World of Warcraft is the Wal Mart of gaming, but Blizzard has a long history of excellent promotional shorts. Their best work is this haunting Wrath of the Lich King cinematic, with dynamic visuals, great music and several thick layers of irony, or this fantastic short that was part of a series leading up to the Warlords of Draenor launch. As if to drive the point home, still months from launch, Blizzard released the cinematic for their next expansion the same day Universal released the theatrical trailer.
Look at that! Not their best work, but still, there’s a lot going on here. Universal story elements like father-son relationships, facing death, the dichotomy of war and peace and learning racial tolerance are all present. And! Giant green magma monsters!
And hey! When Varian actually says things out loud, his lips move and his voice sounds at the same time! This may seem like a really baseline thing, but it’s apparently more than Universal can manage.
That’s the biggest of many gripes with the new Warcraft trailer. At two points, characters pull a wild ventriloquism act, speaking some words while clearly mouthing others. Most times we see foreign language films, they’re dubbed over in English, because Americans don’t like reading, so this kind of thing is really easy to recognize and extremely annoying in English language movies. Most of the speech in this trailer doesn’t match up to anything, and it’s difficult to comprehend why they would use shots of the pertinent characters talking if they’re not saying the pertinent lines.
The idea of this being OK may have had something to do with the idea that the shots flash so quickly, no one would be able to notice anyway, which is another major complaint. This trailer is a god damn strobe light. The fade-out-on-every-shot effect is something that’s become popular in trailers, despite adding nothing to them, making them more difficult to watch and being an effect that would get you laughed out of Hollywood if it were in the final cut. It’s an asinine trend, but Warcraft takes it to a whole other level, with tightly packed visual effects scenes that are already fading out before they’ve completely faded in, turning large segments of the trailer into a completely ineffective blur.
What can be seen isn’t encouraging. The orcs look fake as hell, the costumes and settings look cartoonish, the battle scenes shot from a distance look like they were completely rendered in CGI and even the human soldiers look just as fake as the orcs when in full armor. Worse than looking fake, they all look uniform. One of the best things about the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the success of which was a big enabler for World of Warcraft, was the level of detail that went into every individual soldier of every race, particularly the orcs. Jackson and company went to CGI motion capture for The Hobbit and took a lot of charm and individuality out of their monsters, and Warcraft seems to have even less to offer.
The promise of this movie is that it will bring a beloved world to life, and given the extremely weak visuals, the absence of major races that were present when this movie is set, glossing over of the orcs’ demonic possession and the completely made-up storyline with one of the orcs — is it Durotan (Toby Kebbell)? I can’t tell! They all look exactly the same — betraying their kind to the humans, this trailer promises that Warcraft will do no such thing.
And while all of this is going on, Blizzard will produce at least another half hour of stunning promotional material for its next expansion, every second of which will be head and shoulders above this trailer. I don’t know what input they had, but it wasn’t enough.
Warcraft will release in theaters June 10.