“Warcraft” and the perils of self-love

So, to describe how bad this movie is, allow me to use up my quota of ugly metaphors for a moment. You ready? Final warning…

The movie adaptation of, “Warcraft”, directed by Duncan Jones and co-written by Charles LeaVitt, with cinematography by Ramin Djawadi and editing by Paul Hirsch (yes, THAT Paul Hirsch)…is a wet fart. A long, smelly, wet fart. A PASSIONATE wet fart, made by someone so deep into the thing they love that they don’t care to notice that other people have to be around them as well. A wet fart made by a person who has consumed the thing that caused it for a long time, with as much enthusiasm as anyone would have for something that actually has a lot of merit in its own terms. Just gorging and gorging, enjoying its details, its ingredients, the traits it shares from other things. Consuming it all…but what does this person leave for the rest of us? Well, a series of rushed, unintelligible explanations about how special the thing they’re enjoying is, followed by long periods of noise and…ok, this metaphor is breaking down. Look, “Warcraft” is just bad, it’s Nerd/Geek Culture’s very own, “Echo and Narcissus”, a display where its creators make a show of themselves in public yet demand that their audience be exactly like them in order to (maybe) grasp it.

And hey, a personal point of view (or at least one mandated by the corporate powers behind this production) is not a bad thing. There is a self that lies in all of us, even as it is a collection of what one picks up from their culture and circumstances. People should be heard, people should get a chance to talk…but it’s one thing to let your freak flag fly, another to be inconsiderate. That’s the line this movie crosses from almost the very first frame. It opens with a duel on a undisclosed location between a hulking Orc and a raggedy human, with good scene composition and some very impressive animation with the Orc himself (contrary to what the trailers may suggest, these beings are believable and amazing…and are also given the short shrift by this movie)…and then there’s narration explaining that these beings have been at war for a long time. The whole movie is a like that: a display of solid, good visual chops smothered by the movie’s clunky approach to world-building. It manages to be too self-important to outright mock, so it morphs from being an idiosyncratic tale of conflict, survival and even disillusionment into a work so self-interested it can’t even muster the ability to smile (or, at least, give the audience a chance to smile, because the editing of the theatrical release is ellipitical one moment, abrupt the next. And not in ways that establishes mood well or challenges one’s perceptions. Poor Paul Hirsch).

The thing about making a movie is that at the end of the day, one has to consider people. I don’t mean, “Demographics” or, “Intellectual Properties”, that’s how we get shit like 2013’s, “The Lone Ranger”. I mean that one has to consider how people work. It’s the core of what makes genres work, no matter how extreme they are or how complex. This doesn’t mean watering down what makes one’s point of view unique, it means making a bridge between you and the viewer. It means treating the audience with respect. “Warcraft”, unfortunately, disrespects its audience at almost every turn with wooden dialogue, stern tone and jumbled vision. Talking about the plot makes one weary, not just because of how the movie fails to engage the viewer while taking them for a ride through a thick mythology, but also because it is a reflection of how much Nerds and Geeks take themselves seriously, if not outright demand to be taken seriously…only to fail at the most important component of actually being taken seriously: meeting the other person at their terms like a fucking adult (or, well, a mature person of a certain persuasion, whichever fits).

Empathy is harder than it seems. Yes, we can pat ourselves on the back for being, “Good People” only to be the complete fucking opposite. We can buddy up with people only to rub them raw and/or have them reveal their harshest animosity towards us. But that is no reason to shun basic modes of communication, or to do away with communication through elaborate cocoons that will collapse sooner or later. “Warcraft” is moviemaking through hoarding, ritualized narcissism and corporate pandering disguised as vision and individuality. Which is a shame, because like I said, there ARE merits in the lore this movie explores, they’re just not consistent. The art direction actually shines even with heavy CGI, the story (provided one understands the exposition dumps) has genuine bits of moral gray and emotional complexity. Yes, the Orcs are undoubtedly some of the finest bits of modern CGI/Motion Tracking to grace the big screen yet, and while one may snark about their story being basically, “Alien Invasion + Tribal Stereotypes + Noble Brutes Helping The Bland, Mostly White Humans”…I like them. In fact, the entire survival plot involving the Orcs and the introductory sequences with them are the high marks of this movie, even as they’re smothered by narration/bad editing/jumbled direction, and even if it’s all set up with a dull sequel tease that immediately follows a convoluted betrayal that barely registers because it feels like the moviemakers ran out of time and money to flesh it out.

But none of that matters, because the movie is too self-interested to mean anything to anyone but fans. It’s a kind of sad, toxic feedback loop: here’s a project that has been in development for  YEARS (hell, at one point, Sam Raimi was attached to this project), only to find a massive fan in Duncan Jones, who has made two damn good movies called, “Moon”, and, “Source Code”, respectively. Millions of dollars, a passionate fanbase…and it just fails. But hey, we, “fans” get it. The critics and naysayers just don’t like it because they Don’t Like Videogames, or Are Paid Off By Disney/Marvel, or some other bullshit excuse we’ll use to brush off artistic criticism of Shit Nerds and Geeks Like.

The only people who really understand us…are us. So we should keep this shit to ourselves, fellow nerds. Who cares about the normies? Who cares about people? If they were worth listening to, they would already be Like Us. You know, the people whose entire beings are based on consumption, consumption of things that may have started out as passionate product but like all else under capitalism becomes another arm of a world that colonizes our selves and milks us dry in the name of loyalty.

What self-pitying bullshit.

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