Long devoted fans of Blizzard’s MMORPG had high hopes that a live action movie would finally come out, and that it would be totally epic. After almost a decade in production limbo, Blizzard recently released Warcraft, based on the early lore of the game, and it has become the highest grossing Hollywood movie based on a video game in the most unusual way.
It’s no secret that Warcraft bombed at the U.S. box office. So, movie buffs might be confused as to how a film that performs so poorly on its home turf could end up with this title. Even before it was released, Warcraft was universally panned by critics. Well known film critics from major publication ripped into the film, calling it a part-CGI mess with an extremely convoluted plot. The plot of the movie, which is based on the extremely complicated storyline of the franchise, can seem confounding to non-gamers. However, hardcore gamers have turned out to save Blizzard, not in the U.S., but in China.
The fantasy franchise has always had a large following in China, where it averaged over 5 million players as monthly subscribers. When the movie opened earlier this month for Chinese audiences, it grossed $156 million in the first five days. That number is more than the lifetime gross in China for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was much better received by U.S. audiences and critics alike. Warcraft profits in China were even better than those for Avengers: Age of Ultron.
This surprising turn of events for a movie so easily dismissed in its home country initially surprised Hollywood insiders. However, it was ultimately attributed to the growing influence of Chinese moviegoers. China is the biggest movie market for Hollywood films outside the U.S. Despite that, Hollywood has long turned a blind eye to the financial prospects international audiences can bring. Warcraft seems to change that perception. The home box office flop has become an international phenomenon thanks to China.
Video game movies do not have a good history in Hollywood. Almost all that have been made have been panned by critics and, in most cases, audiences alike. Movies like Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia (the former highest grossing video game movie) were box office successes, but failed to gain any sort of recognition. Though Warcraft will not likely be seen as a filmmaking gem, its international ticket sales have certainly impressed Box Office watchers.
Warcraft is directed by Duncan Jones, best known for his role as the son of David Bowie. A hardcore fan of the franchise, Jones has been praised by gamers for his faithful depiction of Azeroth, the world where the game is set. Unlike the critics, gamers were much kinder in their movie reviews. Though almost everyone agreed that the plot could have been woven better, fans were divided over whether the movie was as bad as the critics claimed. Some claim that it was. Yet others were defensive, and said the writers made the best out of a complicated storyline.
Warcraft was intended as a first in a series of movies, much like the Marvel superhero movies. Considering the movie’s Chinese success, sequels will be very likely to follow. Gamers rejoice.