Warcraft (2016): a recap (part 7 of 7)
Previously on Warcraft: The hell, guy? You just started reading here? What gives?
The demon’s death causes an explosion of Fel magic that radiates from the top of Medivh’s penthouse and expands, denuding trees for miles around.
Khadgar and Lothar, who were at the exact epicenter of the explosion are… perfectly fine? That can’t be right.
Lothar hurries over to Khadgar’s prone form and demands to see his eyes. There’s no green in them, and Lothar sighs in relief. He hears his gryphon screeching outside (it somehow didn’t get vaporized in the green death cloud) and ekes out a quick “I’m proud of you” before running outside and diving off the roof to be caught by the gryphon, like a fantasy version of Don Johnson in Nash Bridges or some fucking shit.
Meanwhile, the body of Medivh, trapped in the empty pool under the broken golem, turns out to be only mostly dead. His eyes light up blue (the color of all that is pure and good) and he whispers an incantation. The dimensional gate lights up again, and displays the city of Stormwind on the other end.
King Llane sees this on the battlefield, and orders his men to usher all the recently released human prisoners through the gate. Hey, quick question, Mr. King? You didn’t know this was going to happen, so… what was your plan for getting the prisoners out?
The soldiers charge forward. Orcs are cut down by the humans’ guns, making big cartoony groans as they do so. Prisoners are freed en masse and hurried through the portal. A persistent background character who looks like Bill Burr (my guess is he’s some obscure World of Warcraft character plopped in for fanservice) distinguishes himself by pushing over a tower. “Come on boys!” he yells, “Put some spunk into it!”
“We should leave!” Garona urges Llane. Llane refuses: “We save as many of our people as we can!” Uh-oh, I smell a heroic death coming on.
Meanwhile, back in the tower, Medivh has stopped reciting the vitally important incantation that’s saving everybody so he can bellyache. “It’s the loneliness,” he says. “It makes us weak. Khadgar, I’m sorry. I wanted to save us all. I always did.” I don’t know what this has to do with anything. Is the movie trying to imply that Medivh let all the orcs into the country because he was lonely? That’s certainly, um, a motivation.
Then he dies, and the portal seals back up again. In a stroke of horrible luck, it closes at the exact same moment the orcs remember that they’re bigger than the humans and start pushing through the perimeter. Blackhand, newly mutated by Fel magic, shoves past his fellow orcs trying to get to the front of the scrum.
“Blackhand comes to claim the honor of killing you,” says Garona. “No good will come of us both dying,” the resigned king says. He suggests that Garona mercy-kill him, so that she’ll earn the honor of killing an enemy king, instantly become a high-status orc, and put herself in a position to push for peace between orcs and humans. It’s a really weighty plot development for such a connect-the-dots movie. One almost wishes Warcraft had gotten a sequel so we could see exactly how Duncan Jones would’ve ruined its intrigue.
With Blackhand closing in, Garona tearfully
slips her dagger down the collar of his shirt STABS HIM IN THE NECK and he’s dead. This is enough to make the orcs forget that she’s killed a lot of orcs and is literally wearing a human army uniform. They hoist her up on their shoulders and take her to Gul’dan, who proclaims her a true orc.
No sooner has the king’s corpse been triumphantly tossed into the orc crowd than Lothar swoops in on his gryphon. It’s been what, several in-movie minutes since he left? That is one fast motherfuckin’ gryphon! Its powerful muscles, which were only just now engaged in flying at however many thousand miles per hour, are now being put to the task of absolutely wrecking the orcs. I mean, it’s savagely kicking over and clawing and biting one orc after another, making a big enough perimeter that Lothar can take a leisurely stroll over to get the king’s body. Damn, why isn’t the gryphon cavalry a thing? If a gryphon’s this good against a whole horde of orcs, you could surely knock over a human city with, like, four of ’em.
But alas! The one thing the gryphon isn’t strong enough to do is evade Blackhand’s grasp. He grabs the gryphon by the foot as it tries to fly away, and slams it down to the ground. Lothar wakes up a short while later, and finds that instead of just gutting him like a fish where he lay, Blackhand has kept him alive so he can do that stupid orc honor duel-type thing. Why? Because the filmmakers have decided that Lothar should live, and this is the only remotely plausible way for that to happen, awright?
Lothar trails his sword point on the ground, because the director has seen samurai movies.
The two warriors rush at one another, raise their swords, and then… I don’t even want to say this. You’re going to think I’m making it up. Oh, you insist? All right. Lothar drops to his knees, slides between Blackhand’s legs, and stabs him in the dick.
Lothar makes quick work of stabbing Blackhand in the back while he’s howling in pain. And with that, he’s won the duel. Gul’dan is furious. “Kill him!” he bellows, but Garona insists he won fairly. This suggests some precedent in the history of orc honor duels in favor of dick-stabbing.
Gul’dan shouts for someone to please murder Lothar; instead, they’re all giving gestural props to him as he walks by to retrieve Llane’s body and get his gryphon back. Garona stops him from killing Lothar himself, because the honor duel is a sacred tradition and no one will follow him if he besmirches it by killing the victor. Yeah sure, just like they stopped following him after he cheated in an honor duel? Everybody’s severely overestimating how much Gul’dan’s supporters care about his integrity. Glad we don’t have that problem in the real world.
Lothar flies back home, meets Khadgar in Stormwind, and shows him the dagger he found in King Llane’s neck—the same one that Garona had. “There has to be an explanation,” insists Khaddyshack. Lothar muses that maybe they didn’t know Garona as well as they thought they did.
Later, at King Llane’s funeral, the humans, the other humans, the dwarves, and the elves have all gathered. The queen chastises the gathered nations for displaying insufficient unity while the king was alive, and urges them to unite against the Orc threat. “Was King Llane wrong to believe in you?” she asks. The citizens shout, “No!” One person shouts, “We will avenge you, my lady!” and another yells, “Lead us against the orcs, Lothar!” (Dear Duncan Jones: there are, in fact, ways to let the viewer know how a crowd feels that do not involve them literally speaking their thoughts.) Lothar accepts the honor.
Exit on the Warcraft title card… aww, you didn’t leave your seat yet, did you? Just for that, have one more scene.
Baby Go’el is floating down the river like that… um… Bible… dude. You know, one of the main ones, the one that was really into guns. While Go’el attempts the Bird Box Challenge, Durotan’s voiceover arises out of the past (or possibly it’s Durotan’s ghost in the present; there’s no way to tell) and says, “You will travel far, my little Go’el. My world is gone, but this is your world now. Take what you need from it. Make a home for the orcs, and let nothing stand in your way.” And it just goes on like that. Go’el drifts into some shallows and comes to a stop, where he’s immediately picked up by a guy in a poncho. “My lord, you should see this!” Go’el growls at his unseen rescuer.
And that’s the end of Warcraft, for realsies. I began this recap musing about why so many video game adaptations suck major goat hog, and I hoped to use Warcraft as a kind of case study. I regret to say that I’m no closer to a coherent theory on this topic.
However, I think I have an idea what could have saved this particular movie: camp. Warcraft is unbearably ponderous, painfully self-serious, and beset by delusions of being smarter than its source material. A movie where soldiers wear bright blue bejeweled armor and fly around on Yoda-eared lion birds ought to feel more fun than this. Everything’s too rushed, half-baked, and under-thought to be affecting, but too joyless to be interpreted any other way. A good sense of irony and a willingness to embrace its own ridiculousness would have made Warcraft go down a lot easier, but it was hamstrung by its aspirations of being a capital-E Epic. Since 2020’s now in spitting distance, I want to go on record saying I hope Hollywood leaves “epics” in the 2010s where they belong.