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Warcraft (2016)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Genres / Traits:
Action, Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure, Science Fiction, Sword-And-Sorcery, 3-D, Video Games
Director:
Duncan Jones Duncan Jones
Starring:
Travis Fimmel Travis Fimmel
Paula Patton Paula Patton
Ben Foster Ben Foster
Dominic Cooper Dominic Cooper
Toby Kebbell Toby Kebbell

6.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Ginose
Added: July 07, 2016
It's been a bizarrely... enlightening time in film, over the last three or four years: Marvel and Disney completely destroy our expectations and understanding of the plausibility of tying multiple films together via a massive integrated film universe via the cross-continuity of their Marvel Cinematic Universe revival. Universal and Warner Brothers still stretching themselves thin as shit in an attempt to try and create something as grandiose, and for no reason other than to try and cash in on that massive craze. A massive shift to an international market in order to catch some of that sweet, sweet Chinese money that has been met with both much praise and much distrust from the modern American audiences, but has shown a complete change in the style of blockbuster Hollywood feels comfortable in cashing in on.

Perhaps in tandem to both of these massive paradigm shifts in modern filmmaking, we're seeing a renewed interest in the video game adaptations that people have been avoiding like the plague, outside of online mini-series that show a great deal of love and adoration for the properties they're trying to represent, as I'm a huge fan of videogames and find myself often saddened that the only big-budget adaptations that we see and positive results from are still leaking out of Japan, almost exclusively. Now, however, with larger successes showing a much more confident risk when running against the amount of failures we've been seeing (as much lately as in the scatter-shot releases we've had since the turn of the millennium) has finally gotten several older projects up and running: "Ratchet & Clank" got an utterly charming (if not a bit under-budgeted) big screen adaptation from Sony, finally, the "Angry Birds" movie that has been rumbling on for nearly as long as the game has been a massive success and it turned out a competent (and pretty damn successful) animated film, as well; we've now finally hit the big holy grail of constantly on-again, off-again feature-film adaptations, however, with the final release of Duncan Jones' "Warcraft", a film that is as obnoxiously convoluted as it is heartfelt and beautiful. Does either outweigh the other? Ehhh... lemme get a synopsis out of the way, first.

With the dying world of their origin finally crippled beyond inhabitability by the deadly, life-stealing magic known as the fel, the Orcs of Draenor finally find a way to escape their fate through the magic of a powerful, fel-wielding shaman named Gul'dan. With the use of this power, the united clans of warriors begin making their way to the realm of Azaroth during a time of relative peace between its native races. A stalwart orc chieftain, Durotan, brings his pregnant mate to this realm during the initial attacks in order to keep his newborn son with them before finally disposing of the source of the corrupting magic in this new, living world, and freeing his fellow people from the dark, deranged direction of the shaman, during their initial attacks on the current peoples of Azaroth, while attempting to open yet another fel-portal and return the rest of their race to this new home.

On the other side of the conflict is the human faction of the Azaroth alliance that is being attacked by the orc horde, capturing their people as fuel for the new fel-portal. Unaware of what is causing this threat human commander Lothar and King Wrynn find knowledge of their mystery attackers from a fugitive mage, Khadgar, who provides a potential solution in the form of the realm's protector's knowledge. Medivh, the ancient mage tasked with protecting the realm provides a bit of framing to allow the alliance an option to stop the development of the portal, and the ability to save all of their people, through a series of... You know what? This is where I'm stopping. This is all the set-up you need to get a good understanding of a LOT of things about this film, both good and bad.

It may not be professional to diverge like this, but there's a reason this is one of the only reviews I've written that I've taken the time to include the key characters' names; specifically, I didn't even list to you ALL of the key players in the story, as the top-heavy narrative takes no real time to make the fact that the majority of these characters are important outside of the main plot objectives that they are designed to portray throughout the film. I haven't even given the names of the lead protagonists and side characters that direct all of the action and flow because, in the end, that's what the movie really is: A massive collection of characters that are important to the lore of the universe it is depicting providing some foot-work for a world that, frankly, we barely get much of a chance to appreciate. Shit, though, man: You REALLY want to appreciate it, believe me.

The massive scale and understandably lop-sided writing of the story is both strength and a weakness, thanks to this: The entirety of the events leading up to the first war of Orcs and Humans, set in the timeline of the first "Warcraft" game are completely here, nothing really to spare in that, but it comes at the price of all of the lore being full, rambling action that does little more but feel like exposition to a film that hasn't been made yet (though likely will be, if the box-office has anything to say about it). It's almost like an entire two-hour long film was made out of the opening prelude to "Fellowship of the Ring", and as such, it's a visceral, gorgeous film that does a lot to bring it's world and characters to life... but doesn't stick around long enough to make you really... ya know... care about them.

No fault of the actors, for the most part, as everything is truly well done, within the scope of the limited length of the film, and it doesn't seem embarrassed to take all of its material just as seriously as it needs to be in order to make you understand where these characters are coming from and what this war means to them. It's kind of impressive in a really annoying way, but given we do get the taste of these characters and their world that we need in order to be interested in where we're going with them, I'd say it was a really grand success... even if it's a hollow victory for all involved. Interestingly enough, however, some of the best acting came from the facial capture on many of the orcish people, providing more creative depth and beautiful visuals that Blizzard is known for against an already visually stunning world. That alone might be worth the price of admission, if you're a technical nerd like a lot of us are, but I can see it being a put-off to people who couldn't care less about this and find the lack of narrative cohesion too big a bump to get past. Power to ya'll. I like pretty colors and movement, though.

That said, this world is realized in ways that most adaptations of NOVELS wish they could come close to: The world looks and feels as real as it can, knowing what the material is known for, and the perfect mesh of transitions, shot-composition and dialogue pacing that Jones has proven he's a definitive wizard with, prior to this, are far from negligible: If I were stoned I could have watched the movie for just that, alone. Unfortunately, I was not stoned.

No matter how good it looks, how faithful it feels and how much the team behind clearly loved the material it's based on, "Warcraft" does too much to prove that it's the first entry in a saga without making stakes that feel worth getting excited for. There's so much to enjoy about this film, but the overloaded center of the film makes it feel like an uneven two-hour speed-run through some of the densest lore in fantasy gaming. I love the "Warcraft" franchise, and I couldn't help but feel annoyed by the whole experience, especially with how great the movie's working parts are. I'd still advise it as a technical marvel and as a fan-project to one of the most successful game franchises of all time but it's really not breaking that awkward mold that game adaptations have cooked themselves into, and that is a shame in itself. Duncan Jones and the crew REALLY love "Warcraft" and REALLY want you to love it too, but there's always the issue of fans working on franchises they love and not knowing what may get others to love it, too, and I feel that trap was too wide to not fall into with a project this big and long-coming.

Long and short: You like "Warcraft" the series? This movie knows you do. Like spectacle and technical mastery in the art of design and special effects? This movie is counting on it. Want a first entry that is designed to make people care about franchise potential? Sorry, "Warcraft" couldn't care less, it's got all us other nerds to satisfy. 6.8/10.
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