zaterdag 11 juni 2016

Today's Review: Warcraft

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Warcraft - Recensie

Judging from the on-again, off-again subtitle The Beginning, it's clear Universal Studios hopes for this first entry into the Warcraft film franchise not to be the last. A ton of money has been thrown at the screen on a project that has been in development for nigh a decade to entice both fans and ignorant audiences alike, but the best intentions regardless, it's unlikely the film will sit well with the latter demographic, while it remains to be seen whether it'll be to the liking of the former. After all, the gamers are simple spectators on a quest played by Duncan Jones and his team, rather than their own. General viewers meanwhile get treated to a grand and supposedly rich fantasy universe for which they have a tough time developing a feeling, considering Warcraft only forms the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The World of Warcraft is vast and extensive, yet a film franchise has to start somewhere explaining it all. The Beginning addresses the origin of the wars between Orcs and Men, so it is said in the opening narration. Which also proves a major spoiler to the movie's own plot, considering the outcome of it all has already been determined. While much of the movie follows a minority of Orcs attempting to establish a truce with the world of Men they just invaded, with that opening statement in mind, there's few narrative surprises in store for us. Which doesn't mean we don't feel for this peaceful, noble Orc warriors, who find themselves a pawn of a sinister force's greater schemes to suck this world dry of life like it did their own home before. Brought to life by the latest motion capture innovations, the movie follows the new path of creating convincing digital characters based on intense acting performances, in the same style as the recent Planet of the Apes movie so successfully. It works, as these are some of the finest Orcs we've seen on the big screen thus far.

Alas, the same cannot be said for their human counterparts. The noble knights and conniving warlocks of Azeroth aren't nearly as interesting to behold as their fresh enemies, a victim of both dull, generic fantasy writing and uninspired performances. Though there's definitely a pool of talent assembled here, none of these actors truly seemed to have affinity with the exotic subject matter. All the silly spells and swashbuckling sword moves can't change that, and there's plenty of both to go around. In fact, Warcraft fanatics will recognize plenty of everything from their beloved games much to their enjoyment and to the detriment of ours, the casual viewers not acquainted with this realm. Especially in the first thirty minutes of the movie, the plot travels from one outlandish location to the next without allowing us much room to absorb it all, get to know its rules or develop a sense of geography for the whole. While names like Ironforge and Stormwind are no doubt iconic nomenclature to the fans, they never rise above the sound of generic fantasy to inexperienced ears. Same can be said for the other inhabitants of Azeroth: Dwarves, Elves and the like are briefly seen here and there but otherwise play no part.

Undoubtedly there's more to the World of Warcraft than what's shown here, but for the general audience, what realms are served never really click. It all looks fabulous but none of it makes us truly care on the same level as the Lord of the Rings movies did. Whether the fans will absorb this take on their beloved franchise as much as they did their interactive equivalent remains to be seen, but the studio better hope they do. Other audiences at best get a decent two hours of generic fantasy entertainment out of it, but nobody will be converted to the Warcraft cause. Which, considering the cost of this hugely expensive movie, might easily suggest The Beginning will also prove the end for the Warcraft film franchise.

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