Calling a film like Warcraft “the best video game movie ever made” might be damning it with faint praise, but faint praise is something that this film deserves. Duncan Jones’s ambitious, colorful foray into the mythology of Azeroth is a noble effort but not the sort of thing that will make you forget about The Lord of the Rings. If anything, it will actively remind you of Willow.
But you know what? I have a lot of fondness for Willow, and for Dragonslayer, and for The Sword and the Sorcerer, and for lot of other fantasy movies that deserved a solid three stars. Warcraft may have aimed a little high and hit a little low, but it’s an enjoyable adventure with some unexpected twists that, unfortunately, happen to be mixed in with a lot of the expected ones.
Warcraft takes place early in the storyline of the video game, when orcs enter Azeroth for the very first time under the leadership of Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), a wizard whose fel magic requires the constant sacrifice of life. So his orcs scourge the land, abducting human beings to use as fuel to open a bigger portal that will bring their entire species into these greener pastures.
Selected for Sundance and the Berlinale, this powerful exposé of the dangerous ‘hazing’ rituals of campus fraternities across the US features a great dramatic turn from Nick Jonas.
Still reeling from a recent assault, 19-year-old Brad (Ben Schnetzer) embarks on his first year of college and discovers a hyper-masculine world of alcohol, sex and the pecking order. His brother Brett (Jonas, of pop group The Jonas Brothers) is part of a campus fraternity that offers the solidarity and protection that Brad desperately needs. Based on a 2004 memoir by Brad Land, Goat pulls no punches in revealing the increasingly violent and humiliating initiation rites. In participating in these trials, Brad’s relationship with his brother is put to the test. Directed with raw realism by Andrew Neel, the film offers a rare, first-hand glimpse into this environment and features a surprising cameo by James Franco.
Goat deals with masculinity, fraternities, and PTSD in equal doses, covering all of them with brutal precision and most importantly, success. – Justin Gerber, Consequence of Sound
This taut adaptation of Brad Land’s 2004 memoir is less a dramatized depiction of headline-grabbing hazing tragedies than a penetrating consideration of the psychology of violence and its role in defining manhood. – David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
Sure to be one of the most controversial films at The Sydney Film Festival, the in-your-face Goat – starring Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer, and directed by Andrew Neel – digs into the dark subject of US college fraternity house hazing and bullying.
As a close-to-death Jewish refugee in The Book Thief and an inspiring young gay man in Pride, Ben Schnetzer has proven his capacity to embrace difficult roles. But his turn as a 19-year-old college student who endures horrific abuse in Andrew Neel’s (King Kelly, Darkon) Goat may be his most challenging part yet. “I can’t say enough good things about Andrew,” the young actor says at The Sundance Film Festival. “It’s not every day that you work with a director who’s able to facilitate an environment of such trust and openness amongst the cast and the crew. We felt like we were in very safe hands, which you need in order to go to such dark places.” Also at Sundance, Neel adds: “Being on set as a director, generosity and team spirit are everything. I tend to associate with what the character is going through, so to every extent possible, I tried to give them everything that I could for them to understand the scene better, and a pat on the back saying, ‘Don’t worry, this will be over soon’, especially with Ben, who was just getting brutalised.”
The dark place at the heart of Goat is male violence. The tone is set by the opening titles, a slow motion vignette of a crowd of half-naked young men, faces contorted with viciousness and jeering. It’s meaningless, mindless, and disturbing. This is Lord Of The Flies, but the setting is a privileged college. We are introduced to two brothers at a party: Brett (Jonas) is already successful in the alpha male milieu of drinking and sex, while Brad (Schnetzer) is more sensitive. From the start, we see the place of women as sexual objects in this world of male privilege and dominance. When the younger brother is assaulted by two men, he struggles to recover from the trauma, and suffers doubts about his strength and masculinity. This is the set up that, once at college, leads him to try to prove himself through the violent and humiliating rituals demanded of the new recruits – or “pledges” to the fraternity.