Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Warcraft- Orcs v Critics

WARNING: Some spoilers for 'Warcraft- The Beginning'
I finally got around to seeing the Warcraft movie today. I wasn't exactly agog to see it initially, and the critical reception had not been kind, but a couple of things changed my mind. Firstly, it has a very unusual split between the critical and audience ratings- Rotten Tomatoes gives it a meagre 29% 'fresh' from critics, but a very solid 81% from audiences. That tends to pique my curiosity a bit.

Secondly, and more persuasively, were the tone of some of the negative reviews I read. Reviews criticising bizarre things, like the ones complaining that the costumes of the human characters were 'ridiculous'. Depending on their age, I'd invite anyone levelling that accusation to take a look at what they were wearing in the 1970s. For that matter, take a look at Tudor fashions, or the bizarre bustles and crinolenes Victorian ladies were saddled with. Not to mention 18th century France's fashion for exposed nipples. As it was, I ended up a bit disappointed at how conservative they were. (No, I wasn't hoping for the nipples. Ok, maybe a little.)

I always get very suspicious when movies get 'witty' comments made about them by critics. Things like 'Warcraft- full of Orcs or just Orcful?' (geddit?) or the immortal, evergreen 'Game over!' from some guy who somehow thinks no-one else could possibly come up with that one. It smacks of a writer who's already come up with his clever put-downs and will be damned if he doesn't use them.

So, if anything, I went into Warcraft rooting for it a bit. I played the old Warcrafts back in the day, though I spent my share of time grumbling about the shameless rips from WFB, and spent more time than I should on WoW. (I got a character up to 'Commander' rank using the original honour system, which if you remember it will tell you everything you need to know there). I'm no lore expert in the universe, though, so some things probably flew over my head.

So what did I think? Well, as is often the case I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It's not the train-wreck those critics would have you believe it is, but something seems to have gone a bit squiffy in the editing room. I'm no film expert- I read AICN, followed Roger Ebert in his later days and have a lot of time for Mark Kermode but that's about it. I'm certainly not one of those people who'll bore you for hours about how Hitchcock is superior to Shyamalan, or what Cameron does right that Bay botches, but I know the basics. Often in Warcraft, particularly in scenes where the human characters are talking about something, there's evidence of heavy cuts. One moment in particular sees two characters bend down to pick up a crate together while talking, then immediately cuts to them sitting down a little way away with no apparent break in the flow. That sort of thing is far less evident when the Orcs are around, probably because the CGI work in them was expensive and no-one likes leaving money on the cutting room floor. From the point of view of the film-maker's craft, there's certainly stuff going on here that's not right, and it can leave you scratching your head a bit. Medivh, in particular, pops around by portals so much that it starts to look like he never walks anywhere, and one scene has him sitting on a horse, only to announce he's going back to Karazhan, which is obviously going to be another portal job. Quite what the horse is doing there we never find out.

We also don't get much of an idea of the politics that are seemingly stopping everyone else- the Elves, Dwarves, the Kirin-Tor mages and a bunch of other guys who aren't really introduced- from getting involved. There's just one loud, shouty meeting where everyone reacts to imminent extra-planar invasion by deciding to go to lunch. It all feels a bit odd, as do the rules for portal magic in general, which seems to be able to send anyone anywhere except when it can't. Then there's the duel in the Orc camp which exposes Gul'Dan as a coward and cheat and then seems to achieve practically nothing.

You might be getting the impression that not much in the movie is any good, but that wouldn't be true. The world, particularly the Orcs, looks amazing. Famous locations like Ironforge, Dalaran and Stormwind are faithfully represented (even if lore experts point out Stormwind shouldn't exist yet and Dalaran shouldn't be flying). We get to see a Sheeping, there's a Murlock hiding in a river, we get brief glimpses of the last Draenei and the pre-WoW High Elves. The actors acquit themselves pretty well and there's fun for fans of Preacher with Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga as the king and queen. (Not to kick a hornet's nest, but Stormwind's mixed-race population seems a little odd for the world it's in, and fine actress as she is, it's a bit of a stretch to have Ruth Negga as the sister of a Lothar played by Travis Fimmel.) Even little details, like the way the Griffons fly (and Khadgar's panicked scream as his mount comes in to land at Stormwind's low-ceilinged flight point) are well observed.

In the final analysis then, not a terrible movie. If you're a WoW fan, basically a must-watch if only for informed ranting. If you're not, one that's an interesting curiosity but safe to skip. For me, it comes nowhere near the guilty pleasure that is the DOA movie, but it's probably at least as good as most of the Resident Evil or Mortal Kombat efforts. A director's cut will be interesting to see, and if the team are allowed to make the sequels they wanted to make, I'll be there. But we'd damn well better get a Dredd sequel if that happens.

Damn straight, creep.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

About Time...

SPOILER WARNING: This post will contain spoilers for Legends of Tomorrow, and possibly for the Arrowverse in general.

So, I just got done watching the finale of "DC's Legends of Tomorrow." Overall, for a DC novice like myself, it was a fun experience watching characters I'd sort-of-heard of galavant through time. Lest anyone label me a Negative Nancy, a breed the Internet has a surplus of, I'll single out Wentworth Miller, the always awesome Victor Garber, and Brandon Routh for their fine work in the show, and we all know Arthur Darvil is getting a kick out of not-quite playing The Doctor. (Time (aha) will tell if killing Miller's character off is the disaster for the show that it feels like to me)

Anyway, the thing that strikes me about LoT is that it takes the most spectacularly bone-headed approach to time travel I have ever seen on TV. The only thing that comes close in terms of sheer WTF factor is the movie "Looper", a film of such monumental stupidity that I suspect that when the screenwriter dies, the total IQ of the planet will increase. In the finale, the team finally has the opportunity to kill immortal bad-lad Vandal Savage (a guy who probably went to the same Evil Name Class as Damien Darhk and Killgrave) by killing him at three places in time, simultaneously, because due to the shenanigans he's pulling to reset time back to ancient Egypt, he's briefly not immortal any more. If your monitor, phone, or tablet just turned itself off, it's simply reacting to how outstandingly dumb that previous sentence was.

Leaving aside causality for a moment (keep the faith, causality fans, we'll get there) let's look at one of the more common bits of boneheadedness the show uses. I call it 'Narrative Time', and TVtropes seems to call it San Dimas Time. The idea that three events, in three completely different time periods, are happening 'simultaneously' makes exactly no sense unless the time frame from which the viewer is watching is the only one that's real. On multiple occasions in the show, the characters will be onboard the TARD Wave Rider acting as if they only have a short while to prevent something happening, even though that something is happening in the year 1978 and they're currently travelling back there from 2016. Of course, you need to preserve some narrative tension, but the knots the show ties itself in to get there are incredible.

Now, on to causality (told you we'd get there). So, the whole point of Rip Hunter's mission in the first place was to stop Savage killing his family in the future. Why not just pick them up in your fancy time-ship and move them, we ask? Apparently every time he's tried. he fails. We don't get any more detail than that, which is lucky because it's the dumbest thing since they built a firework factory on a Zeppelin. Anyway, they fail to prevent the death of the wife and child (despite still being able to go anywhere in time to try again) but decide to stop Savage anyway. (Despite his triumph coming over a century after they'll all be dead of old age.) Of course it's lucky they ignore my snarky brackets, because Vandal is in fact about to blow up all of time post ancient Egypt. Oh hell, now my own post is going back in time. Anyway, much heroics, characters previously unable to so much as ruffle big V's beard beat him like a government mule in three time periods at once, and victory! Thing is, that means our Big Bad just died in 1958, and since he went back in time and told his younger selves what to do as part of his Evil Plan, that means there's still only one of him, even if for a while in each timezone there were two of him. So, with him dead in '58, he can't be alive in the other two timezones (and he'll miss Woodstock). So Rip's family is saved, yay! Or nay, because apparently they aren't, and killing El Savago in '58 doesn't do a damn thing to him in '75 or 20-whatever. By the time another  TARD Wave Rider has shown up with a message telling them not to get on their own ship again or they'll all die, Time might as well pack up and move to a Refuge For Battered Metaphysical Concepts, because she's been well-and-truly done over.

Let's not worry ourselves about the fact that at the end of this season of The Flash, Barry seemingly deleted his own show by time-travelling back to his own origin story and stopping it. I still don't know how Eobard had GIDEON, or where she went after his defeat.

DC have a bad rep for messing up their continuity so badly that they occasionally have to blow up the world and start again. It's a bit of a shame that this is creeping barrelling headlong into their TV output as well. With Supergirl apparently coming into the fold too, heck knows what's going to happen next. Or has happened next. Or happened last but didn't not happen yet.

I think if Rip Hunter suddenly turns up in "Gotham" I might do something dramatic.