The Problem With The Warcraft Movie No One's Talking About
When the first few Warcraft movie trailers came out, I was totally blown away. More so than any other video game adaptation, it really looked like they were staying true to how the game looks. The oversized armor, the weird colors -- it was like watching all the wasted weekends from my early adolescence come to glorious life.
I kept instinctively trying to click on the characters and make them say funny things.
Well, I saw Warcraft opening night, and while it's definitely the most faithful video game adaptation ever, it just isn't faithful enough. The movie is a failure not just for being bad but for insulting everything we love about Warcraft. I seriously don't understand the mistakes made by director Duncan Jones, writers Charles Leavitt and Chris Metzen, and Blizzard Entertainment. It's seriously baffling how different this movie is from the games that made Warcraft a household name.
The first and biggest problem is that there's not a single scene devoted to resource gathering, and, even stranger, I don't know how many resources the heroes have! Some of my favorite childhood memories involve clicking on my Town Hall, clicking the "build peasant" button, waiting for about 20 seconds, then telling that peasant to mine gold or chop wood. Then I'd click on the Town Hall again and click the "build peasant" button one more time, wait for 30 more seconds, and then tell him to mine gold or chop wood. "Right, m'lord!" he'd chirp, and once more I'd click on the Town Hall and then click on the "build peasant" button. After I'd built up a few peasants, I'd run out of food and have to have a peasant build a farm so I'd have the food to build more peasants. Then I'd have another peasant build a barracks and, finally, click on that coveted "build footman" button and begin building my army. "Not enough food ... build more farms," the game would say, so I'd click on a peasant moving between the Town Hall and the Goldmine, but he'd disappear into the mine before I could get the mouse over to the "build farm" button, and I'd have to find another peasant to click on. It's a fast-paced, riveting experience, and I couldn't wait to see it re-created on-screen.
I know these sprites better than I know my mother's face.
So you'll be disappointed to learn that there isn't any resource gathering in Warcraft at all. In fact, I don't remember a single Goldmine appearing on-screen, or any characters even mentioning how much gold they have at their disposal! At one point, there are a bunch of trees nowhere near a Town Hall, and I started quaking with excitement at the prospect of seeing a scene where a peasant builds a Lumber Mill so he can harvest the wood more quickly. I really thought that was the direction that scene was going. But instead we just get a stupid scene where characters fight and learn new information to propel the plot forward. A useless, disappointing waste of time. I don't know what the fuck any of them were thinking.
I had faith that Duncan Jones, the director of the phenomenal Moon, would understand that the heart of Warcraft is keeping track of gold and wood and spending that gold and wood on the creation of elven archers and footmen, but apparently he aspires to some loftier, more "artsy" ideas and therefore couldn't give the true fans what we really want.
Wondering how many hit points Lothar has? Or whether his attack crit'd? Warcraft can't be bothered to tell you.
Another huge problem is that we don't see anyone building a base. What greater pleasures does Warcraft hold for a child than letting them decide where to build a blacksmith? Or realizing that if you surround your archer-towers with farms, the enemy AI won't be able to attack it with melee units? There are few memories I cherish as much as those of upgrading my Town Hall to a Keep and finally a Castle, so that I could finally build a Mage Tower and start pumping out sick-ass mages. I couldn't wait to watch a scene where a peasant is issued an order to build by some unseen higher power and dives face-first into the dirt to begin constructing a massive Mage Tower all by himself. In fact, I spent the whole two-and-a-half hour runtime hoping for a single scene that'd scratch that itch.
Boy was I disappointed. Warcraft makes the ridiculous decision to begin the movie with all the human bases already built. And, strangely, nobody even discusses expanding them or building new ones so they can mine more resources. Admittedly, the orcs do build some bases, but it all happens off-screen, probably to make more room for the aforementioned battle and exposition scenes. When one character, the mage Khadgar, explains that as a child his parents gave him to the wizard council to be raised by them, I got the feeling I was supposed to be moved by his tragic backstory. But because the movie never even mentions where the Mage Tower is, or when they built it, or whether they had decided to train mages or gryphon riders first, I was totally lost.
Wondering what this spell's cooldown is? So is everyone else in the audience.
At the very least, I was hoping to see a scene where the heroes realize they have absent-mindedly trapped their army behind a wall of farmhouses, forcing themselves to have to blow up one of their own buildings and waste precious resources just to escape. I would've been happy with any kind of strategizing at all, even a single scene where a blacksmith agonizes over whether to upgrade the ground units' attack or hit points would've satisfied me. But it never comes up. Not once. That's right: This is a Warcraft movie with absolutely no math.
Perhaps worst of all, we never even learn where the crafters of this war are from. The story begins with Gul'Dan, an orc shaman, draining the life out of a community of Draenei to open a portal to Azeroth so his army of orcs can invade -- and yet there's not a single orc barracks visible. Where do they build them? How quickly can they build more? Without this information, I have no idea how sad to be when characters die, because I haven't the vaguest sense of how quickly they can be replaced.
How can I care about someone if I don't even know how much gold they cost?
Lothar, Warcraft's human protagonist, appears to be a gryphon rider by the fact that he is frequently riding a gryphon, but I never even see a Gryphon Aviary. And if he is a gryphon rider, that just raises the question of where they got the 2,000 gold necessary to build him; 2,000 gold is a lot of gold. You can't expect me to believe they just had that lying around. Also, where's your magic thunder hammer, Lothar? I mean, come on.
It would've been so easy for Duncan Jones to include a scene where the hero Lothar says -- and I'm just spitballing here -- "We need more men! Quick, build two Barracks at the same time and have some of those people chopping trees move over to the Goldmine for a while so that in about 45 seconds we'll be able to build two footmen at once!" Without that scene, I just kept checking my watch, eagerly anticipating my chance to go home and get lost in a story I could actually understand, like Uncharted or Doom.
Finally, (and this is perhaps the movie's biggest problem) whoever is controlling the humans is a total mystery to me. Aside from the fact that he kinda sucks at micro (at one point, a wizard casts a barrier spell in the middle of his own units, blocking a few of them off and setting them up for easy pickings by the orc horde. LOL GG bro). If I had known his win-loss ratio or even just his Battle.net account name (Silent_Bob420, perhaps), I would've been able to tell if he was pro or not and whether he was into Kevin Smith movies. Instead, nothing. I'm expected to believe these characters are just making decisions on their own. Well, listen, Blizzard: Your AI has simply never been that good, and expecting us to believe otherwise stretches our suspension of disbelief much too far.
Look, Hollywood, it isn't hard: Just give me exactly the thing I want, exactly the way I want it, every time. But don't worry -- the movie hasn't even been out for an entire week yet. Just do some quick reshoots and patch the scenes in, then I'll stop sending you death threats.
JF Sargent is a senior editor and columnist for Cracked.com who was actually never able to beat Warcraft II. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
See how Super Mario Bros. is more faithful to Warcraft in Understanding The 'World Of Warcraft' Using 'Super Mario Bros.,' and learn how to become the BB King in The 5 Hardest, Most Pointless 'World Of Warcraft' Achievements.
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