Is the Warcraft movie going to suck?

With WoW's subscription numbers dwindling, a Warcraft advertisement of this scale can't afford to be mediocre.

It’s strange to imagine, but Warcraft fans have been clamoring for a Warcraft movie for over a decade. Way back in 2008, filmmaker Uwe Boll (responsible for the top four entries on our “10 worst movies based on games” list) tried to get his hands on the franchise, but was swiftly denied. According to Boll, this is what developer Blizzard Entertainment had to say on the matter:

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We will not sell the movie rights, not to you… especially not to you. Because it’s such a big online game suc­cess, maybe a bad movie would destroy that ongo­ing income, what the com­pany has with it.

Though Boll is likely paraphrasing Blizzard’s response, the logic behind the statement is the same. Now that World of Warcraft has become a globally recognized phenomenon, any film made based on the franchise has the burden of acting as the game’s most influential advertisement.

Since 2010, WoW‘s subscribers have dropped from 12 million worldwide to only 7.4, recovering momentarily for the launch of Warlords of Draenor, only to drop even further after the hype subsided. A good Warcraft film could help Blizzard dig themselves out of this hole. A bad one might dig it deeper.

It was simple for Blizzard to say no to a Warcraft cash-in in 2008, when WoW was still on the rise. Now that World of Warcraft is dwindling in popularity, it’s easy to imagine that Blizzard might settle for less. Between questionable marketing materials, an abundance of cg, and the film’s relatively unknown director and cast, it would appear that Blizzard is taking a huge risk on their multi-million-dollar WoW ad.

Back in May, we recieved our first look at Warcraft’s computer-generated orcs through still images of Orgrim Doomhammer (one of which can be found at the top of this article). While Orgrim is looking absolutely raw in these stills, the same cannot be said for Anduin Lothar and Durotan, seen in the exclusive Comic-Con posters found above.

When I first saw these images, I felt like there was something off about them–like promotional materials for a SyFy original feature. After checking the reddit discussion, I was glad to find I wasn’t alone.

Comment from discussion Two Official ‘Warcraft’ Movie Posters.
Comment from discussion Official posters for WARCRAFT movie are here.

Anduin looks like he’s an extra from Stardust, and Durotan looks like a gorgonite from Small Soldiers. This is bad promo art, especially considering that the stills of Orgrim are of such better quality, but now that I’ve seen it I can’t help but be somewhat concerned.

Apart, these two posters look a little silly, if not hastily prepared. Side-by-side, however, they clash horribly. How well can we expect the live-action and computer-generated elements of the film to look together on-screen?

If you haven’t already seen the leaked Warcraft test footage for yourself, make sure to check out my play-by-play recap. Something I didn’t mention in that article was the whining criticism of a member in the audience, who didn’t seem to get it.

I’m already not interested. It’s just one big computer. This is Avatar.

While the guy’s tone was admittedly cringeworthy, I can’t say that I completely disagree. Blizzard’s cutscenes are fantastic, and I’ve heard fans say for years that they would watch a movie of them if Blizzard would just put it together for themselves. Now, however, I’m not sure if that’s enough.

Sure, these visuals look good, but do they look photorealistic enough to stand beside live-action characters without looking like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? In spite of the audience member’s cynical comment, Avatar is actually an excellent example of this done correctly, but Avatar had a budget of 237 million dollars. Warcraft is estimated to have a little under half that. 

So whose job is it to make this work? Though director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) is no Peter Jackson, he’s far from alone in his quest to bring the Warcraft story to life. Producers on the film include individuals such as Nicholas Carpenter, Chris Metzen, Michael Morhaime, and Paul Sams, all of whom have worked on actual Warcraft games in the past.

Accompanying them to set my CGI fears to rest are the talented artists of Industrial Light & Magic, whose resume includes films such as Pacific Rim, Transformers, the Pirates of The Carribean films, and yes, even Avatar. If anyone can make it work, it’s these guys.

Verdict: Probably not, but only time will tell.

It’s easy to get worked up and anxious that something you’re anticipating isn’t going to meet your standards, especially when you’re a part of the gaming community. If you’re concerned about the Warcraft movie being lame, calm down. Between the solid writing seen in the leaked trailer and Industrial Light & Magic’s confirmed CGI prowess, it looks like Warcraft is following a recipe for success. Here’s to hoping that once that success is crafted, it doesn’t stagnate at the auction house.

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