Warcraft (2016)

The world of Warcraft is a massive franchise created by Blizzard Entertainment back in 1994. I say world, but maybe I should say universe because world simply seems too small for this sprawling product. Warcraft is mainly made up of five core videogames for PC’s which revolve around; online multiplayer role-play, strategies and digital card collecting. But it doesn’t end there, the franchise also includes novels, comics, manga, tabletop games, collectible cards etc…Now some may recognise a similarity to Games Worskshop’s Warhammer franchise, and I don’t blame you. Legend has it Blizzard originally wanted to make Warcraft a game set in the Warhammer universe, but things just didn’t work out. And as they say, the rest is history.

So onto the movie and trying to condense this ginormous Tolkien-esque universe into a reasonable length runtime. Basically what we have here is a story from two perspectives, one from the human side and one from the orc side. On the orc side of things, Draenor, the orc homeworld is being destroyed by a power called fel magic. So the all powerful (and nasty) orc warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) opens a portal to the realm of Azeroth (where humans live). Obviously their aim is to conquer this new realm/world, and make it their own. On the flip side the humans that dwell within this realm are none too happy about this, so they take up arms against the orcs. On the orc side we follow Durotan (Toby Kebbell), chieftain of the Frostwolf clan and a generally level-headed orc. Durotan isn’t too sure about Gul’dan’s evil plans. And on the human side…well we follow many characters, Kings, knights, mages etc…

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Dare I mention an amusingly unfortunate parallel? You know, masses of invaders swarming across a foreign land occupied by a predominantly white people (clearly of medieval European influence). Obviously this is a large coincidence, but the minute it dawned on me I had to laugh.

The huge worry with this movie (for me) was whether or not I would be able to become engaged in the story not knowing that much about the Warcraft franchise. I know of the franchise, the basics, but I’ve never played the games or read the books etc…I’m pretty sure this would be the general worry for all, how could they squeeze all this information into one opening movie without overwhelming people. What about people who are newbies to the franchise. Well in all honesty they don’t really address this problem too well in my opinion as questins are raised almost immediately.

OK so fel magic is destroying the orc world, right…what’s fel magic then? Unless I missed it (which is entirely possible) they don’t actually explain what this mysterious force is. What happens to the orc world of Draenor? Does it end up being completely uninhabitable? How does Gul’dan know of Azeroth? I realise he’s a powerful sorcerer but are these different realms/worlds common knowledge to orcs? Did Gul’dan know that humans lived there? Again I realise Gul’dan is a bad guy but maybe they could of entered Azeroth and used diplomacy? Or maybe he could of found a realm/world that didn’t have lifeforms living in it? I know some of these points would negate the whole point of the movie but I’m just throwing them out there ya know.

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There were also other small plot devices that just didn’t seem too well explained to me. Fel magic seems to be the bane of the orcs, seeing as its destroying their homeworld, yet they also rely on it quite a lot. Gul’dan appears to use it all the time, in fact his powers seem to revolve around fel magic. He uses it to harvest souls from captives (the Draenei, another species on Draenor) in order to power the portal through to Azeroth. He also uses it to save Durotan’s baby when it is stillborn. So it does appear that fel magic can be used for many things, good or bad depending how you look at it. But again later on in the movie, Medivh the guardian of Tirisfal (Ben Foster, a goodie), somehow becomes infected with fel magic and it consumes him, turning him into a powerful demon. But why a demon? How does this magic work exactly? Are there any limitations? Does the magic have a natural leaning towards good or evil, or does it depend on who uses it?

Leaving fel magic aside, what about the rest, the visuals? Well I have to say I really enjoyed what I saw, much to my amazement. The orcs do actually look really good in a comicbook kinda way. Let me explain, basically Warcraft has a lot in common with Games Workshop’s Warhammer; and Warhammer fantasy has a very comicbook-esque/graphic novel-like vibe about it, I think. By that I mean its very lively, bold, stylised, highly detailed and outlandish. Its all very different to the darker and more serious tone in Tolkien’s work. The orcs in this movie have that highly stylised, highly detailed look about them which is both over the top and genuinely fun to look at. I loved how each orc had his own unique armour, some adorned with trophies; weapons, haircuts, horns, facial features, skin colour, battle or clan standards etc…Orc chieftain Blackhand (Clancy Brown) was a good example with his matching trophies of some creatures skull and spinal column upon each shoulder.

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The CGI was really solid for the orcs I felt, they really had a lot of weight to them and they genuinely looked intimidating. In turn this did make the battles against the humans kinda daft because I really couldn’t help but feel the orcs would/should be squatting the humans like flies. Sure the orcs are slower but the human knights were encased in heavy armour so they would be slow too. Surely the orcs would just sweep through the human ranks no sweat, hell even a horse was no match for a regular orc. I must also give kudos for the design work on the knights of Stormwind, along with all the other characters magical or otherwise. I really liked the costume designs, colours, patterns, armour, weapons etc…It all looked really great, very colourful and again very comicbook-esque. I honesty loved how the knights looked, really brought back memories of The Empire from Warhammer.

I think the only thing that did look completely off in the movie was the character of Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton), half-orc half-draenei (but spoke English?). This character was not CGI but the actress under heavy makeup, or so you would think. Unfortunately this makeup looked very hokey with the silly fangs sticking out of her mouth; it literally looked like they just sprayed her up with green body paint. Mind you the all CGI dwarfs looked a tad iffy too, as did the elves with their long thin ears and glowing eyes. But still despite the amount of CGI in this movie I can’t believe I’m reporting that most of it was actually pretty fine. Much was obviously CGI but nothing terrible, your standard large CGI creatures/animals were all passable if obvious. I did quite like the large wolves the orcs rode, again harking back to my Warhammer days here.

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I’m not gonna lie and say this movie was plain sailing, far from it. There are a shit load of peculiar names, magical terms, species/race names, location names etc…that will confuse and disorient you. Many of the characters will refer to places, events and characters that will mean nothing. Much of the time you will forget who’s called what, or who or what they’re talking about (unless you’re a fanboy of course). There is a large cast here and their characters all have generally odd names. Some of the cast don’t really work, some surprisingly do, but overall the choice to use mostly unknown or little known actors was a very good decision, voice work and live action.

Whether or not the hardcore fanbase was pleased with this I don’t really know. Would a newbie to this world be engaged? I think so yes. I firmly believe this fantasy does tick all the boxes most fans of the genre would expect to see, on a satisfactory level. Durotan is a likeable…umm…greenish monster, a solid late in the day hero. Gul’dan is your typically evil pantomime-esque villain with a deep gravely voice (also covered in lots of bone trophies and horns). Garona does the divided loyalties bit with aplomb. Ben Foster’s wizard Medivh spouts enough mystical mumbo jumbo to please any avid Dungeons & Dragons fanboy. You’ve also got a stoic King and Queen, and of course the main handsome hero (and poor mans Aragorn) Anduin Lothar, played by Travis Fimmel.

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The movie isn’t as wide in scope as the Tolkien universe, it does feel a bit confined to a few locations, mainly some interiors and battlegrounds. You can see a lot in the visually pleasing backgrounds, but that’s all you get, pretty backgrounds. You never really feel like this world is explored much. The action is brutal and fun, but not bloody or gory which was a bit disappointing with all the mega sized orc weapons. The heavy CGI is excellent in places but somewhat insubstantial in others (there is of course a tonne of flashing, glowing magical effects and greenscreen). And lastly the main problem is the array of human characters that are generally generic and lifeless, in short you don’t really care about them.

Yet despite the numerous faults with this huge huge fantasy franchise undertaking, I liked what I saw. Yes as strange as it may seem, I did like and enjoy this movie…and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Probably the combination of the visuals, various details and some lovely bits of stylistic flair from director Duncan Jones. Wrap all that in a nice warm blanket of nostalgia from my old table top Warhammer gaming days; and I actually find myself liking this bloated CGI stuffed Hollywood blockbuster.

7/10

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

The final chapter? Why do I somehow doubt that. Also, ‘Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter’, not really a good sign is it. Yet you could say this present day horror franchise is the modern equivalent of the trashy slasher franchise of the 80’s, just glossier looking. I mean lets be serious here, who in their right mind thought we’d be at movie number six with this franchise. Anyway this movie starts off by giving us a complete backstory flashback right from square one. This is presumably because many folk will have forgotten everything that has come before in this fast food throwaway franchise. I’m not really surprised, there has been so many characters dying, surviving, disappearing and coming back its easy to get confused.

So what’s the new angle this time? There is no angle, its back to Raccoon City! ugh!! Yep all the way back to the hive where it all began, but why? (other than cash grabbing on nostalgia porn). Because there is in fact an antivirus to the T-virus which has been developed by Umbrella. But why would Umbrella develop an antivirus? Well because they intend to keep all the rich and important people frozen in cryogenic pods underground in the hive. Then once the T-virus has wiped out mankind (Umbrella released it on purpose), they will wake up, release the antivirus to kill off the T-virus and then start Earth over as they want. Was this the game plan all along? I dunno because I can’t remember and there’s no way in hell I’m rewatching the last five movies.

This beginning does also mean that we don’t get to see the rather epic looking mega battle that was hinted at in the finale of the last movie. You know, where the last remnants of the human race were all holed up and barricaded in the White House with a humongous army of undead creatures and mutants trying to break in. Yeah that looked awesome…but we don’t see it, just the aftermath where everyone has been killed and Wesker apparently betrayed everyone…again!

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So Alice must reach the hive and retrieve the antivirus within a set time limit. Why the time limit? well according to the Red Queen the remaining human outposts will fall when this time limit expires. Not really sure how the computer would know this, how could it tell when every last human is dead? Anyway one of the earlier things we learn is not everyone from the previous movies is actually dead. There are still numerous clones running around which all equals lots of convenient and contrived twists and reveals. And as to be expected, the movie raises many many questions concerning the plot and possible errors.

So on her way to Raccoon City Alice inevitably comes across numerous obstacles or traps, obviously these are Umbrella orchestrated. There appears to be a small band of survivors in Raccoon City and Umbrella are determined to kill them off. They aim to do this by moving towards the city in tanks very slowly (led by the thought to be dead Dr. Isaacs, same actor), leading a vast undead army behind them, no clue why. Eventually Alice winds up with the survivors, gains their trust (mainly due to the reemergence of Claire Redfield, same actress) and decide to make a stand against the incoming hordes. Low and behold Alice and co win, destroying both tanks in the process. Yet in the next scene we see Alice and co using one tank (was there more than two? only saw two).

Stage two, off to the hive with her new band of gun totting badasses (some white blokes with beards and muscles, a few sexy women, one token black guy, the usual), which is briefly interrupted by zombie dogs. Cue a sequence where most of the team somehow manage to outrun said zombie dogs accept for the obligatory odd member who gets mauled. Once inside the hive they discover it to be a giant funhouse of deadly traps being controlled by Wesker (whose face looks oddly plastic and CGI). Here most of the team get killed off at various stages by various traps. Its all highly obvious but actually highly entertaining. In fact the whole deadly funhouse angle is actually a neat way to go, shame it doesn’t last very long.

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In the meantime there are more Umbrella tanks with armies of the undead moving slowly towards Raccoon City, not really sure why though. One tank picks up Isaacs (he survived the first attack with his other tanks), he informs one soldier to head for the hive. Said foot soldier says he can’t he has other orders…but from who?? Is there someone else we don’t know about higher than Isaacs? Its at this point that Isaacs kills the foot soldier. These movies amuse me, in a world where the human race is on the brink of extinction, people still go around killing each other en mass. And apparently Isaacs can afford to kill his own Umbrella foot soldiers, surely they must be running out?

Stage three, Alice reaches hive central so to speak and confronts Wesker who has thawed out some of the rich important people. Said people turn out to be the real Isaacs (UGH!!!) and an old lady in a wheelchair. So I don’t wanna spoil anythi…ah fuck it, the old lady is actually the real original Alice. Yes the Alice we’ve all been following through all these shitty movies was in fact a clone all along…oh…my…God! We then get a whole load of spiel from Isaacs who explains his entire dastardly plan and how much he hates both Alice’s. The real Isaacs also has the antivirus which he goads clone Alice over. Thing is, if Isaacs hates old lady Alice so much, why doesn’t he just kill her? If he doesn’t want clone Alice getting the antivirus, why not lock it up in a hi-tech safe?

Stage four, the finale. Its incredible but somehow, some bloody how, that flippin’ laser beam corridor is back. You know, the one that cuts people up…well except Alice. Yes the finale sees clone Alice and the real Isaacs having a good brawl which leads them into the laser beam corridor. Alice again manages to dodge the beams, for some reason the beams don’t form the deadly diamond mesh formation which allows Alice to evade them. Alice then sticks a grenade in Isaacs pocket which doesn’t blow him up? and doesn’t kill Alice also? I guess it wasn’t a grenade? whatever.

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Stage five, the final part of the finale (oh please!). Well what do you thinks gonna happen here?? Clone Alice manages to kill everyone of course, Wesker (wasn’t he a monster at one point or something?), the real Isaacs and even all the cryogenically frozen people (geez!). The antivirus is released into the atmosphere and literally wipes out all the zombies within seconds, doesn’t even need time to spread through the air apparently. We could of at least seen some cool decomposing or melting or breakdown of the zombies as the antivirus destroys the T-virus, nope they just drop like flies. Luckily it will take years for the antivirus to spread across the globe so that leaves plenty of time for yet more undead monster killing adventures from Alice, hurrah!

OK credit where credits due, this franchise started way back in 2002 for Pete’s sake, its now 2017 and its still (apparently) going strong. Despite the fact I literally cannot understand how this is happening, I have to admit that’s impressive, come on admit it, it is. Considering almost every one of these movies is virtually the same shit but in different locations, I have to give congrats even though it pains me to do so. Yet despite all the questions, flaws and stupidity this movie is actually one of the better ones in the franchise. Its not completely ridiculously overblown nonsense as you might expect, its actually a little bit toned down, much darker, a smidgen more serious and you don’t get as many mutants, monsters or zombies. Its still a total videogame-esque rampage of blood ‘n’ gore that feels like its played out in stages with boss fights, of course (obviously nothing like the actual videogame). Its simply not as daft and thusly that little bit more engaging in a good way.

6.5/10

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