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, an unlikely group of heroes is set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their families, their people and their home.
That’s the official synopsis of Warcraft from the promotional material, and I normally give my own overview of a film but … I really had no idea what was going on. Having never played the game, I thought perhaps that going into the film as a blank slate with no preconceived notions or biases, I might enjoy the movie a bit more than someone more familiar with the material. I was wrong. I think you really have to know all the minutiae of the game play to have even a clue as to what’s going on in this movie.
And that’s a shame because director Duncan Jones and his talented crew, and the folks at Blizzard Entertainment which produces the game, have put a lot of time and effort into making this movie. But as the game has such an expansive world and timeline, it’s pretty much impossible to condense that into a coherent two-hour movie. What they did a magnificent job with are the sets, many of which were huge, physical sets (as well as those augmented with some impressive CGI), giving the environments a greater sense of reality.
Unfortunately, where they fail a bit is in the CGI characters that all just look a bit … off. The troll-like creatures are much too video gamey (and look like CGI version of the Lord of the Rings dwarfs) and the main Orc characters (again, could they not come up with a name other than Orcs which evokes The Lord of the Rings characters). Yes, they’re based on the design of the game characters, but no matter how photorealistic they can make them, their physical appearance with the massive bodies, gigantic hands and teeny-tiny heads is just bizarre. I could hear the judges of Face Off telling the designers that this anatomy is impossible to believe. Maybe it works in a game, but when you put them next to actual humans in a film, it doesn’t work … at least not for this viewer (I was, however, impressed to learn that Paula Patton’s skin tone was digitally altered green instead of applying makeup to her skin … but those little teeth …).
But if you were a fan of the movie, or are still casually curious about it, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has now released it for home viewing on several different formats: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and 4K Disc. (The studio generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack for review). All of the care that went into making the movie is presented beautifully on Blu-ray. Colors are virbrant, bright scenes are never blown out, and the black levels never reveal any artifacting during playback. It is a very sharp, clear image. The audio track is produced in Dolby Atmos and sounds just fine with a 7.1 surround system. Voices are always front and center (unless someone is speaking off screen, of course) with the surrounds uses to great effect in the battle scenes and for the musical score. There really are no complaints with the video presentation. If you have a 3D setup, the process looks very good, adding great depth to the landscapes and helping give more dimension to the digital characters, making them feel a bit more realistic. The only disappointment is that rarely anything comes from beyond the edge of the screen.
The Blu-ray includes the following special features:
- Deleted/Extended Scenes
- Gag Reel (3:25)
- The World of Warcraft on Film
- Origin Story (4:54) – The “World of Warcraft” is much more than just a game – it is a cultural phenomenon as documented in this comprehensive multi-part feature focused on bringing the unique environs of Warcraft to film.
- The World of Talent (5:35)? – Fans can learn more about the casts’ reactions to being a part of the Warcraft film, how they prepared for their role and the challenges they encountered during filming.
- The World of VFX (5:09)? – The Warcraft universe wouldn’t exist without the tireless efforts of the VFX crew. Follow along with the filmmakers as they tell the story of how Warcraft came to life through VFX.
- Outfitting a World (6:16)? – Learn how the filmmakers worked with WETA workshop, Blizzard, and acclaimed costume designer Mayes Rubeo to create the weaponry and armor that must be familiar and otherworldly at the same time, all while creating a unique aesthetic for the film.
- The World of Mo-Cap (6:50)? – An overview of the creation of the Orcs and other digital characters from inception all the way through to the final execution. Through extensive footage of the actors in their MOCAP suits and live in-camera renderings during production, the audience will see the incredible effort that went into creating the Orcs.
- The World of Stunts (5:06) – Though much of Warcraft was created through extensive VFX, the fight scenes and stunts had to be very real. In this featurette, fans can learn more about the extensive fight choreography and stunt work that fueled the film’s action from beginning to end.
- The Fandom of Warcraft (6:35)? – Delve into the history and breadth of the fandom behind the game and film, as well as the way it has influenced pop culture.
- Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood Motion Comic (53:47)? – Take an interactive journey through the official Warcraft graphic novel with a never-before-seen motion comic that brings the story of the film’s young heroes – Prince Llane, Captain Lothar and Guardian Medivh – to life in this unique experience.
- Warcraft: The Madame Tussauds Experience (7:32)? – Featurette on the making of the Warcraft wax figures by Madame Tussauds.
- ILM: Behind the Magic of Warcraft (2:59)? – See some of the groundbreaking facial capture technology utilized by Industrial Lights & Magic to convey the emotion and depth of the visually impressive Orc characters in the film.
- Warcraft Teaser – 2013 (2:22) – An early teaser which premiered at San Diego Comic-Con in 2013.
Overall, Warcraft may not be a great film, but the craftsmanship that went into making it certainly is, and that may be worth a look by both fans and casual movie buffs.