Friday, October 7, 2016

Warcraft 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
In a distant world, humankind faces extinction at the hands of a brutal enemy in the visually stunning epic, WARCRAFT, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Based on the global video game phenomenon from Blizzard Entertainment, WARCRAFT is a seamless blend of live action and awe-inspiring visual effects. All Blu-ray editions include over 90 minutes of bonus content, including deleted scenes, an exclusive stop-motion Warcraft comic, and several behind-the-scenes looks at stunts, visual effects, story origins, and more. 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, an unlikely group of heroes is set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their families, their people and their home.

Film (3 out of 5 stars)
The Orc homeworld is in jeopardy.  The strongest are chosen to join Gul’dan the Orc (Daniel Wu) who leads an army across the universe. Gul’dan’s Horde can travel to other worlds using Fel magic.  They sacrifice prisoners to fuel the Fel. They transport to Azeroth, where they hope to conquer the people and its lands. Anduin (Travis Fimmel) and King Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) must protect their home with the help of young mage named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer). 

The Guardian of Trisfal, a powerful man named Medivh (Ben Foster) wields magic of his own in the fight.  Garona (Paula Patton) is half orc, but becomes an ally of the humans. Although the Orcs are strong and many, one Orc named Durotan (Toby Kebbell) will stand up to Gul’dan before they wipe-out mankind.

I have never played World of Warcraft but I would guess that great care was taken to make sure this film felt like a piece of that reality. The filmmakers had a tough job trying to honor the fan base while making the film accessible to those who were new to the game and/or movie. I also admire the fact that the computer generated characters were made with motion capture. The real life actors added depth and realism that makes it much more believable.  

For me, the character Garona, didn’t fit. I felt like I was aware that I was watching Paula Patton with green skin and fake teeth the whole time. The CG characters and the live actors blended perfectly but every time I saw her on screen, the film was not working. That just may be my own issue, as I did not read other reviewers complain. As I said, I have never played World of Warcraft, so I had no ties to any of the characters. I also may have expected a bit too much.  

Whenever we enter a fantasy world, I hope for Lord of the Rings quality, and am often disappointed.  The story was a bit lacking for me, but many of the characters were interesting. Ben Foster was a great choice for Medivh because he has a quality about him that always makes you wonder if he’s a bad guy being good or a good guy thinking bad thoughts. I actually enjoyed the bonus features more than the film. I liked learning how they brought the fantasy world to life. I was interested to learn which actors are true gamers, jumping at the chance to be a part of this undertaking. With a film of this magnitude how they did it is more interesting than the final product in my opinion. The final product is understandably stuffed with information and it was a bit much for a newcomer.
Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Ultra 4K (3 out of 5 stars)                                         Blu-ray (4 out of 5 stars) 
This is the very first time I’ve been disappointed by the ultra-high definition release. The Blu-ray looks excellent with bright, rich colors. Flesh tones are accurate in humans and believable for everyone else. In many parts of the 4K disc, you’ll find things seem off with a muted color palette and skin tones and textures that are a bit off. When it comes to fine detail, the Blu-ray offers just as much to admire in body armor, weaponry, creatures and costumes as the UHD version. I actually prefer the Blu-ray in most scenes. I probably won’t be bothered by the 4K version on its own but when watching them back to back to compare the differences between them, the Blu-ray stands out.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Warcraft’s audio presentation is more consistent than the video. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack delivers a well-rounded mix. Battle scenes are expectedly vicious and you’ll be able to hear the difference in a variety of weaponry. The environmental aspects support the action and provide added layers of detail. Dialogue is intelligible, and not overwhelmed by the action, although often front centered.
Extras (4 out of 5 stars)
Warcraft contains a lengthy list of extras which include the following: 
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes – be sure to keep scrolling down so you don’t miss the second page (on the bonus menu) of scenes.
    • Durotan & Orgrim Petition for Entry
    • Durotan Fights Dark Scar
    • Orcs Discuss Fel at the Campfure
    • Lothar Receives Boomstick at Ironforge
    • Callan & Khadgar Ride to the Lion’s Pride Inn
    • Lothar Briefs Officers, Questions Medivh,
    • King and Queen Talk on Balcony
    • Meeting of the Kingdoms
    • The City Prepares for War
    • Lothar Mourns, Garona Comforts Him
    • Antonidas Asks Khadgar to Be the New Guardian       
  • Gag Reel – Watching actors flub lines is particularly amusing during motion capture and the variety of techniques used to put the film together lends itself to funny moments for the cast and crew.
  • The World of Warcraft on Film
    • Origin Story: A look back at the 1994 real time strategy game and the games that followed.  Care for backstories and character development was certainly a priority to the filmmakers.
    • The World of Talent - Focuses on the primary cast and their contributions to the project.
    • The World of VFX – The visual effects that bring the orcs and magic to life including the digital characters and worlds.
    • Outfitting a World – Intricate costume design and complex wardrobe choices are discussed.  Actors point out pros and cons to their characters costumes.
    • The World of Mo-Cap – A look at motion capture and all its uses, including the challenge to get the orc looks right.
    • The World of Stunts – As you’d expect this is a stunt heavy movie, but you probably didn’t know how many practical stunts are done to pull off CG character action.
  • The Fandom of Warcraft – A look at the fans of the film, the game and the company Blizzard.
  • Warcraft:  Bonds of Brotherhood Motion Comic – Another story from the universe of Warcraft, which is divided into five parts.
  • Warcraft:  The Madame Tussauds Experience – An up close look at the figures and creations from the film.
  • ILM: Behind the Magic of Warcraft – This feature focuses on a handful of moments at various stages of completion.
  • Warcraft Teaser – An extended scene from the beginning of the film. 

Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
Warcraft will definitely sit better with a fan than it did with me.  I acknowledge that it is well made, and the filmmakers attention to detail is excellent.  The story was a bit overcrowded for my taste and I don’t know that I’ll put this into regular rotation.  I did enjoy the bonus features and the audio and video quality are very good (although better on Blu-ray than ultra-high definition).  Although I didn’t feel like screaming this film’s praises I know more than one person who saw it and did.  If you think that this universe might interest you, whether or not you’ve played the game, I say give it a try (at least as a rental).

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