Saturday, June 11, 2016

Review: Warcraft


Title: Warcraft

Distributor: Legendary Pictures (Universal Pictures) 
Director:  Duncan Jones
Writer(s): Duncan Jones (screenplay), Charles Leavitt (screenplay)
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu
MPAA Rating: Rated PG - 13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence.
Running Time: 123 min
Synopsis: 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.

What Others Are Saying? 

Rotten Tomatoes: 22% "Fresh", Top Critics: 17% "Fresh", Audience: 93% "Want To See"

Metacritic: Critics: 32 out of 100, Users: N/A 

My Review

Preface: I want to let everyone know that I'm a fan of the Warcraft universe. I have played World of Warcraft, off and on, since World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. That makes me a "casual" colloquially speaking. I didn't group up on the RTS game, Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans like most of the die-hard Warcraft fans. Therefore, my Warcraft lore, maybe a bit rusty. I also have to admit that I'm a fan of fantasy. It's by far my favorite genre. I did a whole post on my favorite fantasy film franchises. I'm forewarning you that there is most definitely going to be some bias in this review. Lastly, I want to apologize for any comparisons to The Lord of the Rings, good or bad. These two films are in different leagues, even though they live in the same "high fantasy" realm.

Source Material: The Warcraft universe origins began at Blizzard Entertainment with the RTS video games titled, Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans (1994). This universe has been expanded upon in 12 video games including the popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft. Chris Metzen has been the main guy behind shaping the stories and characters in the Warcraft universe.

Entertaining Value: 8

  • Action Elements: I thought the action was good. It wasn't non-stop, but most of the action is intents and fairly warlike. The warlike "violence" is still very much in the PG-13 space.
  • Comedy Elements: The funniest parts for me were the references to the video game. Overall I thought it could have been more light-hearted in general, especially for those who don't know the Warcraft universe.
  • Dramatic Elements: I thought this one of the weakest parts of the film. There were some throwaway characters.
  • Sci-Fi / Fantasy Elements: Warcraft is set in "high fantasy" world called Azeroth. This world is home to the human race, which is shared with the other "goodly" fantasy races: dwarves, elves, and gnomes (not shown in the movie). The Orcs come from a savage world called Draenor. Because of their world is dying The Orcs come to Azeroth via a magic portal power by Fel magic (souls of the dead).
Cinematic Value:
  • Acting and Dialogue: 7: The best acting in the movie came from the Orc characters. Leading these Orcs was Toby Kebbell as Durotan. Toby Kebbell could very well be the next Andy Serkis, in the performance capture game. Which makes perfect sense because they were co-stars in Dawn of the Plant of the Apes. The human actors were a bit on the weak side. Travis Fimmel, best known for his role on Vikings, did a good job being a badass warrior. He didn't do so well conveying deep emotion. The father-son relationship felt forced. Ben Foster was one of the better human actors. I enjoyed his portrayal of Medivh. The filmmaker took a neat spin on the dialogue and the language barrier between Orcs and Humans. When we, the audience, were following the Orc storyline, it was presumed that we were Orc. Therefore, their language, Orcish, was heard as English. This rule was true during the human storylines as well, but they spoke English already. When Orcs and Humans shared the screen subtitles would be used when the Orcs were speaking.
  • Cinematography: 7: I enjoyed all the aerial establishing shots. It was like flying around Azeroth on a flying mount for the first time. These shots also made the world feel more expansive. Not sure if this is the appropriate place to praise the set design, but it was amazing. Seeing iconic places in Azeroth on the silver screen was very cool. The attention to details in those scenes made Azeroth even more tangible. This aspect of the film stood out the most during the Lion's Pride Inn scene.
  • Direction: 7: If you don't know who Duncan Jones is, you should. First of all, he is the son of the legendary rock star, David Bowie. Secondly, He directed two great sci-fi films (Moon and Source Code). Thirdly, He tackled an epic high fantasy movie based off a video game, in my opinion, he succeeded. I'm not saying this film was perfect or perfectly directed, but I do believeDuncan Jones did a good job appealing to both fans and non-fans.
  • Editing: 7: The major flaws in the editing, for me, were the transitions between the Orcs story and the Humans story. I felt those transitions were a bit clunky. There was too much back in forth. I understand the filmmaker were trying to convey two vastly different cultures simultaneously, but the editing took away from that. I think what saved the editing was the cinematography. Using the aerial effects to transition between "zones" is what saved the editing.
  • Screenplay: 6: Forewarned: This is the section where I'm going to compare Warcraft to Lord of the Rings. Frist off, Warcraft is no Lord of the Rings, period. Lord of the Rings was adapted from a book, which is the best medium for storytelling. Whereas, Warcraft was adapted from a video game, which is a lesser form of storytelling. Don't get me wrong, a lot of video games of today are very cinematic and have better CIG than movies, but their stories tend to be linear and one-dimensional. I say this because It angers me to hear comparisons between these two films. I get it, they are both "high fantasy" stories with vast lore/history involving orcs, humans, and other fantastical creatures, but they are on opposite sides of the spectrum. In the Middle Earth realm, orcs, goblins, trolls, ect. are bad, whereas, humans, hobbits, dwarves, and elves are good. Warcraft's world, there can be both good and bad orcs (Durotan vs Gul'dan). Even the human side of the story has both good and bad humans (Khadgar vs Medivh).
Now, I'm going to be a bit contradictory to myself. I think Warcraft could have emulated Lord of the Rings cinematically by fleshing out its characters and story with its expanded lore. This could have been done with well-placed exposition. I shouldn't have to know the lore of the source material to know what's going on on-screen. I can see how a non-Warcraft player could potentially get lost in this movie. There were a few unanswered "hows" and "whys". For example, this could be SPOILER territory, Gul'dan uses Fel magic to do his bidding. The first question that could be asked is, What is Fel magic? Answer: It's a magical force that feeds off of life itself that has a corruptive after effect. That's basically how it is explained / showcased in the movie. The second question that could be asked, Where did Fel magic come from? Answer: Demons, which was hinted at but not fully explained in the movie. Question Three: How did Gul'dan option Fel magic, if it possed by demons? Answer: He drank the blood of a demon named Mannoroth. This information wasn't in the movie. This is only one example of how adding details from the games would have explained a lot to the non-Warcraft playing audience.
  • Sound and Music: 7: The score emulated the soundtrack from the game. For those of you not in the know, World of Warcraft's soundtrack is very good.
  • VFX: 9: The filmmaker visually matched the games. I know there is a buzz going around the internet and how bad the CGI is in this film. They are wrong. The orcs look exactly like Warcraft style orc. The mo-cap is freaking amazing. That says a lot for the performers and the digital artist. I can see Warcraft making the shortlist of nominations for best visual effect
Overall: 7: This film satisfies me as Warcraft fan. It also feeds my hunger for fantasy. I had a good time at the theater even though there were less than 20 people in our theater. I know the low critic ratings are going to effect this movie drastically. Warcraft may not be the Messiah to rid the stigma of bad video game movies, but it is definitely the predecessor like John the Baptist to Jesus.

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