Warcraft (2016)

warcraft_2016_poster
  • Time: 123 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
  • Director: Duncan Jones
  • Cast: Toby Kebbell, Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper, Paula Patton, Ben Foster

Storyline:

The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.

2 reviews

  • Will anything ever surpass, much less match, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which has cast a gargantuan shadow over the adventure fantasy epics which came before and after its wake? Jackson’s masterful blend of breathtaking spectacle and well-rounded characterisation is one not so easily achieved as evidenced by Warcraft: The Beginning, which boasts impressive technical work but fails to craft a consistently engaging and emotionally powerful fantasy world.

    A solid if uninspiring foundation on which to build a potential franchise, Warcraft plunges viewers deep into the origin story of the war between the orcs and humans. Audiences are pelted with a slew of names, settings, and various magical powers. There’s Draenor, the dying homeland from which the orcs, a race of mighty warrior beasts, must flee. The green-skinned, randomly apostrophed Gul’dan (Daniel Wu who, like all the actors portraying orcs, is rendered unrecognisable by by CGI-enhanced prosthetics) unites the various clans into one called the Horde. Wielding a mysterious power called the Fel, he opens a portal into another world, one called Azeroth, through which a small warband passes. The plan is to capture enough human prisoners to fuel the Fel in order to re-open the portal for the rest of the Horde.

    One of the Horde, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), has percolating concerns about Gul’dan’s intentions. Conflicted between his loyalty to the survival of his tribe and the conviction that it was Gul’dan and the Fel that caused Draenor’s demise, Durotan brokers a tentative alliance with the humans who inhabit Azeroth, led by King Llane (Dominic Cooper), ruler of Stormwind, and his trusty knight Lothar (Travis Fimmel), who is also brother to Llane’s beloved Queen (Ruth Negga). Also on hand to help are Medivh (Ben Foster), the current Guardian of Tirisfal, and Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), a young mage who is the first to suss out that the Fel is behind the recent village attacks. Lastly, there is Garona (Paula Patton), an enslaved half-orc, half-human who must decide if she will side with the orcs or the humans.

    The sheer scale of the film is remarkable. Director Duncan Jones and his production team cram every frame with innumerable bits and bobs. The orcs are particularly eye-catching with their immense physiques resembling nothing so much as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and The Rock fused together with room to spare for a thoroughbred and a golden retriever. With hands larger than their heads, oversized fangs jutting out from their jaws, armour decorated with mementos of their various kills, they are fearsome figures. Durotan’s wrists bear bones held in place by chains; Blackhand’s (Clancy Brown) attire boasts an animal skeleton the size of a baby dinosaur. Garona’s outfit, meanwhile, seems recycled from Sheena’s cast-offs. (Patton, with the green make-up, somehow resembles Jennifer Lopez to distracting effect).

    Yet for all the thundering clashes and flashes of wizardry, there’s something not quite there. Warcraft simply does not have the narrative heft or the depth of characterisation to overcome its artifice. All of the actors flounder with the self-serious but risible dialogue. Admittedly, one doesn’t go to these types of movies for the acting but basic skills are still a requirement to distinguish yourself from the surroundings. Kebbell manages by film’s end to stir some empathy for Durotan, but Schnetzer is frequently painful to watch and listen to as Khadgar. Still, the film may please fans of the profitable franchise of video games and novels. For novices, it’s third-rate Tolkien.

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  • Video game movies to this day are still struggling to get their transition correct from interactive to submissive entertainment. Unfortunately there’s a disconnect between the fans of the movies and the fans of video games. This is due to multiple factors; lack of knowledge of the game, lack of people who have played the game and the lack of appreciation for the game. Things seemed to be on the up and up though for 2016 when some very different people got involved with the production of various video game movies. For Blizzard’s popular Warcraft game, the adaptation of it to the big screen was under development for several years. So many times was it delayed for numerous reasons. But after long periods of waiting devoted fans were finally able to see their favorite gaming platform on the big screen. Sadly the response was about as predictable as expected. Critics were unimpressed and it barely made back its budget. On the other hand, majority fans were vastly grateful for the presentation. For non-video game fans though it’s somewhat a mixed bag.

    The positive to the film is its director and writer pair. Writing the script was Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones. Leavitt was known for penning Blood Diamond (2006) and The Express (2008). Duncan Jones on the other hand directed Moon (2009), Source Code (2011) and is also an avid World of Warcraft gamer. With that said, it only suits that Jones directs this film. The story follows the clash of two worlds, the humans and the Orcs. The Orcs’ world is dying and the only way they can survive is by taking over a new one, that being the humans. In the human world, King Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) leads the way with Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel). Overseeing them is sorcerer Medivh (Ben Foster) and his apprentice Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) as protectors of the human world. Leading the Orcs is Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), who has powers that only work by draining the life force of other living things. Following him are Durotan (Toby Kebbell), Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky), Blackhand (Clancy Brown) and half-breed Garona (Paula Patton).

    As a start-off point to a beginning franchise, the story isn’t too hard to follow. The problem in the script are because of a couple things. Since this is based on a video game, it is understood that the filmmakers will want to give fan service to its passionate gamers. Yet there are times where special nods to the in-game achievements outnumber the explanations to what is going on within certain scenes. There’s no problem with giving the fans what they enjoy. However for people not familiar with the game, this can be confusing because they will not be familiar as to why particular events happen. This is one of the issues with videogame movies. Gamers would rather play the game than watch and non-gamers may not understand why things happen for a distinct reason. Also there are occasional motivation flip-flops attributed to a couple of characters. This may add to the bewilderment of the viewer because of their non-gamer unfamiliarity. Even with this though, the characters are likable and are sympathetic due to their situations.

    Out of all actors, the best of them is Toby Kebbell as Durotan. Kebbell plays his role with strength and feeling. Durotan’s arc is a challenge to watch because of how conflicted he is. Durotan knowns Gul’dan isn’t a great Orc but he’s the only one powerful enough to lead them to survive. It’s easy to see as to why this could cause internal friction. For the humans, Lothar is the more interesting of the bunch. He’s had a career in the army for a while and his skills are valuable. For action, the sequences are entertaining to watch. For a PG-13 rating, some of the violence is actually pretty brutal. The humans use weapons that belong in the dark ages such as swords and shields. The Orcs use giant over sized workman tools like axes and sledge hammers. Not even the horses and other animals are safe in the battle scenes. Individuals are stabbed, thrown and even delimbed. Effects wise, the transformation of the characters and world are done expertly well. Using motion-capture effects, the half of the cast look nothing like themselves under the Orc makeup.

    With technology on the rise, motion-capture has come a long way in making creatures more and more realistic. Only a couple actors can be seen under the effects. Everyone else practically disappears and that’s great. The camerawork by Simon Duggan is another credible component. Unfortunately it’s not clear as to what scenes actually contained real life terrain. Nevertheless the backgrounds to each scene are well constructed. Duggan is known for filming other big CGI budget films like I, Robot (2004), The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), Killer Elite (2011) and The Great Gatsby (2013). All of which had acceptable camerawork. Music wise Ramin Djawadi composed the film score. From an audible perspective the score is engaging and has an organic sound. The makeup of it sounds like that of heavy strings and horns. This falls somewhat in line with Djawadi’s past works although some have varied. Unfortunately the tracks do not have a reoccurring main theme but the tunes do match their respective scene. It has its moments even to enjoy.

    Storytelling wise, the script has motive flip-flops and non familiar fans may not understand certain events that happen. However the overall plot is fairly simplistic and the characters are sympathetic. The visual effects, cinematography and music are also well produced.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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