Movies based on video games have perennially been the worst in the history of ever, making movies based on comic books pass as Oscar bait. The list is long and embarrassingly distinguished, with good and even great actors attaching themselves to property that has been poorly handled or understood by the creative teams behind them. Game-based movies are generally based on video games, but can range from board games with limited background stories to game books containing full blown role-playing worlds. We can list these, chapter and verse, but I’ll just pick a few gems (admittedly from the spectrum of awful to classic-but-mediocre-at-best) to explain my point.
- Dungeons and Dragons (not a video game per se, but if you’ve seen it I need not explain more)
- Tomb Raider (not terrible, “meh” level forgettable)
- Doom (at least they tried something new)
- Silent Hill (personally I think this one is underrated and not that bad)
- Battleship (No.)
Many of these game-based movies were profitable, though none have been much of a critical success. The difference in this particular game-based movie is the companies involved and depth of material to draw from. Hundreds of hours have been spent by writers and gamers alike, posting videos or writing books expanding the already rich lore Blizzard has developed over the last 20 years (Since November 1994 to be exact). Blizzard is notoriously meticulous in their planning, so much so that rarely are definite release dates given as the company exhaustively tests their products. As far as I can tell (from what little information there is out there), the story of the Warcraft movie takes place around the events of the first of the Warcraft games. The lead character seems set to be Khadgar, a young mage to the Kirin Tor senate, rulers of the city of Dalaran. To the unwashed masses who are familiar with this information it may not seem like gibberish, but to the rest of the world that did not play this game or read the lore, that information could be a lot to take in. But is it really so different than what we have seen on the screen? Marvel and Disney are successfully putting together some of the most fantastical world building in the history of cinema, going beyond expectations with movies like Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of creating strange and wonderful stories. Dr. Strange is now on the Phase 3 docket for Marvel, so hopefully the mystical elements most likely a part of the Warcraft movie won’t seem out of place. In addition to the fantasy elements shared with other genre defining films, some key players from the game will be making an appearance, including many of the more popular orc and human characters. Orcs we’ve seen before on the big screen. However, these aren’t your Tolkien orcs. The orcs of Warcraft have a rich history as deep as their human counterparts, with a warring barbaric culture favoring violence and battle-earned honor.
From the few sources of information I’ve been able to track down, it’s difficult to tell how fantastical the content of this movie will be. Some sources suggest there will be little concession made to “dumb down” this movie for the masses. That could mean that names, concepts, creatures and most importantly the lore should remain intact. I think this is important because as recent box office results suggest, people are open to this kind of movie and will come out in droves to see it! Keep an eye on the Hobbit box office this winter if you want to see what I mean.
Ben Foster, cast as the mage Medivh in the movie, was quoted as saying, “What’s exciting about Duncan Jones’ take on this video game is that it shows both sides of the war. It shows both sides of a conflict, which is exciting to me. It’s not just a video game turned into a movie. It’s asking, hopefully, an important question of, where do we limit our compassion for what we consider to be the bad guys?”. As a fan of Ben Foster I’ve yet to see any work of his I don’t like, and if you’ve seen his work you know he puts everything into the roles that he plays (he is not the reason X3 sucked!).
Blizzard is known for their formula of making something good, even better. It’s no secret (it’s even mentioned in their recent documentary on World of Warcraft) that Blizzard has been doing this for a while. They took the RTS (real time strategy) games of the 90’s and turned them up to 11 with Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, then followed that up with the critically acclaimed Warcraft II and Warcraft III. In the early 2000’s Blizzard ventured into the MMO business, taking the formula Ultima and Everquest had successfully used for years, and improved upon it with World of Warcraft.
With the release of Warlords of Draenor expansion and the population of active subscriptions to the behemoth MMO again reaching 10 million, Blizzard doesn’t appear to be slowing down. With a passion to pursue perfection again; Blizzard is pushing the production to the limit to bring the best possible product to the big screen. Orcs have been seen before, but never as potential protagonists. This may be one of the first times we see a crowd divided in a theater; there isn’t a “bad guy” per se in, at least not in the traditional sense. Warcraft is carefully aiming to present two sides of a story, both with legitimate cause to be fighting, leaving it to the audience to decide who they support. This is in interesting twist on the traditional movie, and it resembles the challenge you face when choosing your faction in game. It’s exciting to think movie audiences will be doing this as well.
In the end it’s not that this is another fantasy movie in a long line of fantastic stories. Blizzard takes pride in delivering the best possible product, regardless of the endeavor. You can rest assured that if Blizzard decided it was time to put this story on the big screen, and do it with live action/CGI orcs, then it’s going to be the best version of this that you’ve seen. I believe Warcraft will be just similar enough that those unfamiliar with the game will recognize common fantasy elements, but unique enough to be it’s own genre defining film. One more time Blizzard might just redefine an existing entertainment medium, and we’ll finally get that movie that transcends the stigma of “video-game based movie”. But what are your thoughts? Are you going into the movie with your own hopes or reservations?
Warcraft opens in theaters March of 2016, so we will just have to wait and see!
For the Horde!