‘Warcraft’ Is Highest-Grossing Video Game Movie Ever Despite Bad Reviews

Warcraft has been crowned the highest-grossing film based on a video game of all time. The movie just finished its second weekend and has taken in $377.7 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Only one-tenth of that total was earned in North America. IGN reports that China contributed the largest portion of the gross, with over $200 million in box office earnings. In its opening week in the U.S., the film took in $24.4 million, but in its second week plummeted, making only $6.5 million in revenue.

The most surprising fact in the story of Warcraft’s highest-grossing accomplishment is that it has been panned by critics. Metacritic listed it with a mean score of 32. That average is based on 40 critic reviews, of which only three were positive.

An IndieWire review read, “It’s rare to feel such pity for a major studio movie, but watching Warcraft bend over backwards to set up a sequel is like watching a desperate paramedic apply CPR to someone who’s clearly been dead for hours.”

Metacritic listed 19 other similarly disappointing reviews.

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The Warcraft movie was originally announced in 2006 and has presumably been in production since that time. Sam Raimi was originally signed to direct the film, but he dropped out, according to IndieWire. After going through several more directors, the movie finally landed Duncan Jones, who directed Moon and Source Code. Jones also co-wrote the script.

Critics find the flaws in Warcraft to be inexcusable, considering the studio had 10 years to polish it and iron out the kinks.

IndieWire states, “For a film that had the time and resources to pave over any potholes, the only logical explanation for a disaster of this magnitude is that everyone involved lost sight of what they were making.”

Despite the poor reviews and meteoric plunge in U.S. sales, Warcraft still managed to snag highest-grossing honors. The film edges out Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time for the top spot, which grossed a total of $336.3 million. IGN points out that even if you adjust Prince of Persia’s gross for inflation to $370 million, Warcraft still tops it, and it is still selling tickets.

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Many find it inexplicable how such a bad film can achieve such greatness, but Time points out that China’s cinema industry is booming and has grown 50 percent in the last year. China is also planning on increasing its number of theaters to 70,000 within the next few years. By comparison, the U.S. has approximately 40,000 cinemas.


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Time owes Warcraft’s success in China to “loyal Chinese fans, seeking escape from a world devoid of meaningful choices.”

In a country that has to place suicide nets on tall buildings, it is not surprising that many turn to escapism to forget the daily grind in China. The country hosts more than half of the five million players who are currently playing World of Warcraft (WoW). Considering that over 100 million gamers have played WoW over the years, it begins to become apparent why it has become the video game adaptation genre’s highest grossing film.

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Also, reviews from critics often do not reflect the overall moviegoer experience. In contrast to Metacritic’s survey of movie columnists are the site’s user reviews. Metacritic users posted 411 positive reviews and only 34 negatives.

Forbes published a review of the film titled, “Five Reasons The Warcraft Movie Is Way Better Than Critics Claim.”

The column points out that IMDB users ranked the movie 7.7/10, while critics ranked it 32/100. Rotten Tomatoes showed a similar outcome with 24 percent of critics rating Warcraft rotten, versus 83 percent of viewers liking it. While the Forbes review admits that the film was not great, it denies that the movie is as bad as critics portray.

“The orcs themselves are entirely CGI, but it’s actually really good CGI. There’s real emotion on the faces of characters like Blackhand (Clancy Brown) and Durotan (Toby Kebbell.) The characters are fantastic. Just about every action scene in Warcraft is really well done.”

A majority of viewers on YouTube also praised the movie. Becoming the highest grossing does not seem too far-fetched when taking moviegoer reactions into account.

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However, Warcraft may not hold on to the highest-grossing video game adaptation spot for long. The movie adaptation for Assassin’s Creed releases in December. Assassin’s Creed has a fanbase that is only about 25 percent smaller than WoW’s. IGN reported that as of April, 2014, the franchise had moved over 73 million units.

Whether Assassin’s Creed has a broad enough appeal to overtake Warcraft is questionable. Although the game is noted for its violence, it was revealed at E3 that the film is expected to have a PG-13 rating rather than an R. However, according to Gamespot, the MPAA has not yet rated the movie. The studio is shooting for a PG-13 rating to open the film to a wider audience. Producers will have to wait to see if this strategy pays off. Assassin’s Creed opens December 21, 2016.

[Image via Universal Studios]