Category Archives: Fantasy

A Monster Calls


A Monster Calls is one of those films that is better to go in blind so I’ll keep this as spoiler free as possible but blind or not – you should really watch this film!

In general the film deals with a short period of uncertainty in the life of Conor (Lewis MacDougall) and his relations with Mum (Felicity Jones), Dad (Toby Kebbell) and Grandma (Sigourney Weaver).

Very quickly within the film you will understand where the film is going and what it is trying to say but in this case it really isn’t about the destination it’s about the journey and what a journey it is.

My new year’s resolution was to pick up drawing/painting again (I’ll post my first attempt in a comment below) so I was pleasantly surprised to see art playing a key role in the film. Through the use of art the film not only manages to enhance the story but also bind key plot points whilst managing to be consistently enchanting and awe-inspiring.

A simple glance at the monster is enough to understand that the art direction in A Monster Calls is exemplary… even if he does look a lot like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy!

However, once you layer the first class sound design of wood creaking and groaning as well as the haunting voice work of Liam Neeson you can’t help but fall in love with the sensory aspects of the film.

Make no mistake though, this is no Baz Luhrmann or Zach Snyder film where style trumps substance, this is a film which will dig its claws into your soul assuming you have a shred of humanity to you.

I have to admit the film didn’t start off that way and although things happen quickly the start does feel comparatively slow but by the time Conor gets to Grandma’s house and accidentally breaks one of her clocks I had a moment of realisation: “oh shit! I’m hooked”.

The story builds and builds to its finale and manages to be almost unbearably sad and touching yet hopeful and uplifting. It’s a brilliant piece of schadenfreude. Bring your tissues.

The script tries to force in some “natural” lines of dialogue between Conor and the monster but this is no natural relationship so these redundant lines come with some flat delivery. Thankfully they are few and far between and other than that there is very little to dislike about this incredible film.

It’s a film that is reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth due to its fairy tale nature and also of Kubo and the Two Strings due to its exploration of psychologically. In short don’t expect sci-fi horror like The Day of the Triffids but do expect a few hours of terrific.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Beautiful art
+ Liam Neeson
+ Grandma’s house

– I might be Groot!
– Slow start
– A couple of flat bits of dialogue



Doctor Strange

Marvel – Still Alive and Kicking

Let’s jump right to it. This is a Marvel movie. Sure, they are as common as Mars bars at the minute but god damn if they aren’t as delicious as those Lindor truffles!

I say it in almost every Marvel review but the foresight of Marvel studios is astonishing. Building out the wider Marvel universe is one thing but the real magic is keeping viewer fatigue at bay especially since doctors orders was to take 1-2 films, twice a year for 10 whole years!!

Charlie Sheen might disagree but you can have too much of a good thing!

However, by drip feeding us new characters like Black Panther and changing the style of films with Captain America being more of a drama and then along comes Ant-Man as a comedy crime caper.

So where does the Sorcerer Supreme fit in?

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a rockstar doctor who can do no wrong but after being involved in a horrific accident he has to look for unconventional healing methods after western medicine fails him. It’s here in this quest that he finds The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who introduces him to, essentially, a new way of living.

If you strip back all the mysticism and Inception style visuals you are left with a film that is incredibly similar to Iron Man.

I really wish the structure and character journey could live up to the name the doctor’s last name and taken us to mind bending places but that’s not the case. It is another Superhero film, but it’s an excellent one!

Doctor Strange, without question, packs in the greatest acting talent ever assembled in a Marvel film and because of this we are treated to some of the best performances in a Marvel movie accompanied by some of the hardest god damn names to write correctly.

Obviously Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo are both excellent but the supporting cast are just as excellent – if not better. Benedict Wong as err… Wong… is brilliantly placed as the hilariously humourless head of the Hong Kong sanctum whilst Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius is instantly one of the Marvel’s best enemies if slightly underutilised.

In my eyes though it’s all about the ladies. Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One was endearing, creepy, captivating and untrustworthy all at the same time. It’s another perfect piece of casting. There has been a lot of negativity over Rachel McAdams’ role as Christine Palmer and yeah, absolutely, more could’ve been done but at the same time she represents the viewer in being on the fringes of an unknown world where things don’t quite make sense.

I’ve neglected the real star of the film though: THAT CLOAK!

Oh man. I have never wanted a cape/cloak more than after watching the film. I won’t say anymore for fear of spoilers but I want one, I want one, I want one.

You should probably also give this a watch for some really interesting CGI. Doctor Strange really packs it in. Freezing time, rewinding time, one-take teleports, kaleidoscope visuals all take second place to a fight scene with Kaecilius that is like watching an M C Escher painting come to life.

It’s a shame that Dormammu was probably the worst of the film’s CGI repertoire because if you Google him he looks like a cool flaming head hell beast but in the film he’s mostly a disembodied cloud with glowy eyes.

I would fully understand if you thought this was a 3 star film but to me it still felt fresh, it was funnier than I was expecting and with such a good cast I think it’s up there with Marvel’s best.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ New Cape-abilities
+ Excellent supporting cast
+ Interesting CGI

– Strange Iron Doctor Man
– Rachel McUnderutilised
– Dormammu


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Stranger Things

Here’s a question for you: what was the last Tim Burton film that you really, really loved?

Alice in Wonderland? No… come on, let’s be serious. Corpse Bride? It was alright… but nah. Big Fish? I can get behind that.

That was thirteen years ago! 2003. The year we were on the verge of extinction from SARS before swine flu took over as the new apocalypse, Apple didn’t make phones but the Nokia 3200 was THE mobile to own and Britney Spears was still semi-relevant especially after making out with Madonna.

An amazing Tim Burton film is long overdue and with Superhero movies being all the rage right now Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children sure as hell seemed like this could be Burton back to his A game.

Unfortunately that isn’t the case.

Peregrine has all the traits of a Burton film. It’s quirkier than that time I went to Japan and the first thing I saw on TV was Strictly Come Dancing but with a guy in skimpy S&M leathers. It’s also a bit Gothic like those guys in high school and finally it focuses on outcasts and fringe society members like… err… Nigel fucking Farage.

Mimicking the title of this film there are many peculiarities to be found in the film. For a start there is voice over but unless I’ve blanked it from memory it is only over the first five minutes of the film. Where did it go?!

Another oddity is that it isn’t set in New York!? It’s actually set on a tiny island in Wales. Strange, yes, but it’s weirder that it includes rap wannabes who talk in such a strong local accent that even Tom Jones would be left confused.

Some peculiarities are positively gripping such as the host of special children. In a landscape full of silver screen superhumans it’s fascinating to see new, intriguing powers, that haven’t been harnessed for crime fighting or for destroying New York!

Miss Peregrine herself (Eva Green) was equally as wondrous. Sure, her Gothic looks are visually striking, but every time she was on screen I was fixated. There is an expectancy to her performance as if she is about to divulge some revelation but only to you. This intimacy is truly encapsulating.

The tantalising quirkiness is shortlived. In my opinion it’s too soft. I think Burton has made this with the intention of it being suitable for his children who are about 10 years old now. Almost everything about it has it’s edge  tapered back to be more family friendly.

There are also problems with some of the acting. For every Eva Green there is a Terrance Stamp who is miscast in this fantastical role. For every youthful, joyous spirit of Ella Purnell (who plays Emma Bloom) there is an Asa Butterfield (who plays Jake) and is dull, drab and quite simply never that surprised, amazed or concerned about the unfolding events – the epitome of meh!

For all it’s faults and misgivings it’s still a Tim Burton film at its heart. I have to be honest that get’s me every time but it’s just a shame that it’s not the return to form I was hoping for.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ It’s a Tim Burton film- Yay!
+ Eva Green
+ Interesting abilities

– Not gritty enough
– Some odd choices in settings
– Asa Butterfield


Kubo and the Two Strings

Hobby Crafted

If there is any film this year that deserves to be a commercial success then it is Kubo and the Two Strings.

The whole premise of the film is framed around a fairy tale. The tale goes that the evil Moon King fought and defeated Hanzo, a legendary warrior, and took an eye of his only son. The only thing that can stop him from taking the boy’s other eye is another warrior and 3 pieces of mythic armour.

That boy is Kubo.

What I loved about Kubo and the Two Strings is how it seamlessly blended reality and fantasy without ever needing to explain how or why such things exist and it’s up to the viewers own intelligence to work out what is real and what is metaphorical.

Can Kubo really make paper dance and fight like it’s alive or is this just a metaphor for a vivid storyteller? Does he really have a monkey and a samurai beetle as friends? Is his shamisen really magic?

It could all just be the overactive imagination of a young, lonely, boy trying to grow up and make sense of a world that has left him with a mother that requires constant care and an absent father.

With a heavy Japanese influence I did wonder if some of the film’s meaning was lost on me though. As a stupid ‘gaijin’ I couldn’t tell you if this mythos is rooted in eastern theology or if this is original storytelling.

Either way there is so much love and care put into the animation and interaction between characters. I would not be surprised if this started out as Travis Knight’s personal hobby or pet project because it’s so easy to be mesmerised by the film’s many unfolding layers.

I mean the animation is nothing short of breathtaking with action scenes that are dynamic enough to hold its own against modern action choreography.

The interaction between characters is equally as stunning. Whether it be between Kubo and old lady Karmeyo (Brenda Viccaro) or between Monkey (Charlie Theron) and the wonderful Beetle (Matthew McConaughey) both script and acting are near flawless.

Kubo and the Two Strings is not perfect though. It is possibly a little bit too long but more importantly it loses focus leaving the end of the film to feel a bit rushed. The final fight scene had some scrappy editing and I wasn’t enamoured by the Moon King’s design at this point as it looked like something out of The Avengers.

In all honesty this might not be something to take your kids to – it’s not exactly Toy Story – but it’s the most creative and wonderful piece of art to come out on general release in a long time and one that deals with spiritualism, fantasy, life and death in a careful and delicate manner. In my eyes; that’s something worth supporting.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Gorgeous stop motion photography
+ Fantastic action
+ Beautiful character interaction

– Am I missing some symbolism?
– The final battle



Lofty Aspirations

I don’t know if it was the book or a cartoon or a TV show or a hand puppet show but I remember really loving the BFG when I was a kid. Hmmm. It couldn’t have been a book because I rarely read on account of me reading slower than the sloths from Zootopia.

Anyway, I was quietly optimistic about Steven Spielberg’s latest family friendly adventure. 

As it turns out that optimism was unfounded because the BFG lacks the charm and the magic that I was dearly hoping for and most of this can be laid at the hands of the two main stars; Mark Rylance who plays the BFG and Ruby Barnhill who plays Sophie.

Before you ask how many snozzcumbers I had to guzzle to hallucinate so vividly let me just say that there was nothing wrong with Mark Rylance as the BFG. He looks the part and anyone who saw Rylance absolutely smash it in 2015’s Bridge of Spies will be unsurprised to find out that he is fantastic once again.

The problem is that Steven Spielberg has removed the darker aspects of the BFG such as the children eating. Roald Dahl essentially writes fairy tales and if you look at all the best fairy tales there are often psychotic undercurrents or origins that probably shouldn’t be read to children ironically!

The removal of sweet, delicious, cannibalism means that Spielberg has tried to Disnefy Roald Dahl’s classic by accentuating the fairy part of the tale. In my eyes, Mark Rylance is too drab to be the architect of the fantastical.

The BFG catches dreams atop a huge hill in dream country in one of the most visually stunning moments of the film. He uses said dreams to give young children pleasant nights sleep. Very sweet but Rylance’s portrayal doesn’t hold the magic that the character suggests.

I think Sophie was even worse. I found Ruby Barnhill actually quite annoying and really you could have replaced her with almost any young well spoken British person and I wouldn’t have noticed.

it’s not all bad. There are fun moments. Seeing the other cannibal-not-cannibal giants playing with buses and cars like there were Matchbox toys or roller skates was only surpassed by an evening meal with the queen. A meal that featured a pitchfork a billion fried eggs and a bottle of frobscottle which induces more flatulence than a night of Dominos pizza and Stella Artois.

Of course the real star of the show is the script. I don’t remember the BFG well enough to say if this was thanks to Roald Dahl’s original story or whether it’s thanks to Melissa Matheson who wrote the screenplay. Either way it’s absolutely fantastic. Mispronunciation of every other word makes the BFG instantly adorable.

Unfortunately the film was waaay too long to keep my attention so I question how well younger viewers will fare. More importantly; the length of the film makes it feel less focused and therefore less magical so with the darkness glossed over The BFG feels flat. Perhaps if Guillermo Del Toro had directed this could have been spectacular.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Fantastic script
+ On screen Queen scene
+ Dream catching

– Darker would have been nicer
– Sophie
– Way too long




When women got a little too over-excited by the sight of babies I used to say: “Ok… put your ovaries away!” but I think I need a new similar saying for those people who are needlessly sexist and/or defensive about things.

If you haven’t heard there was a LOT of buzz about this Ghostbusters film. So much so that the trailer was the most disliked trailer on YouTube. Was it really worse than Gangnam Style or the guy being amazed by a double rainbow? No. Of course not.

So why was it so hated? Well, there’s three main reasons. One: Some people simply didn’t like the trailer – fair enough. Two: Some people are fucking idiots. Three: Some people are fucking arseholes.

Those who fall into group 2 love the original Ghostbusters a little bit too much and probably want to wed Bill Murray or make gloop babies with Slimer. Anything that touches the hallowed ground of the original film is sinful whilst casually forgetting that Ghostbusters 2 is actually pretty bad.

Those who fall into group 3 are those people who think women can’t be role models whether they admit it or not. These are the sort of people who would gleefully look back at colonial times proclaiming them to be “the good ol’ days” and casually forgetting about the destruction of national identity, widespread theft and exploitation. You know, generally being a fucking arsehole!

What makes groups 2 and 3 even more frustrating is that half the damn population are crying out for this sort of positive representation  and more importantly the film is totally fine.

Writer director Paul Feig does an excellent job of keeping the film light-hearted and fun and I found myself laughing a lot more than I was actually expecting. Thankfully these comedic moments are mostly script driven so it avoids coming across as too cheesy.

The first half of the film is the funniest with some of the best moments coming from the sheer stupidity of Kevin who is effortlessly played by Chris Hemsworth. In my opinion though it is Kate McKinnon who steals the show as Jillian Holtzmann.

Holtzmann is effectively Egon from the original film only so much cooler. She has a devil-may-care attitude, underpinned by fierce intelligence and an engineering prowess that gives her a steam punk kind of vibe that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in a film.

She also has a sexual confidence which will make many men want to be with her and many women want to be her. Such a strong and unique character can only be a good thing for equal representation in films.

Holtzmann isn’t, however, a one woman band and has to rely on her fellow colleagues Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) who all gel really well as a team  and is something you’d undoubtedly expect from Paul Feig.

Appearances from the likes of Charles Dance and Bill Murray keep the film feeling fresh yet weirdly, after Bill Murray’s entrance the film really grinds to a halt.

It’s here that the film feels more fractured and unsure of itself. Slimer and the marshmallow man are part of an unrelenting desire to reference the original work and makes you question whether this is a sequel, a remake or a re-imagination.

Make no mistake this film isn’t perfect. Not all jokes land as well as they could and It doesn’t have the same magic as the original but an abomination it’s not. However, if you still don’t want to at least give it a chance then I suggest you take your prejudices, proton-pack them in your anal cavity as tightly as a spectre in a ghost trap and just chill the hell out.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Kate McKinnon
+ The first half
+ Chris Hemsworth

– Is it a remake, a reboot or a sequel?
– The bit after Bill Murray
– Doesn’t have the same magic as the original


The Legend of Tarzan

Trailer Trashed


That’s probably what you thought (and rightly so) when you saw the Legend of Tarzan trailer. After all; the last film in the cinema to star monkeys was The Jungle Book you really have to bring your A-game when showing off CGI  and not resorting to pre-alpha footage.

In the world of computer games there has been a recent spate of incidents where games are previewed as graphical powerhouses sparking huge sales numbers upon release. This was quickly followed by equally huge rates of criticism, drop-off rates and even falls in company share prices as the final release saw considerable graphical downgrades.

In the movie world we are potentially seeing the opposite. I couldn’t help but think the Ghostbusters trailer looked pretty ropey as far as CGI goes, the same was true for Tarzan and even Jurassic World so how much does this go to damage a films reputation before it’s even had a chance.

It’s an understandable trail of thought. If a CGI heavy film hasn’t put in their best efforts into the special effects then how much effort are they going to put into the story or the acting or any other aspect of a film?

So what’s the actual film like?

Well, some of the CGI is still a bit ropey but overall the film is a lot better than the trashy trailer suggests because it’s not just an action fest, it’s actually a lot more introspective and quiet and that’s a good thing.

Some of the best moments in the film are where there isn’t any talking such as when Tarzan comes face to face with some lions or when he fights the head of the Gorillas for safe passage through an area of the Jungle.

At these moments we are placed fully in the seat of the spectator left to speculate about what Tarzan is thinking or how he knows what he knows. In a sense we become George Washington Williams (Samuel L Jackson) who has no choice but to follow and obey Tarzan who’s aloofness and conviction is played with ease by Alexander Skarsgård.

The pace of the film is monotonous – but don’t take that as a criticism – it knows exactly where it wants to go and steadily rolls through the storyline to get there. In many ways it has a similar feel to The Revenant or even Apocalypse Now

Tarzan is simply not of the same calibre as those two films because it has too many flaws. Even though Samuel L Jackson’s character is a proxy for the audience it doesn’t make sense that he is able to keep up with Tarzan.

There are also some poor dialogue especially the scene where Margot Robbie is picking out different animals mating calls but more than anything I wish that some of the overarching plot was stripped back to make the film feel even more hostile, isolated and alien than it already is.

From start to finish The Legend of Tarzan is a completely acceptable film and one that is surprisingly better than it’s trailer gives it credit for. It’s not your average Hollywood thrill ride yet it does hold some competent action scenes and if all else fails you can ogle at Jane or Tarzan’s ab muscles. I still have the bruise where my girlfriend’s jaw hit my arm!

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ The quiet moments
Alexander Skarsgård
+ Decent action

– Samuel L Jackson’s character
– Some cringe-worthy dialogue
– Could have leaned harder into a feeling of introspection


Gods of Egypt

Oh lord…!


In 5 or 10 years time maybe we will look back on Gods of Egypt and proclaim how forward thinking it was, how it manages to be a modern day pastiche of the superimposed or claymaytion monster movies of yesteryear and how effortless it is in doing so. Maybe.

For now though it is a certifiable geyser of trash, uncontrollably throwing turds in any random directions, but always in the direction of industrial strength fans.

There is almost nothing to like about this film. The acting is so wooden that Swiss people can build chalets from it whilst the on screen chemistry is about as magnetic as a depolarized creme brulee. Many of the film’s other issues could have been overlooked if there was at least some sort of connection between the cast but there just isn’t.

It’s not like the film is lacking in talent with Gerard Butler playing the main antagonist, relatively fresh faces such as Brenton Thwaites and the stunning Elodie Yung both showing promise and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones Jamie Lannister) being placed front and centre. Yet throughout the film these so-called friends, relatives, lovers and enemies consistently look like it’s the first time they’ve ever met.

Of course, it also doesn’t help that the script writing is terrible and actually does a dis-service to a fairly solid plot which, in short, goes as follows: Gods still live amongst us and Osiris (Bryan Brown) is passing his role as King to Horus (Coster-Waldau). Osiris’ brother Set (Butler) believes he should be crowned king as the most powerful God and usurps the throne. After losing his all-seeing eyes Horus is sent into exile. It’s down to Bek – a mere mortal – to help Horus stop Set’s dominion over the people of Egypt.

You can totally work with that. You can mix in how/why there are no Gods living among us anymore in an alternate/fantasy history. You can explore what it means to have Gods living amongst humans and how that benefitted or destroyed people’s lives… Or you could pull a Gods of Egypt and steam roller through all of that to focus on only 2 mortals and their trudge through uninspiring CGI.

If this film was made 20… 25 years ago then maybe this would have been a box office home run but guess what, we’ve moved on. We no longer enjoy a filmic depiction of 14 year old’s wet dream involving Egyptian superhero transformers. We have seen action films and fantasy films that are thought provoking, imaginative and genuinely excellent im quality over the last 5-10 years so something as hollow and vacuous as “woah, cool, Egyptian Gods played by white people who can are have super wicked robot armour and fly and shoot lasers and stuff” is simply not good enough in today’s filmic landscape.

Perhaps in a number of years we will get back to the stage where films can exist and be appreciated for the purity of escapism and at this point we might look back fondly on Gods of Egypt but right now it’s hard to think this film is anything other Horus-shit. Like my pun; it’s so bad… it’s almost good!

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Reminiscent of old B-movies

– Wooden acting
– Lacking any depth
– Inept in almost every aspect


Alice Through the Looking Glass

More Mad, Less Hatter

I really disliked Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Nothing really grabbed me about from the story to the characters I just thought it was a bit bland, forgettable and pointless. That is of course, with the exception of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter who I just wanted to shut up and fuck off throughout. Six years later we are given the sequel that literally no-one was asking for.

Through the Looking Glass has all the familiar trappings of the original film but weirdly I actually quite it. Let me explain why.

I still found most of the characters to be rather shallow archetypes. For example; Mirana (Anne Hathaway) is the good queen – beautiful, dainty, white and literally floats around the screen. Iracebeth (Helena Bonham Carter) is the bad queen – ugly, quick to temper, red and up to no good.

You can take almost any of the characters and somehow they come across as generic with well trodden motivations underpinning them; especially given that there is very little character development from the first film.

It’s not like the story hooked me in either which is surprising given that the screenplay was written by Linda Wolverton who had a hand in the Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and more recently Maleficent.

By the end of the film you’ll be left with one question: Huh?! It turns out that most of the events in the film are pointless and irrelevant. The very reason for Alice setting off on her quest (the Hatter is a bit poorly) is hard to empathise with, especially when he was the very thing I disliked about the original.

If you take a look at the architecural style of Tokyo you will see areas that smash new and old, high and low rise together yet it all comes together to look like, well… Tokyo. This is how I feel about Through the Looking Glass. It’s easy to have contempt for a lot of the individual pieces of this film but  it’s precisely because of this confusing narrative and the try-hard characters that I enjoyed the film.

I think the best way to describe it is unhinged. By taking delight from insanity it is only natural for it to be whimsical yet unnerving and bordering on threatening.

If you look at most fairy tales they are often quite gruesome or at the very least based on something rather awful so I loved the fact that the film dares to indulge in the darker side of fairy tales.

Even you this doesn’t spark an interest in your warped mind like it does in mine the film also features some excellent use of special effects. This is mainly towards the end of the film and forms one of the darker aspects of the storyline which also manages to weave in the events of the original rather seamlessly whilst reducing screen time for Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter which in my opinion is a good thing.

To me, this film represents the duality of human nature: I fully recognise that it’s actually not a very good film but there is something about it that is both unbridled fun and unsettling that I really enjoyed. Perhaps that says more about me than the film!?

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Less Mad Hatter
+ Excellent CGI
+ Weaves in the previous film

– Convoluted story line
– Too casual for some
– Archetypal characters


Warcraft: The Beginning

Missing The WOW Factor

I never played World of Warcraft for the simple reason that I feared for my life. Seemingly normal friends would disappear for days on end only to be found in their room, curtains closed, hunched over their computer, surrounded by half eaten pizza and covered in their own shame.

Prying these warped individuals away from their gaming rig was like trying to remove a zombie from a fresh corpse, hiding a heroin addicts needle or stealing the one ring from Golum only instead of hearing the words “My precious” would be confronted with “Fuck off, I’m WOWing!!”.

Before Mojang’s popular Minecraft game and King’s soul destroying evil that is Candy Crush Saga the biggest name in Gaming was World of Warcraft so it’s only fitting that it has had a silver screen adaptation.

Orcs, magic, elves, kung fu pandas (no, really!), bull-man hybrids, golems… it’s a no-brainer to translate this into a fantasy epic it just needs a new angle to differentiate itself from Lord of the Rings.

In steps director Duncan Jones whose career has been catapulted thanks to his seminal film Moon which is one of my favourite all time films as well as the excellent Source Code. Both films triumph by focusing on one fascinating aspect of a story and Warcraft tries to do the same with middling success.

What this film really focuses on is the invading Orc army and the reasons behind why they have to invade the peaceful realm of Azeroth. There is an impressive amount of detail to the history, culture and the Orcs societal structure that I simply wasn’t expecting and quickly becomes the most interested aspect of the film.

Some excellent CGI work and refined acting help shape the Orcs into something you might not expect from this genre of film; They are something more than a barely comprehensible, topless football hooligan with the IQ of a mouldy sponge cake… also known as “a  football hooligan”.

It’s not all jolly green giants though. Dominic Cooper is incredibly bad as Llane Wrynn with his performance more apt for a depiction of a badly performed local stage play than it is of a noble and enigmatic king.

Similarly; Ben Foster plays Medivh – an all powerful defender of the realm fighting with magic forces beyond our comprehension – feels only slightly less farcical than Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s bi-polar Zaphod Beeblebrox who was ironically played by Sam Rockwell: the star of Duncan Jones’ Moon.

Even though these characters are as compelling as juggling hedgehogs the on screen magic is subtly better than most films. Computer games have been trying to make magic look jaw-dropping for years and this aesthetic is brought to life on the big screen through floating runes and orbs around the relevant spell-caster.

It’s not just the magic that is impressive either, the first encounter between Orcs and man brings home the terrifying brute force like a bus to the face and show them as more than worthy adversaries.

That’s all good but this is high fantasy so it’s not for everyone. It has bright characters and mythic beings that all have names that are pronounceable only when being tickled and trying not to sneeze at the same time.

Finally, the film does a really poor job of explaining the geography of Azeroth as we are introduced to a ton of new places with no explanation of why they are important or how they fit together but this is merely a symptom of the rich lore that is available to be built on.

There is clearly room for future entries into the franchise if the funding is there and the next film is more impressive otherwise I guess this is the beginning and the end.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ First encounter
+ The Orcs
+ Interesting magic

– Terrible acting from Dominic Cooper
– Poor exploration of lore and geography
– High fantasy – not everyone’s cup of tea