As reviews are gradually mounting, the response to “Warcraft” is looking decidedly grim.
Opening in wide release on June 10th, the $160 million picture is garnering some hefty criticism from reviewers. Despite, or perhaps because of, the massive popularity of the videogame “World of Warcraft.” The film represents a property with wide but very specific appeal, distilled down into something that hopes to broaden that appeal without losing its core audience.
The results, it seems, are difficult to enjoy for fans and non-fans alike. The videogame, of course, is still a worldwide phenomenon. With a player base larger than several small countries, its makers, Blizzard Entertainment, remained heavily-involved in their big-screen production. Presumably to ensure that proper reverence was paid to their valuable intellectual property.
At the same time, they used their considerable resources to gather a fantastic group of serious filmmakers, ready to realize the world of the game in a new, realistic setting.
What the audience gets is an overly-serious fantasy film chock full of references to the deep lore available in the videogame…a videogame which has an entire race of Panda People simply because an April Fool’s joke by the developer got out of hand. Essentially, part of the appeal of the videogame has been its willingness to be tongue-in-cheek about its story. A story the film shoves into the serious fantasy mold set by “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
Yet, the film seems intent on grounding the fantastic world in a drama that fails to fully justify the amazing visuals. The incredible, WETA-developed effects only serve to remind viewers that they’re being wasted on a fairly dull story.
On the other hand, don’t let any reviews convince you this is a “flop.” In North America, maybe. But with $75 million already in the bank from international markets, and an expected $100-150 million opening in China, perhaps this is simply the sort of film we should expect from global-facing movies.
The criticisms of this film are some shared by the Transformers series, and even an unqualified success like “Avatar.” It would seem then, that our efforts to cross cultural boundaries depend far more on visual achievement than screenwriting innovations.
“Warcraft” opens in North America on June 10th.
Before Lord of the Rings, we didn’t ever really expect much for fantasy films. They were primarily designed for children. But with the release of the Lords of the Rings trilogy, all that changed. Peter Jackson proved that fantasy films could have massive public appeal, that they could be designed for mature audiences and still succeed. This is the standard that fantasy films must try to live up to today.
The Warcraft movie is set to release on June 10. Like Lord of the Rings, it is based on a preexisting body of work. While the latter was based on a series of fantasy fiction novels, Warcraft will be based on a series of video games going back to 1995. At least in terms of the Lord of the Rings trilogy of books, if not also including even things like the Silmarillion, the world of Middle Earth probably isn’t any bigger than the world of Azeroth. But can Warcraft really live up to this standard?
Duncan Jones, the director of Warcraft, knew that this comparison would be made. This question was also posed by the author of a recent article on Screenrant. In this article, the author also cites an interview with Duncan Jones on this topic in which the latter says that “We wanted to find a way to do it differently and give [the fans] a bit of a rival [to Lord of the Rings].” Whether or not it will is something we have to see for ourselves.