Today the Internet is buzzing with the news that "Spider-Man" (and "Evil Dead"!!!) director Sam Raimi is taking the reins on an adaptation of the wildly popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game "World of Warcraft." The game (and presumably the movie as well) is set in Azeroth, a fictional fantasy world created by the game's developer, Blizzard Entertainment. There have been Azeroth-based games since 1994, though the MMORPG didn't launch until late 2001.
"Warcraft"'s world is a sort of Dungeons & Dragons/"Lord of the Rings"-inspired setting. There are dungeons of course, and dragons, as well as the usual helping of elves, dwarves, orcs and other non-human fantasy races. "The Lord of the Rings" did fabulously well when Peter Jackson adapted the books for an epic-length trilogy. The movie version of "Dungeons & Dragons," not so much. What might we expect from Raimi's "Warcraft"?
Silver screen takes on video games -- even (especially?) the big ones like "Super Mario Bros." and "Street Fighter" -- don't have the best of track records. Sometimes they make money, sometimes they don't, but they are almost always derided by critics and discerning movie-goers. With over 11.5 million subscribers scattered across the globe, Raimi and Legendary Pictures are going to have to pay careful attention to their core opening weekend ticket buyers.
Say 8 million of the 11.5 million subscribers are based here in the United States. My guess is that most are going to turn out for the opening weekend release if not on day one. That translates into a potential $80 million dollar opening. Even if director Uwe Boll, the lowest common denominator in the world of game adaptations, were attached to "Warcraft," a strong opening is essentially guaranteed.
This is no Boll joint however. With Raimi at the helm, you've got a guy whose three "Spider-Man" movies all show up among the top 20 highest grossing films of all time. And with "Warcraft" in place as his next project after "Spider-Man 4," there's a good shot that he'll have another top-grossing effort under his belt by the time the Azeroth adventure hits theaters.
What's amazing about Raimi is his ability to spin Awesome out of nothing. The three "Evil Dead" movies aren't particularly big-budget spectacles. Nor is Raimi's recent horror flick, "Drag Me To Hell." All of his efforts carry a certain element of campiness, even the far glossier, digital effects-focused "Spidey" flicks.
In short, Raimi is kind of the perfect guy to deliver a fan-pleasing "Warcraft" movie. If Legendary goes big-budget, we already know he can handle (and deliver on) an epic-scale production. And if the budget is more middling or -- probably not going to happen -- rock-bottom low, we still know he can make magic happen.
Making core followers happy is rarely a concern for the producers video game adaptations, since those people generally account for a small portion of the viewing audience. "Warcraft," with its millions of monthly subscribers, exists on a different level however. Here we have a fanbase large enough -- and rabid enough -- to practically guarantee a top 'o the box office opening weekend.
The question now is whether Legendary should play it safe with a mid-sized "Warcraft" budget or swing for the fences, trusting that Raimi can apply the same magic to this new adaptation that he did to "Spider-Man." It's a tough call, especially since a high-profile project like this is sure to attract more than just the attention of the core game players. I'll certainly be there on opening day as a video game-loving nerd, and I've never touched Blizzard's massively popular MMORPG.
What would you prefer: big-budget, high-concept blockbuster or classic Raimi genre camp? Do you play "World of Warcraft"? Will you be there opening day? What does Raimi's involvement do to motivate your interest in this project?
I'm guessing that a lot of you readers out there have strong opinions one way or another on this. We'd like to hear them. The comments section is certainly an option, but I'd like a better way to showcase your opinions. If you'd like to share your opinion, head over to Your MTV and upload a video of yourself delivering it (text and photos can also be shared there). I'll be checking the comments here and Your MTV for your contributions, with the plan of sharing the most insightful of them here on the blog. Make sure you tag anything on Your MTV with "World of Warcraft."