‘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

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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Review

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Director: J.J. Abrams

Writer: J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Lawrence Kasdan

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow, and Mark Hamill

Synopsis: 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The first Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: I have already seen the movie twice, and the review was ready to go on Friday. However, I wanted to wait until this week to post the review. The review is spoiler-free, but still.*

 

Look, I’m not even going to pretend that this review is going to be easy to write. Not because I thought the film was bad, because it wasn’t, but because this film is so surrounded by secrecy that most of you probably won’t read this until after you watch the film – and I wouldn’t blame you. So, I’ll keep my promise to you that this will be a spoiler review and I’ll do my best to not even hint at any possible spoiler or could be considered a spoiler.

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The Force Awakens starts off like every Star Wars film before it, with the crawl. The crawl lets us know the important thing and the plot point that will set up the new trilogy: Luke Skywalker (Hamill) is missing – hence why’s he’s not in any promotional material – and in his disappearance a evil arises called The First Order lead by Supreme Leader Snoke (Serkis) and his generals in General Hux (Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Driver). The one thing standing in their way is the Resistance which is lead by General Leia (Fisher) who has been fighting them since they rose to power after the Empire feel. In the middle of all this are our new heroes and lead in a Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac), a scavenger Rey, a former Stormtrooper who’s now on the run, and a droid in BB-8. Along the way they meet up with familiar faces in Han Solo (Ford) and Chewbacca (Mayhew) who also help them out to fight off the First Order and their new weapon that threatens the galaxy.

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It’s hard not to see the familiar structure of other Star Wars films in The Force Awakens, but what director J.J. Abrams was able to do with the similarities was create something that still felt fresh and was excited to watch from beginning to end. Abrams doesn’t rely too much on nostalgia, although there are scenes that are oozed in it, but instead takes what the series has already given us and adds to it. The Force Awakens has great action, cinematography and more importantly, it’s a ton of fun and lets us get to know the characters that we want to root for them and follow their journey to the end. You can arguably say that maybe The Force Awakens relies too much of the similar story structure, but it works nonetheless.

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The new characters are great, and not a stinker in the bunch. Oscar Isaac is the first new character we see and he brings a nice swagger and charm, that to be honest, I was not expecting and that’s coming from a Oscar Isaac fan. John Boyega’s Finn also brings his own swagger and charm and even brings some of the funniest moments in the film. At the same time, we’re seeing a different side in the battle between the Dark Side and the Light Side. Finn leaves the First Order and abandons his role as a Stormtrooper. We’ve haven’t really seen that side before, and given that Finn is probably one of the characters you really can’t nail down. Sure, he does heroic things in the film and is on the side of the resistance, but he was a Stormtrooper too. Boyega handles it well and if your first exposure to Boyega was Attack the Block like mine, you know he was able to rise to the challenge.

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Finally, Daisy Ridley as Rey is one of the best characters in the film. She feels like a real person and is a character that you can easily root for. She’s not just a badass character, but one that can be vulnerable, funny, and naïve. Rey, similar to Finn, is looking for more in her life. She’s also heard the stories of Luke, Han and Leia, and is wide-eyed to find out that all of it was real and she’s now going on her own adventure. Rey will definitely be a highlight for many once they watch the film. Of course, there’s BB-8 as well. I mean come on, have you seen the commercial’s, have the droids in the past not been great? BB-8 was awesome too.

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Now let’s talk about the Dark Side. Kylo Ren gets most of the screen time and attention so Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux, Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke and even Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma are just a bit underdeveloped and are clearly saved for the future films, but it still would have been nice to see them a little more, especially Captain Phasma. It’s understandable, obviously, considering this is the first movie of a new trilogy, but it was a little frustrating considering all the secrecy for the characters just to be saved for future films. However, Gleeson’s Hux does get a fair amount of screen time and you really tell there is something about him and the fact that he’s younger than other Generals we’ve seen in these films.

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Thankfully, not all of The Force Awakens is CGI (I’m looking at you George Lucas!). Abrams goes back to the roots of Star Wars and has a ton (!) of practical effects and physical creatures so the cast can interact with. It could have been easier to go with CGI creatures, but the fact that Abrams and producers Bryan Burk and Kathleen Kennedy went the route of building creatures makes the film feel so much more special. Sure there are CGI creatures, but there isn’t an over abundance of them. One of those CGI creatures is Maz Kanata, who Lupita Nyong’o does the voice and motion capture for. Her character appears right in the middle of the film and while her character doesn’t feel important, she does play an important role, and is one of the characters I’m sure we’ll see more of in the future.

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All in all, what makes The Force Awakens undoubtedly work is that the film is fun. It really is fun and funny. Abrams is always able to find a nice balance of action and comedy that they serve their purpose equally and one doesn’t overpower the other. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve had this much fun and laughed with a movie since the summer and Mad Max: Fury Road. The most importantly thing the film does however is that it doesn’t lean toward or on its past. It embraces it future while paying respect to the past. Disney, Lucasfilm, Abrams, who ever deserves the credit, should be given all the credit in the world for making that move. It was great to see the old cast come back, but it was even better to see a brand new cast of characters, especially John Boyega’s Finn and Daisy Ridley’s Rey.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is truly a great addition, and continuation, to the Star Wars franchise. It will make you feel like a kid again, it will make you cry and more importantly, it will make you happy that there is another Star Wars movie in our lives.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

4.5 out of 5

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