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Title: Warcraft

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:82

“For the Horde”! That battle cry has stuck with me through thick and thin, actually starting my obsession with PC games (along with the original “Unreal” and “Quake 2”) back in my youth. I spent endless hours minding for materials, fighting as the orc, the undead or the elves (I never was a fan of the humans for some reason) in a constant struggle for ultimate dominance in Azaroth. The game spawned several sequels (Warcraft II being the best of them) in the real time strategy genre, and then Blizzard decided that they needed a competitor to the then dominant massively multiplayer online kind, “Everquest”. Morphing the Warcraft universe into an MMO, “The World of Warcraft” has become THE most popular MMO ever created. In fact, back in 2015, the game was entered in the video gaming hall of fame. Rivaling the greats like Mario Bros, Pac Man, and other legends for being one of the true greats. Naturally the movie was destined to be, and it took long enough to get to screen. Director/Co-writer Duncan Jones does a master job at translating the world and universe textures of the original games (the movie is actually dealing with events in “Warcraft” and “Warcraft II” vs. “The World of Warcraft), but he stumbles in the actual storytelling department. Trying so very hard to create a franchise and craft some world building, the movie ends up being a busy mess that has some great fantasy/video game elements to the narrative, but ultimately fumble the ball half way down the field.

Back before the war between the races, there was peace in the land of Azaroth. The Elves (who are actually barely shown in the film), the Dwarves (a brief glimpse) and the Humans have lived together in harmony for many years, but that is all about to change. The orc race has burned through the natural resources of their world, and at the command of the powerful fell mage, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) have opened a portal to another realm and begun an invasion. This world just so happens to be the land of Azaroth. Tearing through the villages and surrounding military installations of the human lands, the Orcs are on the verge of destroying everything, when a young human mage the name of Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) discovers their terrible secret. The fell, a powerful magic that feeds on life and brings only death.

Summoning the guardian of the lands of Azaroth, Medivh (Ben Foster in a truly bizarre role), King Llane (Dominic Cooper) sees if they can someone push back the invading forces. With the help of Garona (Paula Patton, who looks gorgeous even under green makeup and fake tusks), a half breed Orc who has allied herself with the humans, and the rumblings of an Orc resistance led by the leader of the frost wolf clan, the 7 lands just MIGHT have a chance to survive. That is if the fell hasn’t already crept into their own midst and created an enemy so powerful that it spells doom for both the Orcs AND the other races.

“Warcraft” is an interesting creation. Duncan Jones had the very difficult task of bringing a video game to life by incorporating a rich and varied lore into film, but also balance that with not becoming TOO engrossed in the copious amounts of source material at his fingertips. The Warcraft video games were ahead of their time for storytelling, as they actually told quite the story through the cut scenes and little tidbits on the side. There was even a successful series of books that opened up the land of Azaroth quite well and there was a lot of pressure for the video game to come to life on screen. In many ways he actually succeeded. “Warcraft” is a wildly busy film with a TON of accurate representations of the game on screen. There are many times where I caught myself looking at the armor and war paint of the orcs and actually recognizing clans and different types of Orcs from the game themselves. The armor and garb of the humans is also extremely accurate, as well as the spellcasting and locations. Ironically, fans of the original games and the Warcraft universe in general may get a LOT more out of this than your average viewer. It is simply that accurate.

The problems that come about, though, are twofold and pretty bit. The first being the movie is just TOO busy. There are so many plots and subplots going along that the film just feels overstuffed at 2 hours and 3 minutes. The massive budget attributed to the film allowed for Jones to stuff a LOT of material in there and keep the film animated all the way through (as much as “Warcraft” is a live action film by name, it is almost a completely animated film in reality. No small feat with the quality of ILM inspired animation on screen). The second flaw comes from an over eager desire to setup the universe for a big franchise. While I greatly appreciate the way that Jones and crew went about setting the backstory for the Orcs and the humans, and the fell, they went waaaaaaaaaaaaaay overboard and ended up making a movie that feels like its only purpose is to setup the movies to follow. Every action, every encounter in the movie sets up something to come. There are so many obvious openings for other movies that it simply becomes ridiculous after a while (the talk about Garona being a half breed and Medivh’s talk about finding a race of warriors where he mated with one of them was just blatantly obvious. Especially since it was left unaddressed, with an obvious setup for the next movie). The ending LITERALLY stops with a giant cliffhanger where nothing is actually resolved, but the realization that the war is just beginning.

There are some great parts to the movie, especially with the animation. The movie is a technical marvel and only ILM could have been the animation studio behind making this movie come to life. Despite having a mediocre domestic response (the movie was actually saved by the international box office, giving tentative hope for a sequel), but the budget was enormous, and ILM did everything they possibly could with the budget (with the low level actors, except for Ben Foster, it was pretty obvious that 99% of the budget went into the effects and animation) to make it look spectacular. There is so much animated Orcs and humans and landscape that they almost look more real than the actual REAL people and items. I was INCREDIBLY impressed with the animation for the Orcs themselves, and besides a few flickers where I knew they were animated due to the jerking motion that animation still hasn’t been able to completely conquer, there were many times where I thought they were photorealistic.


Rated PG - 13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence

Video :4.5stars:
The 4K version of the presentation looks even better than the already great Blu-ray. It’s not an enormous leap of clarity, but there is a nice uptick in quality that is rather appreciable. The 3.4K source material and 2K intermediary make for a great digital tap to pull from, and the detail is deeper and the colors richer at every corner. The HDR makes for colors that just pop off the screen, especially the really vivid ones of the very “videogameish” movie. Blacks are deep and inky, and the black crush that was present on the Blu-ray is not really an issue all things considered. There is still that slight softness due to blending live action and copious amounts of CGI together, and the movie isn’t 100% perfect in the 4K department (due to mainly the lack of a 4K master), but the uprezzing looks quite nice and makes for one pretty picture.

Audio :4.5stars:
Universal is good enough to include the Dolby Atmos track on ALL copies of the film, including the 4K, the Blu-ray and the 3D Blu-ray, so no worries about having to buy only the 4K release in order to get the next generation audio format. The track is amazing, and wildly immersive. Especially with so many skirmishes between the Orcs and humans where bone is being smashed, flesh rent asunder, and the blast of magical spells going off. The LFE is deep and powerful, but never overly aggressive of chest cracking. Although there are some really explosive moments, such as when the lightning wall goes up in the canyon, or the crushing steps and crash of the Gollum during the final battle against the lich king. Surrounds are active, and although there isn’t a whole lot of height usage, there are some pretty nifty directional shifts around the sound stage that are well nuanced and very cool.

Extras :3.5stars:
• Deleted/Extended Scenes
• Gag Reel
• The World of Warcraft on Film
• The Fandom of Warcraft
• Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood Motion Comic
• Warcraft: The Madame Tussauds Experience
• ILM: Behind the Magic of Warcraft
• Warcraft Teaser - 2013

Overall: :4stars:

Fans of the video games and fans of big spectacle fantasy will get a kick out of “Warcraft”, despite the very obvious story flaws that accompany the film. There’s a lot of fun to be had, but be warned this is basically a big Michael Bay version of “Dungeons and Dragons” in terms of actual plot that is self-contained and works. The video game accuracy and traditional Warcraft lore actually kept from intrigued instead of loathing it like I did with the stupidly inaccurate “Dungeons and Dragons”, but I still have to admit the heavy flaws that burden the movie. Audio and video are simply spectacular, and the extras are rather meaty considering the barren wasteland that is usually there when I check out a discs supplemental material. The choice in which version to watch or buy is the real decision here. the Atmos track is on all versions available and the 4K edition is my usual pick, but the inclusion of a separate 3D release also makes it a bit more difficult for those of you who enjoy those movies. I kind of wish that Universal did what Sony and Shout does, which is included the 3D Blu-ray in with the 4K edition so there is not as many choices, but it is what it is and the decision will be based on which type will be your main viewing.

Additional Information:

Starring: Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Written by: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 Core), French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 123 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 27th, 2016

Buy Warcraft 4K UltraHD Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Warcraft Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Warcraft 3D 4K UltraHD Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Decent Watch

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