Warcraft Review

warcraft5Anyone knows me knows I am not a video game player. I have a lazy eye and so video games have always been tough for me to play and so I’ve never had any interest in them. However, I’ve seen a good movie based on a board game in Clue. I’ve seen a good movie based on an amusement park ride in the first Pirates movie. Anything can produce a story worth telling on the big screen.

I wasn’t planning on seeing Warcraft with everything going on getting ready for my trip but I ended up with a free evening so I figured- why not give it a shot? I went into the theater with an open mind hoping to at least have dumb fun and I came out baffled. I think I’m a pretty smart person but I can’t think of when I’ve been more confused over a film’s narrative in my life. I couldn’t even tell you a name of a single character.

The thing about a movie like Lord of the Rings is it seems complicated but in reality it is very simple. There is good vs evil and a powerful ring that needs to be destroyed.  That’s it. Everything else is either an obstacle or assistance to that objective.

We also build characters slowly. We start with 2- Frodo and Gandalf and then add Mary, Pippen, Sam, Aragon, Legolas etc.

warcraft4

The problem with Warcraft is it splits its time between 2 groups- humans and orcs. It’s never clear who is the good guy and who is bad. There are many characters within each realm and each has a backstory and motivations. Without a lead narrator to focus on like say Willow in Willow it felt impossible to remember all of this. I guess that’s where being a fan helps because you already know who all these characters are.

Then there is magic called the fel and a portal but I didn’t really understand what that magic did or how it was used. The rules of the portal were very murky.

And some scenes just didn’t make sense. Like towards the end the characters are battling and then Travis Fimmel’s Lothar is knocked down to the ground. The screen goes black and he wakes up. All the orcs are watching him and then he takes on the leader orc. Why are they all watching him? What has changed from when they were just battling with each other? I have no idea.

warcraft6There is also a pool with special fel powers that seemed to be both good and bad. Ben Foster plays Medivh who is a wizard I think but he’s no Ian McKellen. That’s for sure.  Most of the time he seems good but then he is bad and I didn’t know why he was bad.

warcraftmoviebonePaula Patton is one of the most beautiful women in the world and she looks like a bad Princess Fiona at Comicon. She is half orc-half human but her relationship with Lothar and Dominic Cooper’s character is confusing.  She’s so wooden in the part I think she will be nominated for a razzie.

warcraft4Toby Kebbell is the best part as Duratan but the movie goes away from him for long sections and I felt like he should have been more of a narrator. It was confusing why the bad orc Gul’dan didn’t just take Duratan out when he had the chance. Why did the orcs put up with Gul’dan was never clear when Duratan seemed like the natural leader? There was the fel but I didn’t get it.

warcraft3Honestly I fell asleep twice for a minute or two. I guess it looked ok but other than that I found Warcraft to be a boring mess. I’m told fans of the game love it, so that’s cool. I can only speak for myself and say it didn’t work for me.

The acting was also really poor from everyone.  Glen Close does appear and that scene made no sense to me (sensing a trend here…). But Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Paula Paton, Ben Foster, Travis Fimmel, Daniel Wu have all done good stuff but here they all felt flat and wooden.

My advice to future fantasy directors- KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid.  Fantasy that works like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings are at their core simple stories of good vs evil and a heroes journey. All the cool special effects and world building mean nothing if the story doesn’t work for this kind of movie. KISS! KISS!

Overall Grade- D

Movie 52: Wreck-It Ralph

posterMichael Phelps of the Chicago Tribune said about Wreck-It Ralph:

“You’ll either love it or you’ll admire it, while wishing it would calm down and, I don’t know, maybe pick up a book for a while”

I think that is so true and unfortunately I fall into the latter category.  I want to like this movie because a lot of other people love it but it just doesn’t do anything for me.  I know, I know.  Don’t hate me.

The Production-

The idea behind Wreck-It Ralph is to combine Who Framed Roger Rabbit for video games and Toy Story in a traditional arcade video game world.

Naturally to make the movie they had to license properties from all kinds of video games like Sonic, Pacman, and Super Mario Brothers.  However, the main bulk of the movie is spent in new lands so for someone who knows nothing about video games most of these cameos did nothing to excite me. (unlike seeing Bugs Bunny and Mickey together in WFRR).

They created 4 main worlds or settings for the movie.  There’s Ralph’s game a traditional 80s arcade game, a train depot in between worlds in the power strip, a . halo =like game called Hero’s Duty and a massive section of the movie in Sugar Rush, a play on Sugar Crush (another game I’ve never played before).

These worlds are beautifully created but kind of like Treasure Planet once I got used to them,  they stopped being as spectacular.  I wish they had gone through a lot of games in rapid fire succession so you spent 10 minutes in one game, 10 in another instead of nearly an hour in Sugar Rush.

The power strip depot
The power strip depot

I kind of wish they had gone with songs and traditional Disney music.  It would be fun to see what they would come up with.  Instead, they went with a soundtrack featuring Owl City, AkB48, and others and it was completely unmemorable to me .

Wreck-It Ralph is directed by Rich Moore of Simpsons and Futurama fame and you can sense their influence but without near as many jokes.

The voicecast is good with John C. Reilly great as Ralph.  However, I am in the minority that is not a fan of Sarah Silverman.  I find her incredibly grating and annoying in this movie.

The Story-

The first 20 minutes of Wreck-It Ralph go quite quickly (the movie is too long. 101 minutes which is longer than the typical Disney film) .

We begin with Ralph who is the bad guy in an old 80s style arcade game.

fixitfelixjr530pxBut Ralph is fed up being the bad guy and even goes to a 12 step group to deal with his frustration.  I don’t know any of these games but it is a funny scene nonetheless.

self helpFinally on the anniversary of the game Ralph is slighted from the party and bolts. He is told at the party that he will never win a medal and be part of the team like Mr Fix-it is.  So his goal is to get a medal.

This is a little bit of a problem because he gets the medal very early on so the last hour of the movie is a series of delays to get back to his game and be crowned the hero.

But he starts out in a land called Hero’s Duty because he hears they give out medals.  He meets a hard talking fighter named Sergeant Calhoun voiced effectively by Jane Llynch (who must have had a blast finally not playing a comedic part)

Wreck-It-Ralph-Jane-LynchThe design is cool in Hero’s Duty but as a non-fan of these types of games it gets old quick.

Then they get to Sugar Rush and WAY too much time is spent in this Candyland world.  It is bright and colorful but after a few minutes I grew weary of the color scheme and especially of Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope von Schweetz.

maxresdefaultBasically Vanellope is a glitch and if she dies she will not be brought back in the next game.  This is why King Candy (a pretty good villain) has forbidden her from racing in the Sugar Rush race. She, like Ralph, is pushed to the outskirts and so they bond.  I feel like these interactions between Ralph and Vanellope take forever and the whole time I know exactly what is going to happen.  There is even that moment where the teammates misunderstand each other and storm off pouting.

The world is neat to look at but I fee like it isn’t that neat.  I’ve seen similar worlds in everything from My Little Pony to Care Bears to the Barbie movies.  And I just felt like the characters were so predictable.

Eventually we get the big race, a confrontation with the bad guy ala Ben Hur in Sugar Rush (although his secret did surprise me).  It turns out Vanellope is actually a princess and not a gliche and Ralph returns the hero.

cast
Unfortunately 7 of these characters have very brief screen time

Movie Review/Conclusion-

I suppose this movie is like Sword and the Stone- a movie everyone else seems to get but doesn’t do anything for me.  The animation is better than Sword in the Stone for sure but the story is predictable and nothing new to me.  There aren’t near enough jokes and some of them are lost on me, a non gamer.  We also get Sarah Silverman who drives me nuts.  I mean I love Fran Drescher but I don’t want her in an animated movie.  To me Silverman is equally shrill.  And I just think her ‘sweet little girl who belches’  routine gets old fast (they resort to the potty humor far too often in the movie).

I did enjoy the first 20 minutes and the premise has potential.  I wish they had spent time in more lands, zipping around like the doors in Monsters Inc.  Things get bogged down in Sugar Rush when a change of scenery could have kept me interested. Also, instead of introducing all these characters and then giving them one line I wish more of them were built up.  In Toy Story we feel a kinship with all the toys not just Woody and Buzz.  I didn’t get that type of character development in anyone but the 3 leads here.

That said, I can see why others enjoy it, especially if you are a big gamer you will understand a lot of the inside jokes (although my brother is huge into video games and he agrees Wreck-It Ralph is overrated).  I have a lazy eye so video games have never caught my interest.

I like the lead character of Ralph and John C. Reilly is very good.  Jane Llynch also does a good job.

So some things to like but overall just not my cup of tea I suppose.

(Like I said, don’t hate me!!)

In the end, it’s just not made for me and that’s ok. Not everything needs or should be made for my interest and tastes.  I can deal with that.

Overall Grade- C ( I have Sword in the Stone a C- so I’ll give this one higher)