While it may not be quite as certain as death and taxes, the flop of movies based on video games is about as close to a sure thing as you can get in Hollywood these days.
Not only do these movies fail to make much money, but, as a genre, they are terminally awful. And that’s being kind.
Which is why the opening performance of “Warcraft” this past weekend and “Angry Birds” earlier this year is notable. Nobody associated with either production should expect a call from Mr. Oscar next year. And it would be a stretch to call either a certified blockbuster, at this point.
But each has managed to escape the pit of despair and has performed decently enough that perhaps not all hope is lost when it comes to adapting video games for the big screen.
According to Box Office Mojo, Warcraft was the number two movie for the weekend, with $24.35 million from U.S. moviegoers. As the story notes, that’s actually pretty mediocre. But the movie did haul in $285 outside the U.S., including $156 million from China, where one could definitely call it a hit.
With a reported production budget of $160 million, that means the movie will make money. And if the movie makes money, then you can expect 8 gazillion sequels. Because, Hollywood.
Over at Rotten Tomatoes, reviewers were less than enthusiastic, giving it a 27 percent rating, which is a quantitative way of saying: “This movie sucks.”
“If ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Battlefield Earth’ had a baby, it would look like the plot of ‘Warcraft,’ ” wrote San Francisco Chronicle critic Peter Hartlaub. (PS: That’s not a compliment.)
This follows hot on the heels of the also not-terrible performance of “Angry Birds,” the first animated adaptation of the mobile gaming phenomenon by Rovio. With the video gaming studio stumbling and turning to movies and merchandising to milk this franchise to the very last drop, the “Angry Birds” debut also provided a glimmer of hope.
In the U.S. thus far, “Angry Birds” has brought in $98.2 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Clearly, Pixar can rest easy here. But outside the U.S., it’s earned $213.9 million. Here again, the movie is going to make money. And that means Rovio is probably gearing up a sequel or 10.
And with a 42 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes, critics felt is was less awful than “Warcraft.”
Already, these two movies seem to be sailing high over the incredibly low bar set by past video game-based movies.
In the U.S. to date, the highest-grossing movie based on a video game is Lara Croft (in 2001), with $131 million. “Angry Birds” is already the second-highest-grossing video game movie in the U.S. having eclipsed “Prince of Persia” (woof!). And “Warcraft” is in 21st place after one weekend.
Of course, somewhat improbably, 2016 is shaping up to be The Year of the Video Game Movie, with the release of “Assassin’s Creed” set for December. The live action movie has a strong cast and solid visuals.
But the real drama will be whether the movie, which is based on the Ubisoft franchise, can build on this momentum and finally become the blockbuster the video game industry and its fans crave.
Or whether it will instead become the next “Super Mario Brothers” ($21.5 million in box office).
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