The real reason video game movies (and video game reviews) suck

warcraft movie

I had two things to talk about this week, so I figured why not cover them both? After all, without that efficient approach to time management we would never have wonderful things like threesomes and ice-cream sandwiches.

For bonus points, I’ll be linking these problems together in a purely anecdotal manner that may or may not have any basis in reality. It’s the kind of hard-hitting journalistic integrity you’ve come to expect from me, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint.

So the Warcraft movie blows, apparently. I probably shouldn’t be surprised. I have a similar feeling about this however as I do when I’m nose-to-porcelain with the toilet bowel at 3am after twelve tequila shots – I thought somehow this time would be different.

Duncan Jones is a great director after all, and a huge Warcraft nerd. But I think that may be part of the problem. Or the entire problem.

I think there’s something in gamers that just makes us piss-poor at evaluating gamer things. We’re too passionate. We love too deeply. If your own child poops in his hand and throws it on the ceiling, you’re apt to post on Facebook immediately because its “adorable”, ruining my breakfast and reaffirming my burning desire for a Children of Men dystopia.

I think Duncan Jones had such a raging nerd boner every time he saw another CGI battle scene with realistic looking orcs that he forgot he was making a movie for people who haven’t spent 3,000 hours farming wild boars in World of Warcraft and convincing themselves they enjoy it.

The part I love is when old-men movie critics step in without any of that nostalgia or pre-conceived ideas and see a film for what it is – a shitty movie. Here’s a quote from Variety: “The final product brings to mind those animated advertisements for iPhone app games.”

He’s probably right, too. As much as there’s a decent enough story woven into Warcraft, ultimately it’s a game. The story doesn’t need to stand on its own, it just moves things along. That’s not true for a movie, which is why movies based on books are infinitely better than video game movies.

This is going to feel like I just punched you in the dick [If you don’t have one of these, I’m sorry. Chris is trying to make a comedic point that makes express use of both dicks and punching, so I’m letting him run with it. – Ed.], so brace yourself – Angry Birds and Minecraft are probably going to be the best video game movies we see in the next few years. That stinging in the shaft you feel right now is the pain of the truth my friend.

Don't give me that face.
Don’t give me that face.

Here’s my theory on this – Angry Birds and Minecraft don’t have a story at all. It’s a blank slate really, a collection of characters with no real identity that can be used in whatever way someone sees fit (and I’m not talking about the way you “use” that Creeper plushy either, you big perv). What this means is that someone will have to be hired to write a story, and they can write a good one. They won’t be shackled to some paper-thin narrative that they have to follow to stay true to “the fans”.

It’s why the Lego movie was such a success – it combined a genuinely well-written script with an already successful IP. Assuming they don’t hire Shonda Rhimes and have a sassy green pig delivering over-engineered monologues, the Angry Birds movie will probably be a competent film.

Let’s reel this in though – I’ve gone so far off course I feel like I’m navigating this column with Apple Maps. The point that I’m getting at, really, is that gamers are too easily blinded by their own biases. It’s the reason games get away with broken releases, it’s the reason Overwatch somehow warrants a R1K price tag and it’s the reason Uncharted 4 is sitting at a 93 on Metacritic.

“Woah woah woah, did that motherf**ker just talk shit about Nathan Drake?” you ask, a bowl of spaghetti upturned and forgotten on your glorious moobs [Again, if you have Actual Boobs, I’m sorry. Chris gets what Chris wants. We have a beautiful relationship in that way. Also, if your Actual Boobs are covered in bowls and spaghetti, I’m doubly sorry. – Ed.]. “Uncharted 4 is the greatest game ever made!”

Except nah, it’s not. I recently (spoilers) wrote a review for Uncharted 4 which went up today, and I won’t tell you what score I gave it but it was not 93. I think there’s two reasons behind this. One, I’d never played an Uncharted game so I didn’t have my face human-centipeded to Naughty Dog’s bunghole. Secondly, and I think even more importantly, for the first time I didn’t read a single other review of this game before writing mine.

"Realistic dirt clouds. 10/10"
“Realistic dirt clouds. 10/10”

We’re so easily influenced by what we are told we should feel about something that I think it’s easy to lose sight of our own thoughts. Uncharted 4 is a good game, but it’s nowhere near a perfect game and a score that averages out to the low 90s is absurd. The same people who are giving steakhouses a one-star review on TripAdvisor because they didn’t have enough vegan options somehow think the latest Call of Duty warrants an A+.

Movie critics, the good ones anyway, do not succumb to this. They’re grumpy, jaded assholes who spend most of the day trying to throw back enough whiskey that they can’t raise their arms above their head so they won’t go home and beat their spouses and they care not how realistic your orc’s hair looks.

My point, if you’ll allow me the luxury of pretending I have one, is that being passionate about movies makes you a great movie reviewer, but being passionate about video games makes you a bloody awful game reviewer.