Whatever the reason, video game movies can’t seem to get a fair shake. Since the rise of gaming as a full-fledged cultural forced in the ’80s, Hollywood has tried, and repeatedly failed, to crack the code for recreating the success of games onto the big screen. The results have been, to put it politely, mixed. The annals of recent movie history are littered with groan-worthy efforts that miss the mark, be it from misunderstanding the source material, as with Super Mario Brothers and Street Fighter, or from half-cocked efforts, like Doom.
Warcraft was supposed to be the savior. The Duncan Jones (Moon) directed adaptation of the popular franchise was, from all initial appearances, going to finally get it right and give a video game story the proper cinematic treatment it deserves. We know better now. Warcraft landed with a critical dud that, while pleasing to some fans, failed to make an impression on the domestic box office (overseas, however, the film did quite well). The problems with Warcraft might be difficult to pin down, exactly—the film looked incredible, and featured a star packed cast that included Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) and Dominic Cooper (Preacher)—but did little to impact the genre in any meaningful way. Lucky for us, Honest Trailers is on the case.
In typical Honest Trailer fashion, the satiric critical analysis of Warcraft provides some keen insights into what went wrong with the would-be-savior of video game films. In just a few short minutes, Honest Trailers distills the critical and fan reaction to Warcraft into a digestible and entertaining take on the film. The reason? Like all critical reactions, it’s complicated, but Honest Trailers trains its laser point right square on Warcraft’s incomprehensible plot.
Though fans of the Warcraft series of games are quick to point out that they had no trouble following the plot of the film, to audiences at large, with no knowledge of the mythos and lore that comprise the universe, Jones’s film was a hard-to-crack nut that too seldom released its meat. There’s a lesson in there for any producers that might be thinking about trying their hands at reproducing video game magic for movie audiences.
Warcraft’s main problem was simply a pendulum swing in the opposite direction from game movies that came before it. Where movies like Super Mario Brothers disregarded the core of the story to create something new, Warcraft was reverent to a fault. In doing so, it required mass audiences with no background or history with the universe to dive right in and understand what was going on and why. That’s a tricky balance to strike, to be certain, but the first video game movie that walks that line will probably find a wider success.
Honest Trailers handles this perfectly with their snark-laced critique, pointing out many moments that simultaneously pleased the hardcore fans and alienated mass audiences, humorously dismissing characters as indistinguishable from each other (in the case of the orcs) and as boring (in the case of the humans). Even while admitting the film’s positives, such as the fact that it looks gorgeous compared to its forebears in the vide game film genre, this Honest Trailer pulls no punches as it sharpens it teeth in preparation for the skewering this movie deserves.
Even for Warcraft’s fans, it’s hard not to laugh along with Honest Trailers, who here plays the role of the confused newb wandering into the world of Warcraft for the first time. As ever, they’ve produced a video that’s one-part scathing critique, and at least a half part homage, that’s fun to watch and enjoy, no matter how you felt about the film that it skewers.
Warcraft is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.