Back from the dead! And with a blog entry that’s been bouncing around in the back of my mind for a few months now.
So the Warcraft movie comes out in June and I am not going to lie, I’m PUMPED. I can’t wait to see one of my favorite magical universes come alive on the big screen. I’m also thrilled I get to share that experience with hundreds of thousands of fellow fans across the entire WORLD. Plus the added benefit of introducing people to Azeroth and my not-so-subtle hope that they will come join us veteran players in the upcoming Legion expansion.
I’m hype to see gryphons, Dalaran, spells and swords and all kinds of visual eyecandy going on! And also maybe imagining one of my characters in the fray as well, because admit it, you wish your character could be on that moviescreen too!
But if there is anything that prevents Warcraft from being a smashing commercial success, it is one key problem. It’s not the woman playing Garona looking like she just donned some body-paints and a couple tooth prosthetics. It’s not the retconning of some of the lore to fit a more exciting storyline. It’s not the movie’s CG. Those are things that are only going to tweak the nerves of Warcraft fans, and it’s not going to be enough to make them NOT go see the movie. No, the problem that will turn off the general moviegoing public is…well…
It’s the orcs.
If you think about it, exposure to the concept of “orcs” in a fantasy setting for most non-fantasy fans has basically revolved around things like Tolkien’s Middle-Earth versions of hulking, evil minions of Sauron’s armies. And…let’s be real? The Warcraft versions of orcs don’t look much different than that since they were clearly influenced by Tolkien and to a larger extent Warhammer. (Which was also heavily based on D&D and more Tolkien.)
I’m going to be frank here…the CG on the orcs in the movie is fantastic, but they still fall HEAVILY into uncanny valley. And it’s an uncanny valley where they also look vaguely humanoid but still just a tad bit terrifying? They’re these giant, hulking, muscular beasts swinging axes around at the human actors and invading another planet because they destroyed their own. Durotan and Draka being the obvious exceptions, and their…weird…CG Go’elbaby but sit there and think. Really, really think. Do you think the majority of movie-goers, ages 10-50, are going to identify with the orcs? Do you think they will learn to like them by the end of the movie just because of Durotan’s actions? Or do you think they won’t even give the movie a chance because they’re going to see the orcs in the commercials and think, “That’s not something I want to watch or take my family to see.”
That is the sad, painful truth I’ve had rattling around in my head for the last couple of weeks. Ever since the edited trailers started flying around and the commercials started. “War” is for sure a major part of WARcraft, but they picked a topic for the first movie involving a race that is ALREADY divisive among the playerbase. We’re the people who LIKE the game and WANT to see the movie but already a lot of us have been suffering from orc fatigue ever since the end of Mists of Pandaria. I’m not going to the movie to see the orcs. I’m going to see Lothar and Medivh fire some fireballs and ride around on gryphons. And yet fully half the movie is going to be designated to a storyline that frankly, after WoD, I don’t give two diddly squits about. Gul’dan is pretty much the only orc that piques my interest anymore, and even he is wearing thin on my nerves after months of HFC.
It really says something when one of the most talked about parts of the trailer were the high-elves during the council and funeral scenes. People picked those 2-4 seconds of footage apart, hoping to get a better look at the pointy-eared nobles. Dalaran looks FREAKING amazing in the shots we got of it. And then it cuts back to an orc swinging an axe around and everyone is just like, “Oh, hmkay.” On twitter and reddit there are people constantly asking if other races will be portrayed, and there was a communal shout of joy when it was revealed that yes, there will be some footage of trolls.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that NOBODY likes orcs. A fair few people love them dearly. But a small subset of people really liking the race is not enough to carry an audience for a major motion picture. The fact of the matter is that the ideal of the orcs – giant, manly men who grunt and swing axes and wear unrealistic piercings and tattoos – has been super out of touch with the main playerbase of WoW for a while now. It was probably a huge part of how the Warcraft series originally got popular, but it’s been almost -22 years- since the original orcs and humans game launched. To not expect or think your audience would grow, and their tastes would change over time, is absolute madness.
And dare I say, it’s super out of touch with the general moviegoing public as well. And here is where the problem lies. Now we have our stakes resting on this movie, which they specifically chose the plot of orcs and humans for. And the stakes are HIGH. A tantalizing sequel depends on how this movie performs. And there’s also the idea of new players picking up the game and older players returning.
And also a major thing that hasn’t really been touched on much is the fact that a lot of the current playerbase hopes that this movie will vindicate their “nerdy” hobby in the eyes of the general populace that has consistently made fun of it for decades now. Is this going to be the movie that sweeps that stereotype over a waterfall, never to be seen again?
*looks over at the trailer and Durotan smacking Gul’dan again*
So let me end by saying that I am absolutely going to be there opening night, plonked into a seat with my fine-ass movie-theater popcorn tub. I will laugh, I will cry, I will come home with a renewed sense of enjoyment in the franchise. But I’m afraid. I’m really afraid of how things are going to play out. This is one case where I really, really hope I’m wrong. I hope this movie breaks chart records and blows the mind of the movie executives. I guess we’ll see in a few more months.