12 June 2016

Why I Still Love Duncan Jones

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It's so easy to write something mean-spirited after seeing a bad film. I mean, I would quite literally rather be punched in the balls than see Transformers: Dark Of The Moon again. Director Michael Bay has been compared to Hitler on more than one occasion, which I think has always seemed a little harsh on Hitler. Obviously Uncle Adolf's actions were slightly more devastating to the world, but at least he had the excuse of clearly being a mental bastard. Plus, you get the feeling with Hitler that at least he was passionate about all of the evil things that he did. When talking about his career, Bay said “Why do I work so hard- to think I'm only going to see this movie five times and never see it again 'cause I'm so sick of it? What is it worth, honestly?” Well, 'a little bit of whatever soul he has left' I guess is the answer to that. Bashing people like Bay is therapeutic because as well as being solidly shite, his movies are also completely cynical. Thousands of kids are paying good money to watch a hollow film based on their toys that's fucking loaded with pure misogyny and racism and exists for the single purpose of taking their cash.

I mention all of this because I saw Warcraft: The Beginning yesterday and, in honesty, I thought it was pretty rubbish. However, unlike with Bay, I'm deprived the chance of a 'bad film rant' because I'm a fan of the man at the top. Duncan Jones has made two films previous to this and both were fucking brilliant. Just look at his first film Moon, for example. Not only is it one of the best sci-fi movies of the last fifteen years but it also features Sam Rockwell. I mean, Rockwell is an amazing actor that's just not in enough films as it is, which admittedly is something that I'd still say if he was in every film with the exception of one. Jones not only realised this but seems to be the only person smart enough to also realise that if one Sam Rockwell is good, then two Sam Rockwells and basically no other cast is fucking perfect. In his second film Source Code, Jones decided to see what would happen if you took the concept of Groundhog Day and turned it into a Hitchcockian slab of sci-fi brilliance. All that effort, when in reality, if you wanted to improve Groundhog Day, then all you'd need to do is recast Andie 'is it raining? I hadn't noticed' McDowell.

It's therefore a shame to report that Warcraft: The Beginning was pretty fucking terrible, because as a fan of Jones, I thought he'd be the person to break the 'movies based on computer games are shit' curse. I suppose it's also worth mentioning that I've literally never played a single second of the game of which this film is based. To be honest, I didn't even know that Warcraft and World Of Warcraft were two separate games until my mate starting telling me about them and I was forced to zone out of the conversation. In fact, the only thing I really know about the property is that a weird sweatshop thing was once found in which people were being forced to play for hours on end. I think they were collecting things in the game that were then sold on to other people. However the conditions were so bad that they literally weren't even allowed to leave to go to the toilet and were instead forced to wear nappies and shit their pants in front of each other. A mean-spirited person might suggest that a lot of that shit ended up in the boring script for this movie here, but I'm not being a mean-spirited person. Plus I'm pretty sure that all that shit had probably all already been used up for the Transformers: Dark Of The Moon script.

Still, it almost definitely is the script that's the problem for Warcraft: The Beginning. To start with, literally every single character in the movie speaks absolute gibberish. So you'll have an orc named Fingle-Fangle screaming about how he needs to get to the Dipsy-Funk before Lord Tittle of Drimble can put the Gurnie Curse on him. I mean, obviously I've just made that shit up, but it's not a million miles away from what's in the movie. Maybe if you've played the game then all of that will make sense but I don't think that I should have to spend 800 hours of my life playing something in order to understand a stand-alone movie. Plus if I'm going to spend 800 hours of my life on a computer then I'm not going to spend it pretending to be a fucking orc. Not whilst we live in a world in which porn exists, anyway. Sadly, rather than something of class, these knobbish-nouns put Warcraft nearer to the feel of John Carter, which is a travesty of a film in which the word 'tedium' was clearly their key inspiration.

I suppose you could argue that it's the same with Star Wars too, in which if you didn't know any better you might think that a 'jedi' is something that you catch after having somebody fart on your pillow. But the one thing that Star Wars had in its favour was Han Solo. Whenever anybody said anything that sounded hokey, he was there as the audience's voice to call them out on their shit. In which case, perhaps you could argue that The Lord Of The Rings also involves people using stupid words with an overly straight-face... however the difference here is that that franchise used good actors and had really strong characters. X-Men's Magneto as a wizard with a pointy hat? Sounds great to me. X-Men 3's Angel as a wizard in a shitty dressing gown? Meh.. not so much. Perhaps the other thing that Lord Of The Rings did was give us a good hour of just a birthday party before any of the shit went down. It might have seemed indulgent at the time but it gave us a glimpse at the various characters' humanity and a hint at the life that they'll ultimately be fighting to save. Beyond the fact that they are defending their world from the invading orcs, do we really know anything about any one of the human characters in Warcraft? The only thing that I can think of is that they're all either crap at emoting or are simply made of fucking wood.

However on the bright-side, that's only true of the human half of the movie. One of the interesting things that Warcraft: The Beginning does attempt to do is to break down the cliché of goodies versus baddies and instead depict the complexities of desperation and war. Sort of. Do I believe that Michael Bay is like Hitler? Of course. However do I believe that all Nazis were evil? Of course not. Well, the same is true in Warcraft in which both sides are shown to have their nice guys and their turd-nuggets. As a result, the main orc whose name I don't remember is actually a pretty enjoyable character. I was also pretty impressed with the way in which his story resolved itself which seemed pretty novel for a mainstream movie. It's also worth saying that the CG here is insanely good. This includes the world in general but I suppose I'm specifically referring now to the orcs. Did they use computer effects to create the orcs or did they simply stick steroids into the secret survivors of Chernobyl? Either way I believed what I saw. The only problem again is that a lot of the orcs looked kind of similar and also had those Timble The FudgeSlayer-styled stupid fucking names, so it was pretty easy to lose track of who was doing what and to who. I guess at the very least, my inability to distinguish those characters gave me some insight into how it might be to be a real world racist.

So yeah, Jones has built a fairly convincing world but then filled it with so much plot that the characters don't get a chance to breathe... which sadly means that nor do I care about the plot. Lord MingeBasher might need to get to The Swamp Of Heavenly Gasses but if I don't care about Lord MingeBasher then why would I care about his mission? However unlike with Michael Bay's terrible movies, I think that Warcraft: The Beginning failed despite the love and ambition of the filmmaker in charge. Whereas Bay only cares about how much money his crap makes, I think that Jones would legitimately want to make something good. I mean, a cast that has two Sam Rockwells and nobody else might be brilliant but it doesn't exactly scream 'I want money'. Has he failed here? Sadly I think so, however that doesn't diminish him as a filmmaker in my eyes. Even Spielberg made the crappy 1941 before following it up with Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Following that pattern, I think that although this film was a disappointment, I've already set time aside in my diary for his follow up movie Mute. I'm not entirely sure what the story to that movie is but if it means that nobody will be able to talk for its duration then it's already an improvement over Warcraft: The Beginning. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.