If there's one common element among all movies based on video games, it's an over-abundance of crumminess.

Sure, the original Mortal Kombat (1995) was a bit of fun, and people seem to like the Resident Evil movies, because they can't stop making them, but it's generally accepted that there has never been a good, let alone a great, movie based on a video game.

This movie based on a video game Resident Evil: Retribution stars Milla Jovovich.
This movie based on a video game Resident Evil: Retribution stars Milla Jovovich.

, released in New Zealand theatres next week, represents the most ambitious attempt to buck that trend.

Inspired by the ridiculously popular Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game World of Warcraft, the fantasy epic is positioning itself as the launching point for a new blockbuster franchise.

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Will the film be heralded as the first great video-game movie?

In answering this question we shall first attempt to identify why it is that video game movies almost always suck.

The philosophy that every film is 100 per cent dependent on execution is one that I subscribe to, but that doesn't get us very far in determining what makes video game movies so reliably crappy. So for the purposes of our stated goal, we must leave behind the notion that no film is inherently bad and embrace the generalisation that comes with dismissing an entire sub-genre.

A scene from the movie Warcraft, directed by Duncan Jones.
A scene from the movie Warcraft, directed by Duncan Jones.

In that context, we could say that the degree to which movies have informed modern video games means that films based on video games suffer from a form of creative inbreeding.

The language of modern gaming comes from popular movies - the way they look, sound and feel. Within an interactive gaming environment, where the experience is defined by playing as opposed to watching, these already-familiar tropes become tired and generic through reduction, repetition or good old-fashioned copyright necessity.

Which makes transposing these boiled-down ideas back into cinematic form akin to attempting to defibrillate an embalmed corpse. And inbreeding.

As fun as Tomb Raider often was, it was always an Indiana Jones rip-off and everybody who played it knew it. But it didn't matter in a gaming context. Thrust the concept back into a medium more reliant on storytelling and character, and the resulting films (2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and 2003's The Cradle of Life) are all-too-accurately described as the shadows of a shadow.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is all-too accurately described as the shadows of a shadow.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is all-too accurately described as the shadows of a shadow.

The same argument applies to the Resident Evil films, which betray the fact that their source material took all its creative cues from George A. Romero's Dead films by feeling like the most generic zombie sci-fi action movies ever.

Luckily for Warcraft, the fantasy tropes the game is built on have primarily literary origins, and although undeniably familiar, remain relatively untapped on the scale seen in the new film. With one notable exception of course, but more on that later.

Another complaint lobbed at many video-game adaptations is a lack of plot. Which was only one of the many things wrong with the nuts 1993 adaptation of Super Mario Bros.

Unlike many video-game franchises, even the longstanding ones, there's a ridiculous wealth of backstory for Warcraft to delve into - the storyline is based on an iteration of the franchise that predates even World of Warcraft.

With such uncharacteristically rich source material, the argument for adhering to the world built up by the Warcraft game is stronger than it would be for say, Hitman (2007) and Hitman: Agent 47 (2015).

For the longest time, conventional Hollywood wisdom dictated that what worked for the inspiration didn't necessarily work for the movie.

But with the Marvel Cinematic Universe achieving great success by staying true to the comics, and the ''fan'' voice having a larger role to play than ever, the benefits of adhering to the source material are becoming more and more apparent.

Its a trend that suits Warcraft, and Blizzard, the makers of the game (and producers on the film), have made it clear that a faithful adaptation was a top priority for them.

Although it's unclear if being more faithful to the source material would've helped the forgettable 2005 Doom movie, it's an approach that aligns nicely with the big strides being made in cinematically inclined video games.

The Doom movie is an approach that aligns nicely with the big strides currently being made in cinematically-inclined video games.
The Doom movie is an approach that aligns nicely with the big strides currently being made in cinematically-inclined video games.
The Last of Us

and

Uncharted 4

benefitted from a storytelling sophistication that compares with good movies, and infused their familiar tropes with verve and personality. Ditto the more recent

Tomb Raider

games, which bodes well for the upcoming film reboot starring Alicia Vikander.

As a video game adapation, Warcraft is doing a lot of things right, and looks set to break the curse that has long afflicted such films. It's greatest challenge in gaining widespread public acceptance is as a big-screen fantasy, an area that remains defined by Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations.

I enjoyed Warcraft. It's a brighter, more colourful alternative to the gritty lived-in quality of Jackson's masterworks.

But living up to Lord of the Rings in the eyes of the general audience will be tougher than breaking any video-game curse.

Favourite video-game movie? Amped for Warcraft?