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Warcraft (2016)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/27/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/30/2016

At this point in time, the history of movies based on video games has grown to be somewhat vast. The sub-genre has grown from adapting arcade games to home console games and now to cell phone games. We seem to get these products on a regular basis now, although it must be said that there isn't much diversity in the crowd, as most fall into the categories of action, science-fiction or horror. There is one identifying trait which encapsulates most of these movies -- the majority are not very good. The film industry seems to have no trouble securing the rights to and then making these movies, but any real attempt at quality gets lost along the way. This is inherently not good, but these films also have the built in drawback of immediately alienating a pre-established core audience if they fail to deliver the goods. Can Warcraft, based on the immensely popular on-line game, change this pattern?

Draenor, the land of the Orcs (large, fearsome creatures with tusk-like teeth), is dying. Gul'dan (voiced by Daniel Wu) has gathered these warriors into a group known as The Horde. Using a form of dark magic known as The Fel, Gul'dan is able to open a portal to Azeroth, a realm inhabited by humans. Gul'dan's plan is for the Orcs to pass through the portal and take Azeroth for their own. Amongst The Horde is Durotan (voiced by Toby Kebbell), the leader of the Frostwolf Clan, and his heavily pregnant wife, Draka (voiced by Anna Glavin). While Durotan is proud to serve The Horde, who is more concerned with Draka's safety.

Meanwhile, in Azeroth, King Llane (Dominic Cooper) oversees the peaceful kingdom, with the warrior Lothar (Travis Fimmel) at his side. An alarm is sounded when a young man named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) is found intruding in the barracks. This young wizard claims that he is pursuing something called The Fel, which could be a danger to the kingdom. But, Llane and Lothar aren't worried, as they have The Guardian, Medivh (Ben Foster), an incredibly powerful wizard who protects the kingdom. But, as the Orcs push through the portal and begin to sack Azeroth, Llane and Lothar will realize that they are up against an opponent the likes of which they've never seen.

I've never played Warcraft or World of Warcraft and I know very little about it, save for the basic concept and the clips which I've seen on The Big Bang Theory and South Park. But, I do know that the games are very popular and they have certainly penetrated the zeitgeist. (I checked and according to what I found, World of Warcraft had nearly 10 millions subscribers at one point.) A Warcraft feature film was announced several years ago and Sam Raimi spent some time working on it before leaving the project. Duncan Jones, the director of Moon and Source Code, was then brought on-board and the movie certainly seemed to be in good hands.

So, we have an incredibly popular game with multiple storylines and the involvement of talented filmmakers and this is what we get? Again, I haven't played the games, and I have only seen some of the Peter Jackson Tolkien movies, but I can tell you with a great certainty that Warcraft is nothing special. I don't know what I was expecting, but having only dabbled in the sword-and-sorcery genre over the years, this is a decidedly mediocre movie which brings nothing new to the table. We have humans with weird names fighting monsters with weird names. The movie is a mixture of battle sequences and dialogue scenes in which a lot of nonsense words are thrown about. If you've never seen a fantasy film of this nature, this may seem fresh to you, but I doubt it.

The lack of originality is further hampered by the fact that this isn't a well-made movie. It's clear that a great deal of work was put into creating the details of the Orcs (those pierced teeth...eewww!), but having them be full CG creations throughout the film may have been a mistake. When put on the real-life backgrounds, the Orcs look very plastic and never feel real. The humans don't fare much better, as the acting is very wooden. Dominic Cooper and Ben Foster literally seem to be sleepwalking through the movie. Paula Patton, who plays an Orc-hybrid, can't talk through her fangs. I know that most viewers didn't come here for the humans, but they do populate half of the film and they are just as unbelievable as the Orcs.

Again, not knowing the games, I didn't have any excitement about Warcraft, but with Ducan Jones at the helm, I expected a lot more. The only place where I felt his influence was with the downbeat ending. The remainder of the film is simply bland. It doesn't even come across like someone else playing a video game. You've probably heard that the movie was huge in China. This has most likely led to a future sequel. Maybe that one will have something to get excited about.

Warcraft is no Game of Thrones on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The crispness of the image only contributes to the fake look of the Orcs. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects really shine in the action sequences, where we are treated to individual and easily discernible sounds. The stereo effects show good separation and highlight sounds coming from off-screen. The subwoofer effects add "oomph" to the action sequences.

The Warcraft Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. We begin with eleven DELETED & EXTENDED SCENES which run about 14 minutes, which seem to be split between the orcs and the humans. This is followed by a 3-minute GAG REEL. "The World of Warcraft On Film" is a six part -- "Origin Story", "The World of Talent", "The World of VFX", "Outfitting a World", "The World of Mo-Cap", and "The World of Stunts" -- series of featurettes which explore the making of the film. This contains interviews with the creative team behind the video games, and behind the movie. We get a great deal of on-set footage, comments from the cast, and a look at the visual effects. "The Fandom of Warcraft" (7 minutes) shows attendees at "Blizzon" who are excited about seeing the film. "Warcraft": Bonds of Brotherhood Motion Comic" (54 minutes) is a five-part video comic book which tells a side-story from the Warcraft universe. "Warcraft: The Madame Tussauds Experience" (8 minutes) takes us inside the famous attraction to see the wax figures based on the film. "ILM: Behind the Magic of Warcraft" (3 minutes) shows us the layered visual effects in certain shots. "Warcraft Teaser - 2013" (2 minutes) bring an early test ad for the film.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long