Warcraft and The New Era of Video Game to Film Adaptations

This past weekend, the long gestating and eagerly anticipated trailer for Warcraft was finally revealed at Blizzcon in Anaheim. When the two minute trailer ended, a wonderful conclusion was made:

This film looks EPIC!

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Coming from Universal and Legendary, there was an assumption that it was going to have money and quality behind it.

This is something new when it comes to films based on video game properties.

Given the pedigree of Blizzard, one would have to assume that they had a certain amount of say while it was in production. Now, after viewing the trailer numerous times, I have a feeling that Warcraft could change the entire industry for the better…

…If it doesn’t end up like the previous films that have tainted the video game adaptation genre before it.

Let me explain:

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Obviously, many of you know that, generally speaking, video game films have been loosely adapted at best, and absolutely butchered at worst.

The best example of that is the Resident Evil film franchise.

The series itself has been a relative financial success, especially when the fourth one introduced 3-D to make more money.

Sadly, the quality of the films have gotten progressively worse as time has gone on.  From the constantly shoddy CGI effects, to the plots that are now too ridiculous to take seriously, Resident Evil is well past the point of saving.

The reason is because, Capcom, the publishers and owners of the game series, have never been skilled in the film business. They make video games, which was what they know how to sell and market.

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With Resident Evil 6, Capcom attempted to modernize and focus more on action instead of the survival horror aspect that the franchise was known for.

The result?

Over-the-top action where it didn’t need to be, and an unnecessary co-op driven campaign that made playing an unbearable experience. What was even worse however, was the “action-packed” story. The numerous plot lines attempted to make the established characters more palatable, which, instead, resulted in them becoming even more bland and laughable.

Don’t get me wrong though, Resident Evil has never been about its compelling story.

From “Kill the zombies and escape”, to “Save the President’s daughter from the infected, and escape”, there has been little innovation in that department from the very beginning.

But, there is something to be said about the influence of Paul W.S. Anderson’s films on the development team. They believed that they could appeal to a broader audience by focusing on what made those films a success, rather than focusing on what made the games themselves a success in the first place.

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The problem with trying to appeal to a broad audience is that, by upping the stakes, the stories start to lack a soul or coherency. This has lead to each entry in the franchise becoming more and more of a monotonous slog.

With the advent of such sites as Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, there has been an overwhelming need for people to have prior knowledge of what they will consider to be a worthwhile experience.

Movie tickets are expensive, and so are videogames. People want to know that they’re getting the full value of the dollar they spend.  No longer are audiences going to see something that looks heartless and stupid just to kill sometime.

This also means gamers are no longer going to buy rehashes of the same thing they played last year.

Audiences and gamers alike are getting smarter, which means studios must also adapt to the current landscape.

This leads me to Warcraft.

For those of you who don’t know, the Warcraft franchise consists of four main games: Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness, Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, and of course, the big daddy, World of Warcraft.

All 4 of the games on their own are epic, but it’s important to note where they are setting this film.

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The story itself is set at the very beginning of the timeline, following the events of the original game from 1994, which is an absolutely brilliant move.

Why?

Simply because many people who have played the aforementioned MMO do not truly know the backstory of how the Orcs arrived on Azeroth, and why the Alliance and Horde are such bitter enemies. This is an opportunity to show where it all started, without people having to go back and play a 21 year old game.

The filmmakers are treating Warcraft with the understanding that most people want to know this story because of the phenomenon that World of Warcraft has become. By shifting it to an earlier time period, it gives the filmmakers more freedom to make creative choices.

By proxy, focusing on both the Orcs AND Humans, not just one side or the other, is proof that the filmmakers have found a way to give us a compelling story.

That duality of identity makes Warcraft very special, because people become attached to the characters, human or otherwise, in these games.

These characters have souls, something most adaptations forget to include with their characters, and it looks like Warcraft will show that in an honest, and genuine way without compromising on the action.

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Warcraft is not just a movie.

It’s a universe of distinct individuals, ideologies, and interesting characters, in my opinion, on par with the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.

The lore of Warcraft isn’t limited to just the video games. Books, comics, and even fan-fiction have been written about it for the past twenty years.

I believe Legendary and Universal understood this, which is why it took time to find the right people for the job of adapting such an important pillar of gaming.

By focusing in on the quality of the film, they have opened themselves up to making something truly memorable, rather than just a quick CGI-filled cash-in.

Doing something justice should always be the number one priority on a filmmaker’s mind when making an adaptation. A built-in audience can kill your film before it’s even released, and I believe Hollywood is starting to see that trend coming up on the horizon.

The more big budget flops with poorly written scripts, such as Pan and Green Lantern, the more the industry will falter.

But with Warcraft, if it is as good as the trailer makes it out to be, it could be the catalyst which changes that dynamic.

No longer will we see the Uwe Bolls of the world be picked to make these franchises, such as Alone in the Dark, come to life.

Maybe we will finally get the likes of a Steven Spielberg or a J.J. Abrams to bring our favorite video game franchises to the silver screen.

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As a diehard gamer and a film lover, I believe that the time for the golden age of video game film adaptations is upon us.

Universal has set the same release date for Warcraft in June as they did for Jurassic World earlier this year, which can only mean they have immense confidence in it. You don’t move your film from March to June unless you know it’s something special.

For the next 7 months, there will be more trailers, pictures, and interviews for us to decode and obsess over.

Until then, I have only this to say to the filmmakers, and Blizzard:

“Lok’tar Ogar! (Victory or Death!)

Henry James Abrams

I’m a writer, director, producer, actor, and student of life.

Twitter: @Seven16

Instagram: henryseven16

Images via Warner Bros, Legendary, Blizzard, Capcom, and Sony Pictures

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