‘Warcraft’ Review

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Director: Duncan Jones

Writers: Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt

Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin, Callum Keith Rennie, Burkely Duffield, and Ryan Robbins.

Synopsis: 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, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Before I start, I should be noted to everyone: I have never played World of Warcraft. So everything in this review is purely based on what is in the film. I know very little to nothing at all of the games, so I don’t want anyone out there reading this that has played the games to curse me out because I got something wrong.

The film starts by showing us the world of the orcs, which is dying, and a dark mage Gul’dan (Wu), who uses the powerful dark magic called The Fel, has opened a portal to the world of Azeroth. However, the magic and portal isn’t strong enough to bring through all the orcs, so horde lead by Gul’dan, Blackhand (Brown), Durotan (Kebbell), Orgrim (Kazinksy), and others go through to capture humans. The reason being is that Gul’dan needs souls to keep the portal open long enough.

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Meanwhile, a mage-in-training, Khadgar (Schnetzer) has sensed the portal opening and The Fel, so he goes to warn King Llane (Cooper) about the danger soon to come. Llane enlists his brother-in-law and commander of his army Lothar (Fimmel) to stop the orcs from taking over their lands. Lothar does have help in Khadgar, a half-breed named Garona (Patton) and a powerful mage, and guardian of Azeroth, Medivh (Foster). What the humans don’t know is that Durotan fears The Fel and Gul’dan from making things worse and decides that working the humans might be his kinds only hope.

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Now, there is a lot going on in Warcraft, and I do mean, a lot. That’s not necessarily, a bad thing in a movie, but what will make-or-break a movie is if everything works seemingly throughout. Unfortunately, Warcraft stumbles a bit on that. Not every plot point and story works, or when it does it leads to nothing or an underwhelming resolution. Again, not every plot point or story is this way, some of the work. When the film focuses on a linear story and characters, it works in full force.

It’s one of the great things that director Duncan Jones does in the movie. He gives sides, orcs and humans, their fair share of screen time to make us understand both sides of what’s going on, and makes them tick. Durotan gets the better arc, for the main characters of him and Lothar, as the hero orc doing what he thinks is best for his people. It also gives us something so we can sympathize with the orcs, since you know, they’re not real and makes us connect with the CGI characters.

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The human cast is fine, since I can’t really talk about the orc actors since they are all covered in CGI and their voices are distorted, which is fine since I don’t think any of us expect to hear human voices coming out of an orc. That of course doesn’t take away anything from those actors and their performances. And the CGI for the film is pretty great, but the only real orcs that get good screen time is Toby Kebbell’s Durotan (he also plays another small role in the film), who is arguably the most developed and complete character in the whole film. Next to him would be the villain Gul’dan played by Daniel Wu.

Travis Fimmel gives off a cocky but confident warrior that is respected by the others soldiers, which I’ll admit, his cockiness put me off at times. He is given, albeit it felt forced, storyline that pays off at the end. Ben Schnetzer’s Khadgar is one of the cooler human characters and seemed to enjoy his time ranting off spells and has a lot to offer in the film, but doesn’t get to, which is a shame. Paula Patton’s half-breed character Garona doesn’t really pop until the last half of the film where it takes an interesting turn, but we never see the real fallout of it, which is extremely disappointing. Ben Foster as The Guardian/Medivh pops when he shares scenes with Fimmel and Schnetzer. Dominic Cooper’s King Llane and Ruth Negga’s Lady Taria don’t do too much, with the expectation of Cooper during the final act of the film.

Again, I’ve never played the games, so I’m sure there are references and nods to the games or other material that maybe would have helped me be more into the film. This is one of the big things the film was set to face: dealing with non-fans. I’ll admit that I wasn’t looking forward to the film that much, but there was enough in the film to make me really enjoy myself while watching.

LEEROY JENKINS!

LEEROY JENKINS!

The only real gripe I have with the film is that it doesn’t feel completed. The film leaves itself way too open for sequel for my liking. It might be picky, considering we now live in a world filled with franchise starters and sequels, but Warcraft takes that to the extreme. It’s bold for Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures to think fans will drive out in droves (or hordes) to watch the adaptation. But, for non-fans or people that don’t know anything about the world or characters, it leaves a bitter taste and feeling.

All in all, Warcraft will hopefully have enough for non-fans of the games to grab on to. The CGI for the orcs is fantastic and Toby Kebbell’s Durotan is the standout of all the characters. The film stumbles trying to control all the plot points and while some work better than others, the film still leaves some story to be desired, and it feels unfinished it some cases.

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Warcraft

3.5 out of 5

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Review

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Dir: Peter Jackson

Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, Dean O’Gorman, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett

Synopsis: Bilbo and Company are forced to engage in a war against an array of combatants and keep the Lonely Mountain from falling into the hands of a rising darkness.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review. As much as a spoiler free review goes on a movie based on a popular book and a prequel to popular series.*

 

 

Peter Jackson has done it. He has bought the world of Middle-Earth that J.R.R. Tolkein created to life on the big screen. Of course, he added in another whole movie that really seemed unnecessary but, hey what the hell right? The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies should have felt – and for some part does – as a grand finale to another ambitious trilogy that we could have only originally only imagined. The film has great moments but after a while the final film of The Hobbit series is slightly an underwhelming one.

 

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug left things on a cliffhanger with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) flying toward Lake-town to cause havoc. The Battle of the Five Armies picks up right after that as we see Smaug raining down fire upon the citizens of Lake-town. It’s a great set-piece to start off but judging how short the scene was I really couldn’t see why they decided not to put it in as the finale in the last film. Yes, more money, but even so, I really couldn’t see any reason they couldn’t have squeezed in an extra ten minutes.

 

The “real” beginning of the film would have been a great start, which is the rescue of Gandalf (McKellen), by Galadriel (Blanchett), Elrond (Weaving), and Saruman (Lee). The scene is cool because it gives Blanchett, Weaving and Lee more to do than just sit around a table and talk about the “Darkness that is coming.” Also, the scene is a bit anti-climatic, which can be said for the whole film series in some way. It is a prequel after all, and while I’m good at suspending disbelief, I couldn’t help but have the thought in my mind: “they’re going to be okay!”

 

Hobbit Gand and Gala

 

But this is the problem with prequel series and older fans. We know how the story is going to, so we do have to suspend our disbelief a lot more than fans that maybe don’t know about the original series (I’m looking at you Star Wars prequels!). However, one of the great things that Peter Jackson has done with The Hobbit films is that he has created a series that is some way is new and creates great moments that you forget the previous films. Desolation of Smaug is a great example of that but The Battle of the Five Armies juggles that throughout the whole film. When the film is on full cylinders it’s an amazing experience, but when it starts to slow down and gives the audiences some winks to the future (or is it past, I don’t know) it becomes a little jarring.

 

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Anyway back to the film. Thorin (Armitage), Bilbo and Company have finally secured their homeland and have gotten the room full of gold. Unfortunately, their celebration is cut short by Thorin, who becomes obsessed on getting the “Arkenstone.” So much that he starts to act like his grandfather before him. The obsession is described by Balin (Stott) to Bilbo as “dragon sickness,” as Thorin starts to turn on his own thinking one of his own people is hiding his birthright. Thorin starts to act brash and when the people of Lake Town come for shelter and some of the gold that was promised to them by Thorin himself in the previous movie, he tells them to leave or else. Things don’t get any better when Thranduil (Pace) comes and wants to claim the mountain as well.

 

Hobbit Thraduil

 

This puts the sides on opposite ends as Bard (Evans) tries to reason with Thorin, but again he’s having none of it. Thranduil sees this as an act of war and the Elvin army is ready to attack when Thorin’s cousin Dain (Billy Connolly) comes to help him. But before any of them can attack each other, the Orc army makes itself known and thus begins the titled Battle of the Five Armies.

 

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Here is where Peter Jackson success and fails. Jackson gave us some great and dare I say mesmerizing battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, especially The Return of the King, and while I don’t want to compare the two final films, The Battle of the Five Armies does have title to hold to. Now, I’m all for a good battle scene and while we have to sit through about an hour or so of build up for that actual battle and characters constantly reminding us that a war is coming or about to begin, when the battle actually starts, it is only okay. Again, don’t get me wrong, Jackson is one of the best directors that can put together a grand set-piece like a war (again look at the LotR films) but unlike those previous battles, Jackson relies more heavily on CGI with The Battle of the Five Armies. Of course since casting millions of people, controlling them in just an open space would be a pain in the ass, and there aren’t any huge goblins out there, CG is reasonably the best way to go. However, at the same time it feels like we’re watching an animating film instead of a live-action film, which again sucks because of the great battles Jackson has given us in the past. And yes, I know Jackson used CG in the LotR films, but he was able to hide it more in those films than these.

 

Despite that, it’s certain characters that save (and I used that word very strongly) the film. Martin Freeman’s Bilbo and Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield character’s come full circle. You can arguably say that The Hobbit movies are as much a Thorin movie as it is a Bilbo movie. Thorin goes from sympathetic and heroic character in the past films to this crazed and troubled character for three-fourths of the movie back to being character we love. Thorin’s arc is touching, heartbreaking and an great experience to watch unfold and Armitage does an amazing job of being able to fill those shoes.

 

Hobbit Biblbo

 

Freeman is also great and while he doesn’t spend so much time on screen the scenes he has are touching and great to watch. Whether it’s a scene of him trying to bring Thorin back to normal or a simple scene of him and Gandalf sitting down not saying a word to each other because at that point there is nothing to say, Freeman has given the character of Bilbo more life than one of could have imagined.

 

The rest of the cast kind of gets thrown at the wayside, which tends to happen when you have such a huge cast. All the actors that play the other Dwarves don’t really have moments to shine expect for Aidan Turner’s Kili who continues and finishes his romance arc with Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel. Luke Evans has more to do as Bard the Bowman acting as new leader and gets to show off his fighting ability. Lee Pace has about the same amount of screen time he had in last movie as the Elvin king Thranduil but finally gets to show more of his ability to fight. Finally, Orlando Bloom as Legolas is just in the movie for the action as he doesn’t really serve a purpose for the movie other than show how he got on his adventure at the start of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

 

Hobbit Tauriel and Legolas

 

All in all, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is not a bad movie but considering that there was going to be only two movies and the previous Hobbit movies built up to this, it does leave a little bit to be desired and was a bit underwhelming. If anything, The Battle of Five Armies and the other Hobbit movies are all about the adventure and characters, and on that end it succeeds with flying colors. But when it comes to the titular Battle of the Five Armies and a final film of a trilogy, it’s only okay.

 

 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

3.5 out of 5

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