Thursday, 10 November 2016

Warcraft: The Beginning

Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Toby Kebbell, Ben Foster, and Dominic Cooper

Director: Duncan Jones

130 minutes (12) 2016
Widescreen ratio 2.40:1
Universal blu-ray region B

Rating: 7/10
Review by Donald Morefield

First, let it be known throughout all 13 realms that I am ignorant of the game-franchise power-source that this fantasy epic is happily adapted from. Since ancient days of yore and lore I have studiously avoided the seemingly addictive perils of RPGs in general, and the sprawling WOW milieu in particular, whether the appeal of the game is battle-honed adventure or empire-building challenge.

A cute newborn orc helps to establish the various family values and tribal loyalties that are at the heart of Warcraft: The Beginning. In a place called Ironforge, our hero gets his first boom-stick. In Stormwind, the kingdom’s guardian wizard preps for conflict with the apparent invasion of giants coming through an otherworldly gateway. A young mage is the entry-level POV chap for initiates. He rubbernecks in awestruck wonder at every building and library stack, but is later stuck with anachronistic lines like “I got this.”

Perhaps one too many TV actors, like Travis Fimmel (Vikings) and Ruth Negga (Agents Of SHIELD), spoilt the casting choices at the front-end of this drama’s exhilarating remix of Tolkien tropes, but Paula Patton is good in a somewhat thankless role as a green-skinned and tusked heroine. The mood and the mould is broken to include WWF superstar styling re-branded as brusquely combative berserkers in smack-down tradition, without any tag-teams for the bloodthirsty horde. With griffin and golem appearances, alongside knights and elves abounding, even the imagistic and thematic riffs upon Moses and Goliath don’t seem too jarring or out of place here. Killing off the hero’s son ignites a revenge plot but it leads nowhere.

As blankly poker-faced as any movie with a monster named 'Doomhammer' could possibly be, without self-combusting from its own deadpan mirth, this succeeds as a neo-classical post-LOTR opus on its own terms. Totally corny, unreservedly high camp, and completely bonkers Warcraft may be but this is, nevertheless, extraordinarily good fun that manages to attain its own comicbookish veracity and purpose. Stunning image quality on the Blu-ray edition ensures the hulking orcs are fully convincing as CG characters and not simply genre creatures.

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