Kyle J. Steenblik

Warcraft Grinds a Niche for a New Generation of Fantasy Films

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Directed by: Duncan Jones
Screenplay by: Charles Leavitt, Duncan Jones
Story by: Chris Metzen
Based on Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Daniel Wu
Running time 123 minutes
Rated PG – 13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence

4 stars out of 5The 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.
So begins a spectacular saga of power and sacrifice in which war has many faces, and everyone fights for something. – courtesy Universal Pictures

Forget for a moment that this film has any relation to the successful massive multiplayer online role-playing game and it is an enjoyably original fantasy film. If you do not forget that fact, it is still enjoyable, but feels over-burdened with loyalty to the source material, up to and including the character design. While I enjoyed this film, more than it actually deserves, it could have easily been a much better movie by embracing the ridiculous elements and not taking itself as seriously as it did. The few moments in this film that flirted with the acknowledgement of the inherent ridiculous nature of the narrative were too restrained to be fully satisfying, they served neither to lighten the tone of the film or offer significant comic relief. To put it another way, the treatment of the source material was far too earnest to allow the fun and playful film to leave the ground and absorb the audience into an inviting epic fantasy.

Given the nature of this movie, I have to address the massive amount of visual effects in every single frame of this film. These effects are in almost every case fantastically put together, visually engaging, and consistent. However, in some cases, some scenes the effects did not quite match the surroundings; the motion capture animation did not have enough weight to look like it was actually interesting with other characters or the environment. This was most noticeable where there were human and orc interaction that was not masked by quick camera movements in an intense battle scene. Overall, the visual styles and effects are incredibly impressive, particularly the motion capture used to create some fantastic characters.

I have hope that this film will mark the resurgence of fantasy films, vastly underrepresented genera.  While the abundant burden to the source material weighs heavy upon Warcraft, it is not so much that the result is not without satisfying entertainment value.

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