I’m going to be upfront about it, Warcraft is an important movie to the cultural zeitgeist. “That’s pretty bold praise” my brother responded, surprised at my claim, especially since I only just started playing World of Warcraft this week . Not only that, but a quick Google search is enough to show just how weak the movie is doing in American box offices. The numbers are against it, and the reviewer isn’t exactly what one would call a reliable source; but its importance doesn’t come from the box office hits, its cinematography, or its innovation. It made me feel like the stuff I love is worth something.
I represent a group of lucky kids that didn’t just grow up around video games, but kids that had access to some advanced technology of the times. My dad was an early adopter; I remember having a whole room dedicated to just building computers, he took my brother and me to computer conventions, and we had access to the best video cards, processors and computer games in the 90s. While my friends were off playing Goldeneye on a 4 player split screen, I played Quake over the internet. When my friends were complaining about how they couldn’t play Perfect Dark’s single player mode for lack of the 8mb expansion pak, My family’s computer had the chipset to run Quake 2 at 600+ frames a second. It was a great childhood to say the least
So what does the Warcraft movie and my past have to do with its importance? Well I was always different, even as a gamer. The video games I liked were always different. Instead of playing games like Final Fantasy VII, I played Warcraft II. Nobody at my school even knew what that game was. They thought it was super weird. I remember a classmate telling me that “computers are for working and the games suck!” (But hey, we were in 5th grade so cut him some slack). I always played something different from the popular games. I played Sven-Coop instead of Counter Strike, I played System Shock 2 instead of whatever was popular with my friends at the time, and I picked Guild Wars over World of Warcraft. I was always a different.
I’m not as much of a gamer as I used to be with responsibilities mounting, but lets face it, I’m still different. And I’m part of a very difficult to please demographic. For example, lets look at the Marvel movies. Those superhero movies are super popular, and I’ve seen most of them (my fiance loves these movies). They’re fun movies, and I get my money’s worth from them. But even though they’re really meant to hit a super broad demographic, I never felt like it was aimed towards me. For one thing, I never got into comics, so I don’t know a single thing about the lore outside of some of the more popular stories and the movies. Those who’ve watched these movies know that they’re notorious for making constant references to the source material and the movies. And when they do come up, especially when it comes in the form of a one liner, it’s not uncommon to hear a few chuckles for the reference. “Hehe he made a reference to an earlier movie I saw this year, I get the inside joke!” is what I usually think when I hear those chuckles; and that’s totally fine. Being in on those jokes is like a nod of appreciation for showing the dedication to the series. And that makes me jealous. I don’t get those as often as my peers that were into the more popular games and comics. I never felt those in any of the movies I really watched, and it’s understandable because I’m part of an incredibly hard to please, but very tiny demographic.
But Warcraft was different. I was its target demographic.
As soon as I saw the opening scene and immediately realized that it was a reference to Warcraft 3’s opening cinematic, I didn’t feel like I was part of some silly inside joke, I felt like I was part of an inside legacy. That scene wasn’t put there to make you chuckle at an inside joke. That scene showed so much more. It showed the hate, anger, and contempt the combatants had for each other. That first scene is the manifestation of a 22 year legacy: the animosity between Orcs and Humans. Warcraft at its purest.
It wasn’t just targeted at players who played WoW for years, it appealed to the kid that knew more about the maelstrom’s origins than Ironman’s origin story. And judging from how the movie’s doing right now typical moviegoer doesn’t get it. But that’s fine. They weren’t the target audience.
My demographic: the-millenial-gamer-that-didn’t-really-play-the-popular-stuff-when-he-was-younger (TMTDRPTPSWHWY) is not a profitable group. But what’s so baffling is that they did it anyway. The movie’s filled with so many references that both WoW players and Pre-WoW players get it. Heck, it’s even managed to sneak in MMO boss and raid mechanics, (I’m not going to spoil it but I’m sure you know which scene I’m talking about). The movie also has a tendency to introduce characters without immediately providing the name; often waiting a few scenes before finally getting around to it. (Or in Grom Hellscream’s case, never even having his name introduced). The delay to me was nice, it gave me a chance to celebrate in the little victory of actually recognizing characters before a formal introduction. (I totally called it when identified certain soon-to-be-important-to-lore prince.) More importantly, it respected the fan’s knowledge of the lore. It wasn’t just some side joke (to me at least), it put the lore that we’ve read on the big screen. For once, I actually felt like the stuff I cared about was important enough turn into a big budget film. It actually felt like an investment on those who’ve really dedicated their time and passion into the series. It felt like an investment for those who never ever actually quite fit in, even in the video game community.
This movie isn’t important for its technical prowess, but what it does for the people that watched it. This movie knew its audience, it respected it, and it’s a good step towards what movie adaptations of games should be.
Here’s to hoping we get more of these kinds of movies!