Movies made from video games are an extremely risky business. Games give the fan something a movie never can, the ability to play in that world. It hits on way more of your human senses than just sitting in a theater staring up at the big screen. As much as the past three major generations have grown up on movies, I think we are finally starting to see the first true generation who care more about interactive entertainment, than just viewing entertainment. Now-a-days gamers are smarter and savvier about their worlds than ever before. The Warcraft movie is going up against an extremely judgmental, smart, and critical audience.
Let’s start with what we know about the movie. Duncan Jones is a solid director, both Moon and Source Code are very strong sci-fi films. However, they are smaller movies, not anywhere near the large scale of what Warcraft is all about. Duncan has told fans how much of an MMO player he is directly, he was huge into Ultima Online and eventually played World of Warcraft for years. He does score big points for that alone. For the past two years at BlizzCon there have been panels surrounding the film. In 2013 the panel was painful, no footage was shown, only concept art. Even Rob Pardo at the time broke and said: “We have to show them something…” to a huge uproar from the fans.
Last year’s panel was much better, it showed footage from San Diego Comicon as well as a short clip to show off the CGI of the Orcs. However, it feels like Legendary and Universal still are not getting it, by releasing tons of material at Comicon and not capitalizing on the core audience with is BlizzCon each year. This is starting to show that the studios want a film with much more broad appeal to bring in the mass summer audience of 2016.
How do you make the story of Orcs being tricked by a demon into leaving their world to another and eventually doing battle with a human kingdom on the other side of a massive portal in the known universe… well, how do you make that appeal to everyone? There is a very heavy level of geek involved in Warcraft’s plots, just watch the fan Q&As from Blizzcon over the past 8 years. These stories are not light by any stretch of the imagination. You have countless fans who want to see Paladins, Demon Hunters, Tauren, heck even Pandarians. How do you fit all of that into the movie? You don’t. Streamlining the story to what the origins are was definitely Legendary’s best bet there. But then trying to make that story appeal to the masses, well, that will not be easy.
The movie is in the prime spot release-wise: June 10th, 2016. We’ll all be there, no doubt. But is Universal expecting too much from this title? Are they expecting over one hundred million on opening weekend like most summer blockbusters? Fast and the Furious makes money because everyone likes cars, Jurassic Park makes money because everyone likes dinosaurs, how do you sell Orcs to your average member of society?
“Aren’t those the things from Lord of the Rings?” is all I hear from non-gamer friends. So in looking at the bad, the movie could be a total flop. Hardcore fans will hate it because it does not have enough of the millions of hours they have put into the MMO for the past decade. Casual fans just simply won’t get it. It will just be a giant Blizzard cinematic onscreen that won’t be as good as all the short Blizzard cinematics in the past, because the movie will feel obligated to explain everything to an audience that just doesn’t care about it and miss the real audience and what they want to see. If anything in the world moves as slow as MMO development, it is movie development. Especially development on high fantasy movies which have massive budgets, risky storylines, and all too often a huge gap in expectations among fans. We saw the high times of Warcraft from 2007 to 2011. We saw endless new people trying the game and learning about the world. Perhaps that is when this movie should have been made? Striking while the iron is hot and riding the growing wave of excitement among fans in that timeframe. Instead it is now 2015, game development is in a completely different place, fans are older and wiser, WoW subs are at a recent low, and people just simply may not care as much.
Or, conversely, will the movie bring in a new era of fantasy films? Just as X-Men launched a wave of super hero films over the last fifteen years now. Studios are scrambling for anything super hero, especially after movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man have become proven money makers. Seriously, even as a kid, I walked past those comics on the shelf. Will Warcraft make Hollywood trade in super heroes for swords and sorcery? Will Conan get made again or even another Dungeons & Dragons film get made as a result of Warcraft’s success? Part of me certainly hopes some, but part of me is older and wiser, and is very scared of how those movies would even look, let alone how I would feel after seeing them.
In the end I am an optimist. I do have faith in Duncan Jones to pull off a good story. I also love Warcraft’s Orcs more than anything else in fantasy, so maybe I am biased. I cannot wait to see it all come to life on screen. However, I don’t want to see the film be something it is not, I don’t want to see it stray from what makes Warcraft great. Simple, epic, and heroic storylines that people can relate to. As players we have spent years now in this world. Let’s hope two and a half hours on the big screen can do it justice.