With no prior knowledge on the video game franchise it hails from, Lee reviews “Warcraft”, or “Warcraft: The Beginning” if you hate titles that much.
More often than not, sincerity leads to failure. Perhaps because it thrives with vulnerability; to be sincere is to open oneself to the elements. To passionately declare aloud how you feel without a second’s hesitation invites all criticism, and to then try to stand by that declaration when there are always so many more ways to interpret a thing than there are to mean a thing requires a steel heart and an empty head.
It’s this dumbfounding, incredible lack of caution regarding what people might think that kept me enjoying “Warcraft” to the final two-hour mark. Earnest doesn’t begin to unravel how passionate these filmmakers were in bringing a world like Azeroth to the big screen; from beginning to end, “Warcraft” stumbles through every single overwrought fantasy cliché proudly with such pure-hearted intention that it could only result in general failure.
Failure to tell a cohesive story; one that might wrap up its narrative with a satisfying conclusion. Failure to introduce us to three-dimensional characters that we can enjoy and contemplate beyond the mere functions and actions they perform to move the plot along. Failure to explain the rules and boundaries of the world/worlds in which it presents its narrative, leaving us to guesswork. These are just a few conventions we have come to expect from modern cinema, and their absence leaves “Warcraft” feeling incredibly dated for a blockbuster fantasy serial in a post-Lord of the Rings world.
But it’s that refusal to fit today’s standards that makes “Warcraft” so endearing. No narrator means we have to piece the world together using the ludicrous unexplained proper nouns being thrown at us by every character. Characters who then address each other by their full names before receiving a moment to explain their role to someone they are supposed to intimately know. Characters that then take part in fantasy movie politics, which generally amounts to “bad guy leads stupid people, always.” There are so many moments this movie could have nudged and winked to the audience, letting us know it was in on how camp and old-fashioned the whole affair is, but it never takes the opportunity. It marches on, boldfaced, determined to tell its ridiculous tale with not a hint of irony or regret, and it’s all the better for it.
Even more impressive is how much money the filmmakers clearly had to tell the story. Every character design is unique, every race varied and original, every costume impressive, every setting massive, every action scene over-the-top. Where fantasy movies like this have to hold back the firebolts so as not to burn the budget down, “Warcraft” just keeps hurling spell after grandiose spell and never lets up.
It also feels miraculously untouched by the usual studio interference; nothing feels wedged into the story by proxy. This was simply the work an issue-ridden script, a director with a keen eye for fantasy action and a team dedicated to capture the feel of an 80s-era pulp adventure novel, complete with incomplete story and hints at a much, much bigger world than we could ever really expect to see.
I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting “Warcraft” more than a few times in the years to come. Sincerity makes for good fantasy, which seems obvious when you think about it. There’s something so charming about being utterly unaware of how standard your movie is, and I’m almost positive repeat viewings will yield treasured moments to share with like-minded friends, so there’s my recommendation.