Gaming Movie Badness

The World of Warcraft movie has been described as a problem movie by Universal, one of its backers. After months of positivity from the production team, this has generated a lot of discussion. So what exactly is the problem with the World of Warcraft movie.

The movie has a lot to recommend it. The Warcraft universe has a rich lore to draw on. Blizzard has managed to find a director with a good track record. It has remained involved, ensuring the movie remains faithful. And the director, along with other members of the team, are ex-WoW players. So they 'get it'.

The stories coming out of the movie camp have been good. Its release got pushed, but to a prime weekend suggesting Legendary, the other backer who made that decision, is happy with it. Trailers leaked online have looked good.

Finally, the movie has two solid business cases backing it. Firstly, World of Warcraft has had a massive number of players through its doors over the years. Plus there are plenty of people who have played the other Warcraft properties - three strategy games, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm all draw on the same universe. It can be expected that many of these players, whether they currently engage or not, will go and see the movie. No other game has such a long term and broad player base. Secondly, fantasy movies are no longer kitsch and cult. The Lord of the Rings elevated fantasy movies to serious business and so even people who have never engaged with the games might want to go and see it.

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So why is it a problem movie?

Well, a quick internet search later, and I have the answer. Lets hop on over to Wikipedia and look at a list of films based on video games. Look particularly at the Rotten Tomatoes scores. Yikes.

The highest score on this list is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within with 44%. At least part of that score is undoubtedly for the stunning animations which still look good 14 years later. In Second place is Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, with a whopping 36%. A few more scrape above 30%, but not many. There are quite a few under 10% and one film, Alone in the Dark, has a score of just 1%. Plus, on the list of upcoming movies, is The Angry Birds Movie: Cashing In (the subtitle is implied). To give some context, the Lord of the Rings movies all rate at over 90%. Hell, even the animated movie from 1978 gets 50%.

It is a problem movie, then. Many of its predecessors had potential too. Tomb Raider (19%) is one of the best known games of all time. It at least made some money. Final Fantasy, despite the highest rating and being so popular in Japan that Final Fantasy Flu is a thing (where people call in sick to play the game on release day), didn't make back its own costs. Warcraft is a problem movie because it is a risk in a risk averse industry. It might do well - certainly its got a good chance of at least making a lot of money. But to break the video game movie curse it needs to make money and garner some critical acclaim. Next year will reveal all.

On a final note, I now understand why they keep making Resident Evil movies. They make a lot of money. Two of the top five grossing movies on the list are Resident Evil.

And on a final final note, I didn't talk about the Metacritic scores because the highest ranking movie on that list was Mortal Kombat. I've seen Mortal Kombat. Clearly not the best computer game movie of all time.