Movies based on video games have a poor track record. More often than not, the appeal doesn’t translate, or it is misinterpreted by the filmmakers. They rarely do well at the box office, either. Only a select few have been hits, and there really aren’t any that you could accurately say have been outright blockbusters. Warcraft was supposed to change all that.
The 2016 fantasy film, directed by Duncan Jones, was based on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft games that are beloved, and have been for years. Millions of people around the world play them on a daily basis. On paper, at least, the movie should have been a home run.
Instead, it struck out. Warcraft couldn’t even crack $50 million at the North American box office. The Rotten Tomatoes rating stands at just 28%. It would be hard to say whether film critics or fans of the game were less impressed.
Despite the underwhelming reaction, the stories behind the scenes of Warcraft are actually quite interesting. In some cases, they help to explain what went wrong. Most of all, they illustrate that, for better or worse, everyone involved in the production was honestly trying to deliver something that met audience expectations. We’re going to break it all down for you now.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Warcraft Movie.
15. Uwe Boll wanted to direct
Uwe Boll is a notorious German filmmaker who used a tax shelter in his native land to fund a series of videogame-based movies. The end products were widely reviled, not just by film critics but by gamers as well.
Despite inexplicably managing to feature some recognizable stars, Alone in the Dark, Postal, and BloodRayne all suffered from being badly written and sloppily made. They also bore little relation to the games that inspired them, which only added to the animosity.
When Blizzard decided to make a Warcraft movie, Boll thought it was right up his alley. The company disagreed, refusing to allow him anywhere near their popular property. The director told MTV’s movie blog that he reached out to Blizzard about securing the rights, only to be rebuffed. They felt that his track record was extremely poor and that a bad Warcraft movie would harm the game’s popularity.
14. Lord of the Rings forced a story change
Blizzard first attempted to launch a Warcraft movie in 2006. By 2009, they had some semblance of a script in place. At the annual BlizzCon that year, CEO Paul Simms began unveiling some details of the planned production. One of the tidbits he dropped was that the team had to start over storywise.
The original idea was to make the universe from first RTS Warcraft game the movie’s setting. The plot would be fairly basic, detailing a war between Orcs and humans. After developing the idea more, Blizzard realized this was the wrong way to proceed. Part of that was because the more popular iteration of the game was the MMO. The film needed to be based on that.
The other, bigger reason, was that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies had become blockbusters, and they realized it would detrimental if their movie looked and felt too similar.
13. The director’s theory for why it flopped
There are multiple theories as to why Warcraft performed so terribly in the United States. Some people blame the release date, which put the movie up against a couple other heavy hitters on its opening weekend. Others say it wasn’t enough like the game to score with fans. Still others say that it was too similar, meaning that non-fans found it inaccessible.
The poor reviews certainly didn’t help.
In truth, it was probably a little of all these things. Duncan Jones has his own particular theory, though, and it has to do with the game itself. “I think there might have been an element of cynicism,” he told Thrillist. “A lot of guys and girls out there have had their relationships broken up because their significant others played too much Warcraft. Or, for whatever reason, they don’t like Warcraft because of a rivalry with another game they prefer.”
12. Sam Raimi was supposed to direct
A movie with the scope and extensive effects work of Warcraft was obviously going to need a “big” director. With that in mind, Blizzard approached Sam Raimi, a man who knew how to make epic-sized motion pictures, having helmed the popular Spider-Man series. Raimi was excited to take the gig, telling reporters that he had an idea for a stand-alone story that would take place within the World of Warcraft universe.
Production issues conspired to prevent the public from ever seeing his vision. During development of Warcraft, Raimi was offered — and accepted — the chance to direct Oz: The Great and Powerful for Disney. It, too, was an effects-heavy affair that ended up consuming a great deal of his time.
Blizzard needed to move forward on their project and couldn’t afford to wait for him to be done. With that, the company and Raimi parted ways.