Warcraft Blu-ray Review

Ambition and Effects Do Not a Great Warcraft Movie Make

In order to force Warcraft onto film, the videogame franchise needed to be disassembled. Some twenty years of lore precede a live action adaptation, leaving the movie’s chosen direction a challenge. It’s either mass market appeal or fan service, neither of which collide peacefully in the finished, hyper-expensive product. And a product – or even a brand extension to be blunt – is all Warcraft sets out to be.

At the core, Warcraft concedes to a war of Orcs and humans, rather passive fantasy in post-Lord of the Rings Hollywood. Big hammers, big armor, and big displays of aggression dot the film between some somber dialog. It’s an oddity in a war film to see opposing sides attempt to talk their way through problems. Warcraft comes gifted with game developer Blizzard’s penchant for storytelling – each side comes with moral codes, splitting their own ranks into heroes and villains. To this extent, Warcraft appears intelligently composed.

A spotlight on pricey visual effects reduce character development and definition, leaving critical lore underexposed

Muddying matters is a rushed, scattered, and confused script, bungling the introduction of Warcraft’s world, Azeroth. A spotlight on pricey visual effects reduce character development and definition, leaving critical lore underexposed. Within the striking visual scope, the themes of family and allegiances push toward pale action scenes, dressed with lavish if tiring green screened effects.

Parallels are drawn between sides, an interesting bit of commentary which drags the supposed necessity of war through mud. Although vastly different cultures, the two warring sides share blatant similarities, from in-fighting to villainous forces hiding in their ranks – a bit of equality without the shared understanding between these forces. On such a surface, Warcraft merely forms an inoffensive bit of entertainment, rising just above mindless effects spectacle. In this sense there’s no reason to have Duncan Jones (whose provocative Moon spun an interesting sci-fi tale) direct other than his name value.

Once in deeper, with Warcraft sporting mixed race warriors (Paula Patton’s empathetic Garona) and a lapsed wizard apprentice (Ben Schnetzer’s Khadgar), the script bleeds out. Playing the material straight yet embedding it with blockbuster humor distorts the tone. Likewise, Warcraft takes the worst habit of contemporary popcorn cinema: overlaying story complexity to fabricate a sense of depth. The property of Warcraft founded rich character and the world, both of which fall to a muddy, sloppily composed duel between wizards in this movie translation.

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Video

A chunk of this movie is all digital. The attempt at hyper real, motion captured CG fills the running time, near to the level of a Robert Zemeckis production. This means stunning, gorgeous texture rushing to the screen unimpeded by any real world quirks. Pristine lighting draws additional sharpness and clarity, capturing Orc skin with spectacular fidelity.

Likewise, the level of detail afforded to costuming requires maximum resolution. It’s all there. Fur pelts, bone trophies, necklaces, and other thickly laid garments show through in full. This translates into the world too. Excusing the slightest hint of aliasing in long shots, orcs build wooden structures which stretch deep into the visible horizon, with individual planks visible.

Take note: Warcraft’s visual scope isn’t confined to Orcs. Humans follow the same pathway with bulky armor and equal facial detail. Heavy lighting and contrast draws out definition. Azeroth becomes a showcase world with brilliant scenery. Splendid aerial views and detailed forests are numerous.

Everything comes overlaid with intense color. Warcraft’s style bulks up the saturation, bucking the trend of digitally graded gray/blue combat. Multi-colored armor, magic attacks, and Orc skin tones comes for a rainbow-like effect. Set against sunsets or deep in rich green forests, these battles continue to please for the full two hours.

Audio

Big, bold, and accurate summarize the audio mix in either TrueHD or Atmos. Positioning excels, breaking dialog from the center as needed. Space rapidly fills up with scenery extended by ambiance and battles scaled up by the additional rear channels. Swords and hammers clash in each speaker without any break in the audio when dialog is needed. A grand forest chase makes sweeping direction changes as required by the visuals. It’s perfect 1:1 matching.

Addressing the Orc’s scale, the LFE works whether they’re walking around or slamming humans in the head. Arrive at an Orc versus Orc clash and the subwoofer begins to elevate its presence. At times, Warcraft enjoys the substantial low-end, drowning out other elements with thundering impact. Otherwise, balance stays in check. Warcraft has all of the grandiosity required of a massive studio flick.

Extras

Beginning with 11 deleted/extended scenes in various states of completion, few add or clarify details. A director’s cut – if one happens – isn’t clarifying much. The short gag reel includes great stuff from the motion capture crew, especially a wolf riding sequence.

Six featurettes separate to make up The World of Warcraft on Film, a few minutes each, focused on specific aspects of production and the game series. In Fandom of Warcraft (6:36), cosplayers get their due during Blizzcon, many on par or better than the film work itself.

Since it focuses on physical creation, the seven minute dive into the Madame Tussauds’ Warcraft exhibit is wonderful. A short demo reel from ILM, a motion comic, and 2013 Comic Con teaser round off Universal’s Blu-ray.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.