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November 6, 2015

Let’s Talk About That ‘WarCraft’ Trailer

So that sure was a trailer. We’ve got the somber piano music to start, as a world-weary voice says some vaguely ominous things. Then we’re treated to an establishing shot of something suitably breathtaking.  The CG looks good, if a bit cartoonish, but it certainly looks better than any of the junk from The Hobbit.  The color correction is a bit cheerful; I’m sure they’re going for the fantasy van beauty of World of WarCraft’s vistas but even as a series purist I find it a bit overdone.  All in all, I think this would’ve worked better as a purely animated movie but I know that’s an even harder sell than the CG/live-action thing it is.  I think from a purely technical stand-point the CG is above par (and my expectations), and the movie looks mostly good. But I’ve been at this whole internet thing long enough to know that people are going to shriek like pissed-off owls, no matter how good or bad it looks.

I appear to be the sole WarCraft franchise devotee of the CHUD writing staff, so I have been elected to comment on this because well… people just aren’t hot on this property.  I can see why, from an outsider’s perspective, that might be: WarCraft just looks like an overcooked Tolkien fan project until you get into it and see how it subverts all those expectations and trappings.  Fantasy is a hard sell, even for devotees, because the genre has always been littered with scads of horrible knockoffs and lazy retreads of better ideas.  It’s hard to stand out, especially when your whole schtick is built around being familiar.  Reading people’s thoughts on this gives me that nervous panic feeling I get when a thing I like so much as to consider it “mine” is placed out in the mainstream for public scrutiny and I have to with-hold my urge to just shout about how everyone else is wrong and you need to give this a chance and all that.

This is gonna be my sole public commentary on WarCraft until this film comes out, so let me try and break down what is actually happening here, because it’s a bit too complicated to explain in a two minute trailer.  The two brown orcs we see walking with bags over their shoulders are Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and his friend Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky).  You may notice that these two are brown-skinned and the majority of the others are green-skinned, there’s a reason for that.  As Durotan says, their world is dying and the orcs are the ones who did it.  I don’t know how much they plan to reveal here but the green orcs are a result of some trickery by some godly powerful creatures from another world, they trick the orcs into drinking water tainted with their blood which makes them stronger, but more bloodthirsty and easy to manipulate.  The conversation Durotan is having with his wife is related to how they know that everything is coming crashing down around them, but they have no option but to stick with their own people.

The green woman with the tusks is Garona Halforcen. In the games she’s born shortly after the Orcs’ first assault on the human world years prior.  The games have since retconned a lot of this and I won’t even get into what her racial background is now, and at this point it’s really not important, but at one point she was meant to be half-orc/half-human.  What is important is that she’s going to be working for both of the movie’s bad guys: the Orc sorcerer Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu) and the human wizard Medivh (Ben Foster), neither of whom are in this trailer as far as I can tell. The baby is Thrall, which is a huge spoiler for everything (assuming you know what the word “thrall” means), so let’s just say that I very much doubt that this trailer is evocative of what will happen in the movie. The whole hook of this story is that both of these races of free-thinking beings are being manipulated by the same otherworldly force (short explanation: Lovecraftian demons) that is using orcs to destroy worlds and the humans to spur the orcs to greater violence.

This is a bad trailer — awful, even —and I really don’t know who it’s for.  Hardcore fans can see glimpses of a few things that might excite them but people just wondering what this whole thing is about are going to see something that just looks like another random fantasy blockbuster. That’s the real problem. I can’t speak for the quality of this movie, obviously (though it looks good), but I can speak for the source material and the people who are making it (except screenwriter Charles Leavitt, whose involvement concerns me). It has potential like you couldn’t imagine. This is one of the richest fantasy narratives in existence and I see glimpses of it in the trailer, but that’s only because I’m looking for them. Someone compared this (based on what they’ve seen so far) to Seventh Son and The Last Witch Hunter and I nearly vomited in my mouth.

WarCraft looks like it may be the movie that fans have been waiting for, but it also looks like the big flop of Summer 2016. Hopefully, the marketing department can get their shit together and figure out how to sell this thing. But I don’t foresee there being a problem finding a seat when I go see this next summer. I’m just going to try and enjoy this while I can.