Thursday, June 2, 2016

Movie Review: WARCRAFT

It feels almost obligatory to give a disclaimer before starting this review: I have never, ever remotely had anything to do with the Warcraft lore and games. I had literally no idea what the story would be. Yet, I am a very, very big fan of fantasy and Duncan Jones, and that is why I was excited to see this film, despite the negative backlash it had in its first week of reviews, and let me tell you that I've rarely seen such unmotivated negativity. Despite not living up to its potential, Jones and Legendary Pictures have put out a very worthy fantasy film that was actually very close to being great...up until its last ten minutes.

Giving any kind of vote to this film based on its first watch is really hard and I reserve my right to change it in the future, simply because I am still conflicted on how much I liked it, which is indicative of the chaos it induces with that ending.

For a solid hour and forty five minutes, Duncan Jones crafts a really strong fantasy picture. The only problems it bears for that duration are minor world building problems, which doesn't stop the story from flowing, but sporadically the film is a little too ahead of itself and gives the viewer some confusion on how the world is organized. The opening scene should have been cut full-stop, it makes no sense at all, and it also happens to be slightly mechanical, in the sense that the flow of the scenes happen to be a little repetitive after sometime: emotional scene, character development scene, action scene, repeat. It isn't really that bothering, but it was something that did occasionally take me out of the film.

Yet for the rest we are presented to an interesting world with characters we feel for on both sides. The pace is very tight and I was never bored for even half a second; everything that was going on I wanted to see more of. There are some moments that really sting emotionally and some others that are story turns you don't expect and with which the filmmakers have the balls to stick to which makes them even more resonant. The actors involved I did not have much faith in, but they all managed to surprise me, in particular Travis Fimmel who is channeling his inner Aragorn and excelling at it. The social dynamics explored might be a little underdeveloped, but when you are presented with such a rich vision to sink your teeth into it doesn't really matter. The world-building overall was enchanting, I was transported to this world and that is something that is really rare in filmaking.

Moreover, the effects here are game changing. The 20 months spent in post production pay off from the first frame. Starting off the success of the effects is the fact that the CGI is used correctly as a tool and not a gimmick and integrated seamlessly in what is one of the best looking and designed movies in recent years. Then on top of that you add state-of-the-art looking imagery, you are left with a film that dazzles visually without ever taking you out of it. No matter how the film will be received critically, there is no question these effects will change the game for films, but more importantly they are an example of how to use computer imagery correctly.

A killer score and breath-taking, goose-bump-inducing action sequences with storytelling momentum add to the list of great stuff I was enjoying from this film. Until the last ten minutes came and I realized I wasn't going to get a pay off. Look, it's fine if you want to do a trilogy of films, Fellowship of the Ring is the best film ever made (alongside its two successors) and it doesn't have an ending to the plot, but it has an ending to the story, you get emotional pay off from the characters, you get closure for the time being. Here you are promised, for the first two and a half acts of tight pacing, a kind of resolution, but it never comes. This film is lacking a finale. There is zero payoff, none of the dynamics at play are resolved, it leaves you empty. I was catching my breath in the climax and then it was all rushed to the end. It could have done with 10-15 more minutes to give us something to grasp onto.

Despite one of the most frustrating endings I have ever experienced, which I don't know if the fault lies in the studio or the director, I was thrilled and fascinated for the most part. I still look forward to possible future films, if they don't repeat this one's mistakes, and I still recommend seeing this adventure ride. As I said, my grade is really unindicative at the moment as the balance between good and bad elements I still can't really figure out.

James's Score: 7/10

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