Blu-ray Review: Warcraft

By , Contributor
Arriving on Blu-ray (as well as 3D Blu-ray, 4K UltraHD, and standard DVD; Digital HD already available) on September 27 is Warcraft. In the U.S., Warcraft was quite a box office dud when it theaters in June. With a reported budget of $160 million, its $47 domestic gross was paltry indeed—on it's own, probably a franchise killer. But outside of the U.S., director Duncan Jones' (Moon, Source Code) fantasy epic (based on the Blizzard Entertainment video game series) raked in an incredible $386 million. A possibly sequel is still on the table.

Money, of course, drives such decisions. But, based purely on aesthetics, Warcraft does not warrant continuation as a cinematic series. While director Jones' earlier films were models of storytelling economy, here he seems drowning in characters and subplots. Maybe this stuff makes sense if you're a player of the game. A movie though, regardless of its source inspiration, should stand on its own. This one doesn't. Unless you're terminally addicted to watching CG-driven epics regardless of coherency (even the effects, in this case, are a garish eyesore), the film is likely to wash over you for two hours without leaving the slightest impression. 

rsz_warcraft_2.jpg There are so many difficult-to-remember names of people, places, and things that any conventional plot summary reads like some sort of otherworldly, foreign-language grocery list. It's completely irrelevant anyway—Warcraft interests you or it doesn't. I guarantee that no recap, regardless of how much care is invested, will change anyone's preconceived notions. No cattiness or genre-bias intended. It's just the way it is with loud, ornately-produced, portentous, but woefully empty junk.

This synopsis, from Universal's official press materials, lays it out as well as anyone can: "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."

If only it were that simple. There are elements reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, Stargate, Thor, and other superior fantasy-based movies. Paula Patton is one of only a few semi-name brand actors squandering their talents here. Patton struggles to find a meaningful way to bring gravity to Garona Halforcen, a half-orc slave torn between allegiance to two races. Ben Foster, another good actor, is also stranded amidst costumes and magic conjuring. He plays Medivh, the current Guardian of Tirisfal. What's that, other than more hard-to-pronounce names? That's kind of the point. There is no point. Warcraft is two hours of numbing, eyes-glazing-over nonsense.

Universal's Blu-ray presents all $160 million worth of CG excess in perfect, 1080p clarity. The audio is available in Dolby Atmos. For those not Atmos-ready (like me), the default lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 will more than suffice. The score, by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones, the first Iron Man), is a rare highlight of Warcraft and it soars above all the bombastic audio in this technically perfect audio presentation. 
rsz_warcraft_bd.jpg Special features include these Blu-ray exclusives: Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood, a motion comic that offers an arguably clearer-told story than the film itself; "The World of Warcraft on Film," a series of six featurettes (averaging an easily-digestible five minutes each) that pays lip service to the film's plot and cast while focusing primarily on visual effects; "The Madame Tussauds Experience" featurette. Found on both the Blu-ray and the DVD: If the 123 minutes comprising the actual film aren't enough, there's about 14 minutes of deleted scenes; a gag reel that adds a touch of what the film is so sorely lacking (levity); "The Fandom of Warcraft featurette; "ILM: Behind the Magic of Warcraft."

It's not so much that I disliked Warcraft. It's that I couldn't find any compelling reason to feel one way or the other about it. It's just there, like a paperweight—its only purpose is to sit there, existing for its own sake. Universal's commitment to issuing a quality Blu-ray is commendable and fans of the film will appreciate the selection of bonus materials.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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