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The Huge Video Game Movie Flop That Found A Second Life On Netflix

Netflix has frequently given second life to movies or TV shows that failed to capture the public attention when they were first released. That phenomenon has occurred once again with "Warcraft," the 2016 fantasy film and video game adaptation, which takes place in the universe of Blizzard Entertainment's massively successful MMORPG "World of Warcraft." The film fell short of its financial and critical ambitions eight years ago, but it's reached the No. 2 spot on Netflix's top 10 movies in the United States as of July 2.

At the time of this writing, "Warcraft" is second only to the new Netflix original movie "A Family Affair." That's a pretty big win for a movie that's almost a decade old and has lost a lot of cultural relevance in the interim. While "World of Warcraft" remains an immensely popular game worldwide, it's no longer the definitive signifier of gaming culture that it once was. Other titles like "Fortnite," "Minecraft," and "League of Legends" have come to dominate that space, though they occupy very different genres from the loot-centric fantasy gameplay of "World of Warcraft."

"Warcraft" has never been nearly as beloved as the game series that birthed it, earning a dismal 29% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score for the film is much higher, standing at 76% at the time of this writing, but viewer approval wasn't enough to make the film a box office success. It earned $439 million thanks to a strong performance in China, but that wasn't enough for it to break even. So, was everyone too harsh on the film back in 2016?

Should you watch Warcraft on Netflix?

Your mileage may vary with "Warcraft" if you choose to check it out on Netflix. For those who haven't played the games, it basically reads like a generic high fantasy story. It goes heavy on the CGI, with many of the main non-human characters being fully animated and played through motion capture. The "humans vs. orcs" story is a tale as old as the genre itself, and there isn't a ton here that's going to change up that tried and true narrative. In other words, you already know what you're in for.

Cast-wise, the film has a couple of fun surprises. Travis Fimmel leads the way as the Azeroth knight Anduin Lothar, with Paula Patton co-starring as the half-orc heroine Garona. If you're a fan of the more recent Planet of the Apes movies, you'll recognize some of the names behind the performance-capture roles, as Koba actor Toby Kebbell plays the orc chieftain Durotan, and Terry Notary (who played Rocket) helped supervise all of the mo-cap performances. "Into the Badlands" star and martial arts legend Daniel Wu also appears, and Glenn Close even has a bit part.

A deeper familiarity with the Warcraft games may actually diminish your enjoyment of the film, as it isn't particularly loyal. The series had several entries prior to the success of "World of Warcraft," but the movie doesn't really tap into that history or the deeper lore.

Warcraft isn't the first video game movie to do well on Netflix

The success of "Warcraft" on Netflix isn't unprecedented. Plenty of lackluster theatrical releases find larger audiences when they come to streaming years later. In the case of Netflix, this has even happened before with video game adaptations. Early this year, the Michael Fassbender-led "Assassin's Creed" movie, another 2016 dud based on a popular game series, vaulted toward the top of Netflix's streaming charts. 2022's "Uncharted" found similar success on Netflix after its theatrical window, though the time in between was much shorter in that instance.

It's appropriate that video game adaptations have historically done well on Netflix, as the streamer has become a huge producer of them. Shows like "Castlevania," "Arcane," "The Witcher," and "Cyberpunk: Edgerunners" have become some of the most critically acclaimed gaming adaptations ever, and they're all Netflix originals. Many others are currently in the works, including a "Gears of War" movie and animated series, and a Tomb Raider anime starring Hayley Atwell as Lara Croft.

As for "Warcraft," there have been various rumors since it came out that sequels or a TV series could be in the works. The franchise is certainly still one of the biggest in all of gaming, but it no longer rules the roost as it did in the 2000s and early 2010s. Perhaps the film's success on Netflix could get things moving behind the scenes again, but there's no evidence to suggest that at this time. If fans get another adaptation one day, let's just hope it'll be a little more successful the first time around.