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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: Can even Sam Raimi make a World of Warcraft movie anything other than pointless?

Before I get flamed, let me be clear: I’m not dissing World of Warcraft when I say that I have no choice but to wonder what the hell the point of a World of Warcraft movie could possibly be (beyond the obvious mercenary one of cashing in on the name, of course).

We’re gonna find out if there’s any point, because Sam Raimi has been hired to direct such a film, according to Reuters. I adore Raimi’s work, but I’m flummoxed:

“Raimi has, in the course of his career, clearly demonstrated a genius for developing and adapting existing fictional universes for mainstream audiences while staying true to the spirit of the original content,” the companies [Blizzard Entertainment Inc., a unit of Activision Blizzard, and Legendary Pictures] said in a joint statement.

Well, yes. But those fictional universes Raimi had to work with were more than just places: they were people and stories, too. But what’s the “spirit” of WoW’s “original content”? A merger of The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons to create a realm in which players can create their own fighting avatars is hardly a “spirit.” A fictional universe is nothing, from a storytelling perspective, without intriguing characters inhabiting it and moving through it and growing and changing in the middle of it and — perhaps more importantly — because of something unique about it.

How can Azeroth, onscreen, possibly look any different from the thousand other generic high-fantasy realms of orcs and trolls and elves and dwarves we’re already intimately familiar with, especially absent any preexisting characters we love (or love to hate), when the “spirit” of the game is to ape already familiar high-fantasy universes?

I’m not suggesting it’s impossible. A movie that’s about WoW as a game — about the addictive quality of it and the wish-fulfillment aspect on the part of the players, for instance — could potentially be interesting (as long as it’s more than the tedious “pasty out-of-shape nerdling gets sucked into game, learns the true meaning of life” nonsense we’ve seen too many times before). We don’t yet know what kind of shape the movie will take… but, knowing Hollywood like I do, I find it hard to imagine that anything too radical or mind-bending will happen here.

Can even Sam Raimi make a World of Warcraft movie anything other than pointless?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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