Despite its box office success, The Angry Birds Movie underscores a very salient point in today’s cinematic landscape. As video games continue to become more and more sophisticated vehicles for visual storytelling, films based on such titles are just as creatively bereft as ever. Although it is unfair to compare the straightforward non-story of a mobile app like Angry Birds to more intricate console and computer games, the world of gaming has tremendous promise to open up a whole new array of source material from which Hollywood can create the next era of blockbuster entertainment. Thus far, it has yet to come to pass, but the key to it all could lie with Warcraft.
Based on the monstrously popular video games, Warcraft chronicles the early encounters between the humans and the orcs that populate the world of Azeroth. With a reported budget of more than $150 million and an acclaimed director in Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), the film is finally set to arrive in theaters a full decade after its initial announcement. Early reaction to the trailers has been mixed, but there’s still reason to believe that the games’ fans may help bolster the film’s box office take.
What makes Warcraft in particular an interesting litmus test for the viability of video game films is that the general public likely has little more than a passing familiarity with the source material. As such, the fantasy adventure aspect of the film could attract moviegoers while the story’s connection to the canon of the games provides Jones and his team with the tools they need to bring gamers out to the theater. The film features no marquee stars but is simply relying on the built-in fanbase — and the strength of its core premise — to drum up business. Considering the comparisons some are making (unfavorably, we might add) to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, many have considered Warcraft among the riskiest releases of the year — all the more reason to keep an eye on its performance.
In addition, the rich mythology and expansive universe of the Warcraft games is the kind of multi-dimensional experience that theoretically should be primed for development into a film franchise. By that rationale, films based on such well-developed material might be indicative of the potential in video games to bring an exciting new perspective to the big screen. After all, the story of Warcraft has far more to it than something like Angry Birds, which has little to no narrative in and of itself. With the right team in place, there’s no reason why a Warcraft film shouldn’t be a satisfying cinematic experience for both newbies and longtime fanatics of the game series, and with the amount of money at stake, its success or lack thereof will make the industry take notice.
It remains to be seen whether audiences will embrace or shun Jones’s film. However, the fact remains that Warcraft could strike either a devastating blow to the future of video game films or mark one of its greatest triumphs. At this point, it could go either way, and chances are good that this fall’s Assassin’s Creed could play an integral part in what’s to come. Nevertheless, Warcraft has an opportunity to shape the public perception of the genre. Here’s hoping that it uses this chance to make a distinct statement one way or another.
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