we need your help!” Durotan is in one of these cages. He hasn’t been killed yet, because if there’s one thing everyone knows about orcs, it’s their respect for due process of the law.
Orgrim sneaks up, bashes in the head of a guard and frees Durotan, after which Durotan socks him in the tummy for betraying him. Oh yeah, I guess I forgot to mention: Orgrim teamed up with Blackhand during the orc-on-orc ambush in part 4. Don’t worry, that won’t affect anything at all.
“I am sorry, Durotan,” he says. “I did not see how we could side with the humans against our own kind. I was wrong. Gul’dan’s Fel magic is destroying us.” Uh, yeah, the Fel magic was destroying everybody before. Absolutely nothing has changed. You’re just shifting your loyalties around for the hell of it.
“They would not follow him,” Orgrim says, “if they saw what he has become.” “Then I’ll show them,” Durotan says. Show them what? Again, all the orcs already know that Gul’dan uses evil death magic. They all saw him do it at the beginning of the movie, and many times since. He’s not keeping it a secret. What are you going to “expose” about him?
God, this is all just so dispiriting. Nothing is happening for any reason. No character is exerting any real agency over the plot. This movie is like watching wind-up toys wander around and bump into each other, except the toys cost 137 million dollars.
Fade to Stormwind at night. The entire city has gathered in the streets, apparently just to watch King Llane and his entourage leave the city in complete silence. One thing I didn’t notice is that there’s a statue of Medivh in the city. Llane stops to say goodbye to his family and tells his little son to keep everybody safe. The Queen smiles blandly.
Cut to a sweeping establishing shot of… Stormwind, again. I’m told Duncan Jones directs movies, so he really ought to know it’s called an establishing shot because it establishes a location, and it’s not needed when you’re already in a place. We know it’s the same location because the statue of Medivh is right there. Khadgar flies in on his gryphon.
Back in jail, Lothar is summoning every crumb of cunning in his iguana brain to try to con the guard into letting him loose. He’s failing (and how!) until Khadgar comes along and turns the guard into a sheep. He mentions that the spell works for about a minute, provided the target is “simpleminded”. Okay, somebody who’s played World of Warcraft, enlighten me: do you really have to make a Will save or whatever to avoid getting turned into a sheep? How’s that make any sense? Khadgar picks the keys up off the ground next to the sheep, because they didn’t disappear into the sheep’s body along with all the guard’s armor and spear and everything else the guard was touching.
Khadgar’s gotten a bit big in the britches ever since becoming the Chosen One, and he’s bossing Lothar around, ordering him to leave the king to his errand and come fight Medivh with him. He starts drawing a magical teleportation sigil on the ground, because that’s a thing he can do now. Like, right now. Like, as recently as several seconds ago he was relying on a gryphon for transportation. They grow up so fast (sniff)…
Meanwhile, Draka is running through a field someplace, with orcs in pursuit. She stows her sword in the ground and wades out into a river to float baby Go’el to
drowning exposure starvation safety. One of her pursuers meets her on the river bank, and she jumps at him, rips his throat out with her teeth, and gets a sword through the belly for her efforts. She’s dead. A lone flute in the score stubbornly insists this is poignant.
Durotan appears outside of Gul’dan’s tent and declares “I am
Maximus Decimus Meridius Durotan and I want to challenge et cetera.” Gul’dan accepts the challenge, “if only to personally rip the heart out of your pathetic body.” Blackhand informs him that he must be ready at the portal when the incantation begins, but Gul’dan accepts anyway, saying that this won’t take long. They commence to brawling.
Medivh and Lothar teleport into Medivh’s pad. They find the corpse that Medivh hasn’t bothered to clean up. Medivh, who’s turned into a White Walker…
…picks up Lothar with a magic ghost fist and begins squeezing him so hard that a puddle of Drakkar Noir forms under his fist. Khadgar distracts him with a spell and he relinquishes Lothar. We cut to Durotan and Gul’dan fighting for a little bit, and when we cut back again, Khadgar and Lothar have somehow gotten away and are hiding under a staircase. Medivh starts reciting an incantation that Khadgar (somehow) recognizes as the incantation to the Orc homeworld.
Gul’dan sees the Great Gate start to light up—which is exactly what Blackhand said would happen—and panics and asks to tap out. Blackhand says that there’s no ending an orc honor fight once it starts. Frustrated, Gul’dan starts sucking the life out of Durotan, and the orcs don’t like this one bit; apparently, this is cheating. We know because they say stuff like, “That’s cheating!” “This is not our way!” and “Traitor!” Undaunted, Gul’dan picks Durotan up in a bear hug and hugs the life out of him until he’s dead.
Orgrim says he’s not going to follow Gul’dan anymore and encourages all the other orcs to do the same. Enraged, Durotan sucks the Fel out of three orcs near him and gives it to Blackhand, encouraging him to become “stronger than any orc has ever been” to “crush the small-teeth”. And that’s all it takes to get all the orcs back on his side. Sure seems like Durotan’s death didn’t mean much, did it?
King Llane, Garona, and others are leading a bunch of soldiers to the orc camp. Garona sees a Frostwolf orc corpse, fallen victim to a bloodless PG-13 crucifixion, and deduces they’re not going to get any orc help. Resolving to free the human prisoners, Llane orders the charge.
Meanwhile, Medivh is still pacing around speaking the incantation, and Lothar is asking Khadgar for ideas. Khadgar tries to blast Medivh with some spells. “Very impressive,” Medivh says. “Now try shutting him up.” The golem in the corner comes to life and starts speaking the incantation itself. “Well, that went well,” says Sitcom Dad Lothar.
There’s more extremely boring combat going on in the meantime. Remember that flintlock gun from the beginning of the movie? The dwarves made several thousand more and the human soldiers all suddenly have them. They’re using them to cut down orcs while charging, which those famously sturdy, accurate, and simple-to-operate antique firearms would certainly able to do. I realize that in a fantasy world, technology doesn’t necessarily develop the same way as in the real world, but… you guys realize that you can make bigger versions of those, right? Like, maybe a really big one, mounted on wheels, that could maybe used to destroy a stone structure from far away?
Back at Medivh’s digs, the golem dips his hand in the green magic pool, turns his fist into obsidian (well… okay), and flails at Khadgar. And obviously, a mere ton of hardened clay is insufficient to squish a human. Lothar is riding on the golem’s back, trying to gag it with a thick wire, when Medivh aims a spell at him. The golem falls backwards and its upper body crashes through the window. The wire that Lothar is holding cracks its head in two, and the top half falls thousands of feet to the ground, stopping it from speaking the incantation. This was obviously a very detailed golem which had a brain and lungs and larynx and vocal musculature, and thus needs a complete head in order to speak.
The golem stumbles around a bit, mute, and Khadgar affirms that now Lothar will have to speak the incantation himself, and they’ll be able to get in close, like that first time they were able to get in close while he was speaking. Wait, no! He knew they were there and repelled them easily. This movie is inconsistent. Inconsistent, I say!
Khadgar tells Lothar to distract him and get him into the fountain. Lothar walks up to Medivh and pleads with whatever portion of Medivh is still in there. But unfortunately, there is no Medivh, only Zuul. Medivh grabs Lothar by the neck and picks him up with one hand while still speaking, which is a possibility they seem to have overlooked.
Instead of killing him, Medivh throws him over to the other side of the pool and steps in. I guess when Khadgar told Lothar to “get him into the pool”, I was thinking more “push him” or “trick him into getting in”, not “wait for him to step into the pool of his own volition”. He grows several times in size and sprouts a full black metal regalia.
Meanwhile, Khadgar is using his very recently acquired powers of teleportation to draw a sigil in the ground, and he lures the golem over to it. The golem disappears in the sigil and reappears right over the fountain, crushing Medivh. But the fight’s not over yet! Khadgar now has to step into the green-infested pool by himself.
He encases Lothar in a protective blue bubble before his eyes turn green and he starts struggling with the demon. He dunks the demon under the magic green water, where he begins struggling and turning more human. He doesn’t turn into Medivh, because that would make too much sense; he turns into some guy we’ve never seen before. Lothar shouts encouragement from his bubble. “From light comes darkness,” Khadgar says, “and from darkness, light!” His eyes glow blue again, and all of a sudden, there’s a flash of yellow light that even I recognize as the World of Warcraft level-up animation.
And on that thrilling note, I must pause to rest my poor overworked heart. Tune in next time for the conclusion to Warcraft!