Being a sucker for fantasy epics, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings (anyone?), one specific movie's title, Orcs, immediately caught my eye. I'll attempt to keep the boredom level tolerable as I share some details on why that's the case.
Directed by Andrew Black
I was no Rembrandt, Da Vinci or anything even resembling a canvas artist. My area of 'painting' was situated firmly in the fantasy and role playing realm, more specifically I would spend hours giving miniatures (originally sculpted from lead, later pewter and silver alloys, mostly plastic now to save on sculpting costs) character and detail. I only wish I had pictures or evidence to display of my finished products as I was rather proud of some, however, an international move (many moons ago) resulted in the misplacement and loss of a great deal of my prized possessions. That's enough reminiscing; let's jump back in the time machine and journey back to the present.
One glance was all it took for me to fathom that Orcs was hardly Hollywood fare but more a movie that I might enjoy; I'm partial to a well constructed B movie from time to time if you haven't noticed by now.
If you are familiar with scenery, landscape of the southwestern states you might recognize some of the locales employed in this film. There are plenty of cacti and dry brush on display rather than trees and 'shrubbery' (characters on horseback found within a certain Monty Python film would be none too pleased!). I was curious myself so I waited for the credits to roll to discover it was actually shot in Utah.
Incidentally, the opening credits roll to a soundtrack that fans of Fantasy role-playing games may recognize, not so much a specific track more its feel and atmosphere. I've been known to play Champions of Norath (Playstation 2) for hours, sometimes until well into the early hours of the morning, and this score brought back game playing memories mere moments in.
We are quickly introduced to Cal, a Ranger with a penchant for avoiding anything resembling real work, and a little later to his co-worker, Hobie, who gladly picks up any slack his partner (seemingly his mentor also) leaves behind. Marge, the senior Ranger, relishes telling both, especially Cal, what to do and the correct way to do it. In an early scene, Hobie accidently informs Marge of the way in which his companion is checking a substance and the legality of something they discovered. Whereupon returning to the Ranger's station the pair learn of an impromptu test.
The film has a few more moments like this in which the senior Ranger shows her authority in attempts to undermine (pun!) her co-worker. The interactions between the leading pair is often humorous, a scene including the semantics of the word 'Big' and 'Foot' springs to mind.
Following a scene involving a couple in a canoe and several well placed arrows our villains are finally revealed. I commend the film makers at this point as the creature's make-up isn't all that bad, although the Orcs are humanoid in appearance donning believable garb. It was a nice touch having an element of ceremony in certain scenes, like Totems, as a result the culture of the invading race is given substance transforming them into more than the usual low budget class of villain. Their sheer number is impressive leaving one to wonder where all the hardware might have come from. Other films dabbling in large ranks of creatures/invaders have opted to take the lazy route sporting laughable kindergarten face applications that threaten to peel off at a moment's notice or cheap poorly done CGI. The amassed hordes of non-human troops within Orcs display enough body armor and chainmail to cause even the most hardened of battle re-enactment veteran to salivate in awe.
Enter our female lead, played by Renny Grames, an activist protesting, in a rally of one, against mining in the Park's mountain ranges. (The actress seemed strangely familiar so following the film through an IMDB search, I discovered her recent role in Vamp U).
The movie culminates in a battle scene with our heroes defending the Ranger's station. At one point Cal states that the Orc legion’s drums are getting on his nerves to which he fights back by placing a radio against the loudspeaker. A swing song plays “ironically” with lyrics which state, “there's not enough of you to go around.” A track truly befitting of the standoff scenario taking place.
There are numerous scenes in this film that I dare not mention lest I spoil it's enjoyment, my favorite includes a shovel (the business end), pleading, a struggle and, of course, spillage of the crimson.
There are unfortunately a few scenes that drag on perhaps longer than they ought to, I will state that the climactic battle could have been edited and cropped to half its length with much the same desired effect. However, IMHO the movie still manages to succeed.
The scenes flow nicely, the acting is above par with actors you can appreciate and the film doesn't take itself too seriously. Some, let’s say lesser budget movies, fail in this regard alone, bad acting within a serious toned movie doesn't work too often and the comedy works. Now for a B-ish movie that's impressive!
As hard as I tried not to, I found Cal's cliched one-liners a notable means of distraction even with their high level of ineptitude still made me crack a smile. Of course it's all been done before, the premise, the humorous take on government workers, the about face and redemption of a slacker type and a surprising character twist. At this juncture the only question is...did it entertain you?
It did me! Give it a peak, at worst it's a decent enough distraction from the over inflated budget of the Hollywood norm while at best you can make a drinking game out of it. Orc! Drink!
For what ORCS! is trying to be, it is