The WoW Movie

I have finally gotten around to the inevitable World of Warcraft movie blog post. I know it comes a couple weeks too late (the film was released on 30 May in the UK after all), but a late review seems fitting given the film itself is 10 years too late. Had the film come out in 2006, perhaps coinciding with The Burning Crusade expansion release, it would likely have had a much bigger and more positive response and I probably would have blogged about it sooner. Blogs existed back then, right? ūüėČ

As it is, the film has been tanking the aggro of plenty of negative reviews (27% on RottenTomatoes, FYI). In addition to proclaiming it ‘unwatchable’, Variety magazine wrote, “It shouldn‚Äôt take a mage to foresee that this pricey and preposterous adaptation of an online gaming phenomenon was preordained for artistic mediocrity.” Not to be pedantic, but mages can’t predict the future in Warcraft lore- that’s more of a shammy thing. Accuracy of game¬†references aside, the primary critiques seem to be that 1) the film takes itself too seriously, and 2) it is inaccessible to non-players.¬†In my opinion, and I am not a scholar of film by any means, I completely agree with the first critique and completely disagree with the second.

Let’s start with the first. The film was far too serious to be associated with the Warcraft brand. Sure the game’s lore often deals with serious themes and the Warcraft novels, which provide much more background than the game series by the way, question grave themes like racism, genocide, faith, and tradition, the games themselves do not feel somber. Blizzard’s brand has always been the lighter side of fantasy, both figuratively and literally.

When World of Warcraft launched in 2004, its aesthetics were a departure from the faux-realistic art style of Dark Age of Camelot and the high fantasy trappings of Everquest 2.¬†Visually, it was a departure from the drab greens and browns of even its own Warcraft RTS series (although Reign of Chaos comes close to sharing WoW’s bright blues and reds). WoW allowed you to play gnomes with tufts of cotton-candy coloured hair, dance on mailboxes, and annoy fellow players with in-game items like the toy train that made everyone in the vicinity /train. Scattered among life-or-death battles in Azeroth are exclamations of “Me not that kind of orc!” or “You no take candle!” The fact characters could /silly is a testament to the cheerful¬†feeling and form of WoW that made it so distinctive from other fantasy RPGs.

It therefore comes as a total shock that, aside from a few well-placed Easter eggs, the film feels humourless. This is reflected in all the reviews calling it boring. I won’t bother to cite them all here, just look on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is drab and lacks the bright visual stimulation of its MMO counterpart. It tries for gritty and grown up without realising that viewers have Game of Thrones for that. A huge opportunity was missed to bring the cheeky and cheerful charm of the game to the silver screen.

Now that I’ve been somewhat agreeable, let me disagree with the second critique that the film left non-players in the dust. To me, albeit I’ve been a WoW player since 2004 and a roleplayer at that, the film was no more ‘inaccessible’ to non-players than the Game of Thrones TV show is to non-book readers. Yes, you have to pay attention. Yes, the names are tricky to say. Yes, you might get a sense that not all threads are being tied up for you like the typical Hollywood blockbuster. Its a fantasy film based on a fantasy world which has over 35 novels written about it, its going to have a lot going on and a lot of characters moving relatively quickly.

I actually think the film was too watered down for non-player audiences.¬†The few memorable highlights for me were when we caught a glimpse of a murloc, when a sheep spell was used, and when a cork with iconic blue and red feathers was seen bobbing in a river. The film could’ve gone further with the in-jokes and game references. I would have liked to see a mage get scared and spam arcane blast until they OOM’d, or I would have died laughing if Lothar had asked Medivh to conjure refreshments after he climbed the stairs of Karazhan. Now I’m not saying that a Warcraft film should go full Barrens chat, but a few nods to the game’s humour would go a long way.

The ultimate verdict? Although the film misses good opportunities for fan service and humour, it is entertaining enough to merit the ticket price.

The (Un)Erotic Nature of Vampires

It is about that time of year again. The air is crisp, the leaves are falling, and I have an insatiable urge to listen to ‘Fall Children’ off AFI’s All Hallows EP. I also have an urge to begin my annual re-play of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines. It is tradition. And, given the law of the internet, because I mentioned it you probably want to go re-play it too. It’s okay. Go play. I’ll still be here when you forget you haven’t installed any of the fan-created patches and run into one of the game’s many glitches.

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The Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones, 1897

Anyway, as the title of this post suggests, we’re here to talk about how gross vampires are. I mean, take the banner image above. The silhouette of the titular character from¬†F. W. Murnau‘s¬†Nosferatu¬†(1922) looks like Mr. Burns having a quiet evening at home. So how do we go from that image to the one on the left? How do we go from gross monstrosity to erotic companion? Well, this post wasn’t meant to be about how I apply my makeup in the morning, but hey oooo! Okay, I’ll stop with the jokes. This is a blog post. This is serious! (It really isn’t).

There is a temptation here to blame contemporary portrayals of vampires in the media. As tempting as it is to climb aboard the “I hate Twilight” bandwagon, there’s little merit in doing so. Vampires have been sexy for quite some time, but it is usually a dangerous or forbidden type of sexy. I think the main reason people take issue with the sexiness of Twilight, aside from the¬†creepy-stalker love story, is the lack of danger. Edward Cullen is to vampires as Judd Nelson circa The Breakfast Club is to the bad boy archetype. It just doesn’t strike the same erotic chords as the truly forbidden.

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I suppose we could add a third forbidden sexuality: zoophilia?

Vampires touch on two forbidden types of sexuality- and by forbidden I mean they have made guest appearances in the DSM from time-to-time. Let’s start with the obvious: necrophilia. Because their biological functions have ceased, any sexual interaction with a vampire is by default an act of necrophilia- right? Maybe you could argue that because they can consent, it doesn’t count… but, whatever. They lack a pulse. Which, coincidentally raises other questions about how sex with a vampire might function. How does their blood pump to the areas it needs to facilitate intercourse? And surely all their orifices are like dried shoe leather? In World of Darkness games they can spend blood points, which makes sense, but in other mythos…

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“Carmilla” by D. H. Friston, 1872, from The Dark Blue has some Sapphic connotations.

Okay, I won’t pursue that line of logic any further. Instead, let’s move onto the big one: homosexuality. Harry Benshoff (2004) notes how in cinema the homoeroticism of interviewed vampires Lestat and Louis are no accident, nor is the strained relationship between the Frog Brother’s macho heterosexuality and the queer-punk aesthetic of the titular Lost Boys. In both instances, the queerness of the on-screen vampires is seen as intrinsic to their nature. They are thirsty and, as contemporary slang use of the term helpfully points out, only blood (or any other bodily fluid) will satisfy them. The behaviour of vampires… prowling the night for victims, exchanging fluids, leaving some with an incurable and fatal disease… sounds like an all-too-familiar rhetoric from the Christian right which warns of the dangers of predatory homosexuals, no?

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Lilith (1892), by John Collier. The mother of vampires also provides a near-perfect image of the fear of women’s unbridled sexuality.

The allegory of vampirism and homosexuality is taken to an almost literal level by Charlaine Harris in her Sookie Stackhouse novels (which were the inspiration for the HBO programme True Blood). As Lisa A King (2012)¬†writes, the symbolism of vampires and other supernaturals announcing their true natures and then being shunned, attacked, even murdered is unfortunately not a terribly different narrative from¬†many LGBTQ coming out stories. Hell, its not a terribly different narrative from many women I know who dare to have sex for purposes other than reproduction. Women’s¬†sexuality is something which should be regulated and controlled by doctors, priests, husbands, fathers, and even brothers or all hell will break loose, right? I mean, surely this is why access to birth control is still a struggle¬†in the USA, right?¬†Ahem, *gets off soapbox and stores it away for winter*.

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The beauty of death as told by nature.

So far I have prattled on mostly about how vampires are erotic, which isn’t actually what I had set out to do. In fact, it is the opposite, but seemingly in the process of trying to work out my argument I might’ve convinced myself. Vampires can be erotic, but only if we are willing to accept that death is beautiful.

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Vampyren, “The Vampire”, by Edvard Munch

I think, and I think goth culture can attest to this, that some people find something about death to be romantic. Or perhaps it is that we want to find something beautiful in death to lessen the pain of loss. In fact, one of my favourite film quotes of all time comes from a vampire and makes this point beautifully. In the 1994 film adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Brad Pitt’s character Louis de Pointe du Lac opens the film with a narrative about his loss of wife and child.¬†In a cold, reflective and monotone voice he recounts his coping strategies of over indulgence and intoxication before coming to the conclusion that, “Most of all, I longed for death. I know that now. I invited it. A release from the pain of living.”

In the vampire mythos, the loss of life brings with it a loss of life’s inhibitions. This combines with eternal youth and an eternal hunger which makes for a potent and alluring cocktail for some of us who can see the beauty in loss. Even if it might actually be necrophilia.

Until next time,

Ashley