WARCRAFT Trailer Finally Drops

This looks suuuuuuper goofy. So I’m totally onboard.

I really only have a passing familiarity with the “lore” of WARCRAFT (Paula Patton is a human/orc hybrid, I take it?) so my interest in this has been less about what it get’s “right” than about what it does to justify its own existence in a tonal/aesthetic sense. For me, the main thing that’s been kneecapping video-game movie thus far is that even densely-plotted stuff like WARCRAFT tends to be a melange of genre tropes where the originality comes either from unique design/character work or from the built-in strangeness that comes from interactive storytelling; but film adaptations have thus far tended to downplay much of the “video-gamey” weirdness – resulting in films that don’t seem to have much reason to exist.

If nothing else, WARCRAFT seems to have those priorities straight. This first trailer feels cut/scored to feel as akin (plotwise) to yet another LOTR also-ran, dialing back the plot/character/mythos details to focus on getting a mass-audience onboard, so the more interesting storyline we’ve been assured is in there is taking a back seat to the look of the thing – but man, it’s a hell of a look.

I’m especially liking that the design is very clearly erring on the side of new/different/interesting over “realistic.” Much as I’ve enjoyed seeing most of the genre from LOTR to GAME OF THRONES find a working balance between classical high-fantasy art and practical reality, WARCRAFT’s world is on a whole other bonkers level in terms of bizarre creatures and locations – half-measures in that direction were never going to cut it. I’d rather the Orcs be detailed and ridiculous-looking than photorealistic (the CGI is great, but we’re in Hulk-territory here where nothing is going to fool you into thinking this being can physically exist), or the humans’ armor/weapons to look like super-expensive cosplay, or the locations look absurdly over-designed than try to water down everything that makes this world worth inhabiting – I mean, I’m pretty sure that one gut at 1:07 has some kind of flint-activated shotgun in a medieval-fantasy setting. That’s wacky.

I imagine the question will be how Universal/Legendary think they’re going to sell a mainstream audience on this stuff. HARRY POTTER was the movie-arm of a once in a generation pop-literature phenomenon hitting at the zenith of its popularity. LOTR was already widely known and had the selling point of “You’ve never seen live-action fantasy look this huge before.” By contrast, the WARCRAFT franchise’s “moment” in terms of mainstream-ubiquity (i.e. WOW) feels like it came and went awhile ago, and “LOTR but twice as melodramatic and a thousand times more cartoonishly odd” doesn’t sound like a sure thing.

I doubt the studio is too worried – Universal is sitting on a ridiculous mountain of cash after a year of absolutely massive smash-hits (they literally went from a struggling industry has-been to having JURASSIC WORLD, MINIONS, FURIOUS 7, PITCH PERFECT 2, 50 SHADES OF GREY and STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON all hit in the same year) and we’re still in a gold-rush period where content-starved Russian and Chinese audiences are going to turn damn near any remotely-serviceable 3D-ready actioner into a moneymaker. But they’re looking for this to be a long-term multimedia tentpole, and other studios with game-adaptations in the waiting are hoping that either this or ASSASSIN’S CREED do the deed of finally breaking the genre for Joe Popcorn. That sounds like an uphill climb (and one they should’ve been advertising for much earlier than this) but I’m rooting for it.

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