This weekend, one of my favorite games had its movie adaptation released. The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is probably in my top 10 action platformers of all time. Will I go see the movie? Probably not. Why you ask? Continued disappointment would be my main reason.
I remember the first video game based movie I have ever seen. It was the Super Mario Brothers movie. As a kid, I thought it was okay. Now, thinking about it, it was absolutely terrible. From there, I remember Dungeons and Dragons, which also sucked. Street Fighter was equally terrible. The only one that was even tolerable was Mortal Kombat. And that was only the first one. After those, I promised to avoid video game movies.
This is a similar problem that comic movies had. Everybody remember the terrible Batman and Robin. That movie was worse than terrible, it was an abortion. However, directors came along like Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan, and brought a seriousness back to comic book movies which made them pretty good to watch. The Dark Knight is probably the best example of that. Now, this renissance has lead to less mainstream comics being made into movies. Who knew that Kick-Ass was a comic book before it became a movie? I didn’t until I did some research. How about The Losers? I have not heard of that one either.
Well, Sam Raimi is now turning his attention to the Warcraft series. You would think with a great director that this movie would have a chance. However, I have a few reasons to think that this movie will not be great at all. Here are some of my thoughts on it.
1) It is difficult to capture the essence of an MMORPG – What makes an MMORPG great is not usually the story, it is playing with other people to beat challanges and raids. I don’t care how good the movie is, Sam Raimi can never capture the joy I had when I killed the Lich King for the first time. And what I know of the Arthas story is really good. But the movie can never capture what I enjoy about the game. I think you will find a lot of people who feel that way. I think this is a general feeling about game based movies.
2) Video game writing is way behind comic writing – You can have a movie script that carries you through hundreds of emotions. Now, games are getting better in that respect. I’m playing through Heavy Rain and that game is the closest I have felt to those emotions in a game. What makes games great is the interactivity and is usually less based on the story. Did you play Bioshock for the story? More than likely, no. You played because of the cool mechanics of having extra awesome powers. Having a good story was a cherry on top of the ice cream. Does anybody play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for the story. No, they play it for the incredible mutiplayer. (Also, if they made a movie based on the multiplayer of that game, it would be the most vulgar movie ever and would probably get rated NC-17.)
For just a comparison, go read The Watchmen comic. That comic will take you through every possible emotion before you get to the end. There has not been a game that has made me feel that. Gamers play games because they are fun. Until movies can incorporate the fun of games into movies, it will be almost impossible to make a good video game based movie.
3) They have no incentive to make a great movie – This is my biggest concern about the Warcraft movie. The current World of Warcraft base is around 11 million. Now, let us say that even only 40% of the installed base goes see the movie. This would be 4.4 million seeing the movie opening weekend. Take $10 per ticket and you are talking about a 44 million dollar opening weekend. Now take into account people who are children whose parents will go see the movie. I think you could reasonably be talking about a gurantteed 100 million dollar opening weekend. They could put out a movie with Thrall and the Lich King becoming friends and killing all of Azeroth until the gnomes take over and it would be a financial success. Sam Raimi could put a turd on a movie screen with the WoW logo and it would make the same amount of money. This is true for any game based movie. Even the upcoming Bioshock movie. It even has a decent story to start off with. A lot of people who are fans of the original game will go see the movie. When you have such a large installed base as gamers, you have no reason to make the movie great.
Need proof of this. Look no further than Uwe Boll. He has never made a great movie. Never. However, he is a genius. Not for what he puts on the screen, but his thinking behind movies. Start with something that has a large fan base and try to get people to pay for it. And he has made millions doing this.
Although I’m a negative nancy when it comes to movie based games, I do have one hope for the Warcraft movie. If Blizzard holds Raimi to as high a standard as they do themselves, the movie could be good. Every time Blizzard puts out a new cinemetic, it is incredible. If they take that much care of their franchise, the movie stands a chance. Maybe.