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WARCRAFT
3D Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky, Daniel Wu
Director: Duncan Jones
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: September 27, 2016

I’ve spent more time protecting my king than my own son. Does that make me loyal...or a fool?”

Film ***

Is it all possible for a movie be simultaneously completely derivative and thoroughly engaging? Could there be such a viewing of a movie where you find yourself thinking that no matter how many films you’ve seen like it, there’s a certain quality to it that makes it feel like a new experience so that you can’t really write it off? It’s a rare, and I mean extremely rare feat to accomplish, but the answer is yes.

Warcraft might actually be the best cinematic example to date. It’s a movie that is pretty much every single fantasy movie you’ve ever seen, from Lord of the Rings to Legend) rolled into one package. The only real difference here is that it contains it’s own indecipherable fantasy jargon, which at times is so out there that I’m not even sure Tolkein himself would understand it.

However, what distinguishes this film from the others in the genre is the visual aspect, which is one absolute monumental quality. Taking the Avatar approach one step further, its blending of actors and a completely computer-generated environment is the most flawless sort to be done yet. Even if you’re someone is anti-everything CG, you won’t be able to stop your lower jaw from hitting the floor when reacting to the world that has been created for this movie.

Another important aspect in this case is that the movie is based on the widely popular video game series, World of Warcraft, which came about in 1994 and has been growing in popularity ever since. I’ve never once played the game and it’s a miracle that the movie didn’t turn me off since it’s been noted that it was intended to be absolutely faithful to the game and the lore surrounding it at every turn. Director Duncan Jones himself is a die-hard fan of the game and was dead set on making sure that millions of fans around the world got the movie they wanted.

The setting is the world of Azeroth, which is on the brink of all out war. A race of beings known as Orcs elude their dying home and attempt to colonize Azeroth by way of a portal connecting the two worlds. And so, a large scale battle between the monstrous sized Orcs and the human defenders of Azeroth is about to take place, with lots of magic and sorcery included for good measure.

It may sound like a run of the mill fantasy story, but watching it unfold visually is the primary strength of this movie. Again, the CG creations are nothing short of astonishing, and witnessing the battles between the larger than life Orcs and the more diminutive human warriors is a stunning experience. I know it’s nothing knew to say to yourself as you’re watching, “how did they do this?”, but in the case of Warcraft, you can’t help but think that very thing as it is all nothing short of remarkable.

I’ll admit, I was lost a few times during the movie. Like I said earlier, if you’re unfamiliar with any of lore surrounding World of Warcraft, you will be too. Nonetheless, I was engaged by all that I was witnessing regarding the world that the movie was creating and awestruck by the state of the art visuals and gargantuan sized battles. By the end of it, I found myself surprisingly saying I’d like to see more adventures in this series, which this movie surely promises.

Video ****

It’s been a long time since I’ve used the term “reference quality” when describing a Blu-ray presentation, but what we have here is a reference quality release for the history books. This 3D Blu-ray release from Universal is the one to beat this year as far as visual presentations go. The technical qualities alone make for a one of a kind looking picture, and this is a Blu-ray that absolutely knock the socks off anyone who watches it. The 3D picture is far and away the best I’ve seen this year, in addition to being one of the best to date. The colors and effects pop off the screen beautifully and flawlessly, and is also one of the most bright and vivid 3D presentations I’ve ever witnessed in the format. The 2D presentation is equally mind-blowing as far as overall picture is concerned.

Audio ****

Even without the movie’s many sequences of battle and warfare, the Dolby Atmos mix would already get high marks for what is hands down one of the most awesome music scores to grace any movie this or any year. Composed by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones), it’s a piece of movie music that will bring your surround sound to vivid life in awesome ways. On top of that, the dialogue delivery is top notch, and the many sequences of battles and effects work also help deliver moments of flooring sound quality. Unquestionably one of the best sounding releases this year has thus far given us.

Features ***1/2

Universal delivers plenty of goodies on this 3D Blu-ray release, with all of the extras located on the 2D Blu-ray disc. Among the extras are many featurettes, including “The World of Warcraft on Film”, a six-part making of documentary on the hard work that went into making the movie. There’s also “The Fandom of Warcraft”, which focuses on the huge legion of fans who have been patiently awaiting the movie’s release, as well as “Behind the Magic of Warcraft” which takes a look at ILM’s involvement in the project. There’s also “Warcraft: The Madame Tussauds Experience”, which offers a glimpse at several wax figurines that were created in conjuction with the film, as well as an hour long motion comic titled “Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood”, a Gag Reel, Deleted/Extended Scenes and a Teaser for the film that first surfaced in 2013.

Summary:

From a visual standpoint, Warcraft is an absolutely marvelous piece of work from beginning to end. It may end up lost on those unfamiliar with video game, but for me the entire visual environment and creations were enough to hook me in. And as far as 3D Blu-ray releases go, this is hands down one of the best releases ever!

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