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Duncan Jones co-writes and directs this big-budget adaptation of the 'Warcraft' franchise. The fantasy adventure follows the encounters between the humans and orcs as Azeroth stands on the brink of war. When a dark portal is opened that connects the human-inhabited Azeroth with Draenor, home of the orc clans, the peace of both lands is disrupted. King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) must attempt to make peace with this hostile, destructive force and with Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and his orc counterpart Durotan (Toby Kebbell) by his side this epic clash will come to shape the futures of their people and their worlds.

Warcraft: The Beginning
Warcraft isn’t exactly what I expected. Yes, I expected The Lord of the Rings scale and buck tooth Shreks but I didn’t expect it to be quite so light and often times charmingly so. Sure its got a heavy plot to carry, with drama and sadness and struggle but this isn’t a film that’s bathed in shadows or moody greys and blues, this is a fantasy film full of colour and life and sunshine. Neon lit magic fills the screen and giant  green guys battle brightly armoured little guys without the sun clouding over and taking the fun out of scenes. That alone makes this a much more welcoming experience than we usually get from the fantasy genre. Arguably, that makes the film a little harder to take seriously too but from a personal point of view, I’ve sort of missed the amount of fun that's wrapped up within Warcraft and it's a nice return to form for fantasy, that all got a little too high brow for its own good post- Lord of the Rings.

In terms of story, it’s all relatively typical. I mean gaming storylines have evolved plenty over the past few years but monsters sneaking through into a land that immediately hates them isn’t exactly a fresh new tale is it. The same goes for the characters, a noble king, a misunderstood everyman monster, the pretty one that doesn’t fit into her old world but has found a place to shine in her new one. Nothing is new here but Duncan Jones balances the elements well enough to at least ground it in Warcraft’s favour and I was relatively locked in to these character’s journeys even though I’ve walked this path plenty of times before.

Warcraft: The Beginning
Cast wise, Duncan Jones gets the best out of his bunch. Sure there's some hammy performances in here but the important ones land. Durotan is clearly the best thing in this flick, ILM did a great job matching a thoughtful and heartfelt performance from Toby Kebbell with the CGI giant he portrays . Paula Patton's Garona grows very well through the story, Ben Foster's whacked out wizard Medivh is sort of in his own movie at times but adds a different flavour and while Dominic Cooper is his usual easy to forget self really, he nails enough solid noble King clichés, that I came away quite impressed.

For me the big win for this summer blockbuster (that didn’t exactly blockbust) was its final act. The film makes a very strong decision that resonates through a handful of its characters right at the end and I liked that a lot. No spoilers but while I was enjoying the film as it was, suddenly a hard decision is made and I felt more locked into these characters than I had previously. I didn't manage to see Warcraft on the big screen and instead I'd initially caught my first viewing on a plane, so I thought maybe the impact of the finale was more to do with tiredness on a long haul flight than genuine emotional punch but watching again here, the impact is genuine and I applaud Duncan Jones for delivering not only a fun fantasy film but one I’m genuinely interested in seeing the next chapter of due to the turns these characters took.

Warcraft: The Beginning

Video


From the off this is a crisp modern digital heavy film that looks wonderful in every way a modern film should. Yes the CGI is more than obvious and despite its photo realism still never feels real and yes the 3D shot film has that odd flatness when the levels of CGI overtake the real world elements moving within them but techniques aside, this presentation looks bloody fantastic.

Given the green Orks and generally colourful beasts and monsters this is a fantasy film full of colour. Armour and costumes alike leap off of the screen when bathed in light and the magical elements glow in HD crispness that really lifts the film into a more comic book / gaming affair as opposed to dusty old Lord of the Rings.

Colour ranges with scenes are very impressive, a face can be pink and well lit but then shadows cross them without losing any detail or texture and then the neon colours of magic brings the image to life in a different way again. This presentation really gives your TV a real good run through all of its HD presentation potential. This is a film built for modern presentations and with a style built to look fantastic on an HD screen. Light scene or dark Warcraft will make your TV looks its absolute best and is clearly a reference quality disc in all areas.

Warcraft: The Beginning

Audio


Like the audio presentation the audio track is a strong modern affair full of power and depth and all you'd ask for from a blockbuster fantasy out to wow.

Dialogue is clean throughout, the track is wide and overpowering in all the right ways and the film delivers in either quiet or full on outrageous action. The strong score drives the whole thing on from minute one and the many layers of subtle additions from clinking swords to thundering footsteps all fill out the track for an all round pleasing affair.

Warcraft: The Beginning

Extras


There are eleven 'Deleted / Extended Scenes' (13:57 HD) and they are a mix of finished and unfinished scenes in terms of CGI work and offer up a little bit extra insight to the world of Warcraft.

The Gag Reel (03:25 HD) is a little flat but it's okay.

'The World of Warcraft on Film' is split into 6 featurettes all running at annoyingly short runtimes (4 - 10 minutes). They start with the history of the game and move through everything surrounding the making of the film. Mo-cap, settings, actors everything you'd expect, it's just not in much depth.

'The Fandom of Warcraft' (06:36 HD) covers the Blizzard fanbase and hypes them up like all big franchises do nowadays. "This is for the fans" etc

'Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood Motion Comic' is good enough but motion comics are a tough sell for me.

'Warcraft: The Madame Tussuads Experience' (07:32 HD) takes a look at making of the waxworks for the film.

'ILM Behind The Magic Of Warcraft' (02:59 HD) is a far too short look at ILM's pretty stellar work here. The leaps and bounds CGI has taken in the last 5 years or so is insane really in terms of detail (I just wish the cobbling together of real actors, CGI creatures and CGI sets didn't look so damn fake / flat a lot of the time)

Last up is the 'Warcraft Teaser 2013' (02:23).

Warcraft: The Beginning

Overall


In all honestly I'm not a fantasy fan really. Unless there are lightsabers and 'The Force' I've been known to struggle with wizards, dragons, orcs and dialogue like "such and such, son of so and so from the land of somewhere or other". That said, I was engaged with Warcraft. Sure it's crammed packed full of all the stuff that winds me up in fantasy but Duncan Jones is a director that clearly enjoys his characters and wants us to love them too. He doesn't dwell for too long on drawn out talky scenes and cuts straight to the point a lot. I mean this is just over two hours. A fantasy film that runs just two hours? It's almost unheard in this era of fantasy films of but Jones rightfully leaves a lot of the cliché fantasy trimmings to the side and lets this film move at a pace, never outstaying its welcome and keeping the story more focused and tighter than we've come to expect from the genre.   Warcraft is off to a good start and while it didn't smash a hole in the summer offerings, there's still talk of a sequel, so maybe we'll get to revisit these enjoyable characters some more.

Disc wise, this one shines like reference quality on the A/V front. It looks absolutely stunning at all times. The extras as way too fluffy really and I was hoping for more but hey, you can't have everything. Fans should dig this a whole bunch and anyone that was one the fence, should totally give this a shot, it won me over, it might win you over too.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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