Every time I see an article saying that Pacific Rim was a big success ($411m) & Warcraft was a flop ($433m), I want to- pic.twitter.com/qHoYepIEOt
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) August 25, 2017
When I saw the above tweet pop up on my Twitter feed last week, my initial reaction was “ARGH! How dare people hate Warcraft, it’s awesome! Urge to suplex a bear rising!” but as there are no bears at my work and I’m a halfway sensible human being, I moved past the Net-rage and actually thought about the statement. Not the desire to suplex a bear when someone spouts something factually contradictory, that’s pretty universal I think, but the claim that despite making less money, Pacific Rim was a success while Warcraft flopped. So I did what any well-minded individual would do in that situation, I made a spreadsheet to compare the two movies.
Now, I say I made a spreadsheet, I hijacked the layout I’ve been using for the some research I’ve been doing for the guys and fed in the information for Warcraft and Pacific Rim, making a brand new spreadsheet would just be insane… Anyway, as I see it there are two indicators for success when it comes to movies: financial success and critical acclaim. Let’s start with the more tangible factor: money.
At the end of the day, a movie is judged heavily on whether or not it makes money, and how profitable it is. Certain movies have killed or nearly killed franchises because they failed to perform in the box office – Hellboy 2, Amazing Spiderman 2 or the latest Fantastic Four iteration being good examples. In a world where movies are regularly topping over $1 billion in record, production companies are happy to churn out less than great movies as long as it turns a big profit, case in point, the Transformers movie series. This is already being seen in our debate as Pacific Rim has a sequel in production while a possible follow-up to Warcraft is pretty much dead in the water despite fan support.
So taking that into consideration, how does that look in our Pacific Rim/Warcraft comparison? Well, not only did Warcraft make more money than Pacific Rim, but it did so with a smaller budget, meaning it was more profitable. Now, while I will agree that neither movie was approaching MCU levels of profitability (average 316% profit per movie) the evidence certainly doesn’t point to Warcraft being a flop. In fact it’s actually more profitable than any of the Star Trek reboots (157%, 146% and 85.7% profitablity).
So let’s go to the other, less tangible, factor of success for movies: critical acclaim. It’s difficult to really gauge critical acclaim for movies, but I’ve taken an average of the review scores from Rotten Tomatoes, MetaCritic and IMDb. Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomato-Meter and MetaCritic is an aggregate of professional/certified reviewers, while the Rotten Tomatoes’ Audience rating and the IMDb rating are from the public so there are different perspectives being taken into account. Review-wise, Pacific Rim performs much better that Warcraft, but looking at the numbers, that deficit comes primarily from poorer critic reviews as the public reviews are pretty similar.
How do we analyse this? It’s pretty tricky as Warcraft is saddled with the stigma of being a “computer game” movie, which for some reason seems to make it cannon fodder for the critics. Pacific Rim is pretty solid across the board but it’s not approaching the level of Return of the King or Ben Hur, which have won more Oscars than most movies. When you look at Pacific Rim and Warcraft for what they are, they aren’t exactly Oscar-bait so can you review them as if they are? These are essentially popcorn movies so how critical can you be of a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters or humans fighting beefy green humans?
Ultimately, its personal preference as to whether you like or dislike a movie. I like Warcraft a lot, I’ve watched it numerous times and regularly recommend it, but I’m a World of Warcraft player, I like the fantasy genre and I like Duncan Jones as a director, so can you trust me to be objective? Probably not, but I don’t go around saying it’s a flop when there are factors where it out-performs movies with a higher profile and bigger budget.
So I guess the lesson to be learned here is that when you hear someone say something that you don’t agree with on the internet, take a second and actually think about the reasons why that person is wrong before you reply and maybe we’ll see the number of internet arguments decrease and the general health of the bear populous improve…
Feel free to leave your views on what constitutes if a movie is a success or not. Is there a factor I’ve not thought of that might be crucial to this ongoing debate? Have you watched both movies, which do you prefer? I look forward to seeing what you guys think.
Until next time,
NB. No bears were harmed in the writing of this article…