Speculation: Universal feels Warcraft is a “problem movie”


Earlier we reported that Pacific Rim 2 has been delayed indefinitely and may not get made. This is the result of the testy relationship between Legendary Pictures and Universal, which The Hollywood Reporter has covered in a recent piece.

There’s a small item in that THR feature that mentions Duncan Jones’ Warcraft film, which is scheduled to be released on June 10, 2016. Sources have said that Warcraft is considered a “problem movie,” and that the project that has “heightened concerns on the part of Universal studio chief Donna Langley.”

So the movie isn’t “bad,” but it’s a “problem,” which regardless how you spin it, is probably a problem.

There are plenty of ways to read this kind of small news item.

For one, Universal may be trying to play conservatively with Legendary projects since their first outings together were critical flops and underperformers at the box office: Michael Mann’s Blackhat ($70 million budget, $17.8 million box office) and Seventh Son ($95 million-plus budget, $111 million box office). “Problem” in this case may simply mean that Warcraft is expensive and they may not want to be associated with the film. As of this writing, the exact budget of Warcraft is north of $100 million. Duh.

Another issue may be the lengthy post-production time. The film wrapped principle photography back in May 23, 2014. Yeah, 20-freakin’-14. In an interview with CraveOnline, Legendary CEO Thomas Tull said the following about the two years of post-production:

Well, part of it is getting the date right. As you may have noticed, these next two years, there’s pretty big titles coming out. We wanted to make sure that we got that right, but there are some sequences and some things that Duncan Jones has done that are truly on the cutting edge. You want to have plenty of time to make sure that we dial those in. So by the time they get home and set up, it’ll be a little less than two years. It’ll be about 20 months but we really want to take our time and get this right because the technology that’s employed really is some next generation stuff.

It seems like there’s lots of motion capture performance work for the orcs in the film, which may be taking up a lot of the post-production time. We’ll learn more about what this next-gen stuff might be as summer 2016 draws closer, but the problem could be with what the effects will look like and if they’ll be worth the wait.

While that’s been happening, Warcraft has experienced a dip in public brand consciousness. Just last month, Destructoid (our mum) reported that WoW subscription numbers are currently the lowest they’ve been since 2005. The movie might help boost subscription numbers a little next year and that will be nice for Blizzard, but I wonder if waning mainstream interest in WoW and just the Warcraft name in general may affect interest in the film next summer. It may get released and get lost in the summer rush since the brand isn’t what it used to be and a new tentpole comes out every week. (From late May through June, so far Warcraft will be in theaters against X-Men: Age of Apocalypse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, and Finding Dory.)

There are other possibilities (e.g., bad script, complicated storytelling, over budget, a public disinterest in fantasy films, unique approach to the material audiences aren’t used to, just a general sense of worry from Hollywood suits), but it’s interesting to consider what “problem movie” might mean with this particular project. Worst case scenario is we have another Dungeons and Dragons (2000) on our hands. Then again, Jones directed Moon, so those chances are low.

We’ll keep our eyes open for more info.

[THR via Indiewire]
Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.