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Was the review that said Warcraft "tanked" a pun?

Updated on June 19, 2016
Cut-out statue at cinema: photo by Allan
Cut-out statue at cinema: photo by Allan

According to “wired” Warcraft: the beginning (Legendary Pictures 2016) was judged to have “tanked” as it only made make box office revenue of $24 million relative to its production cost of $160 million in the United States on its opening weekend.

However, the film made $156 million in China in its first five days!

This makes me wonder about the use of the word “tanked”.

In gaming speak a tank is a solid warrior capable of taking a lot of damage before going on to victory.

Warcraft is a gaming movie – so this use of the term “tank” seems appropriate.

Image from
Image from

Movie took damage like a tank

Like a tank Warcraft: the beginning (written by Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt) did not capture the American market on first approach.

It took critical damage, as unfavorable comparisons were made to popular titles from the past, such as Tomb Raider (the first movie made $131 in US Box office), and current box office hits such as The Conjuring 2. sessions 19-6-2016 sessions 19-6-2016

Movie faced strong competition like a tank

In Australian cinemas, there were also a lot of child popular movies launching at the same time. These films included:

  • Alice through the looking Glass - a well cast production of Lewis Carroll's classic novel and sequel to Alice in Wonderland
  • The Angry Bird Movie - adaption of a popular all ages video game
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - modern cinemtic version of the popular cartoon series
  • Finding Dory - sequel to the popular children's classic Finding Nemo

These movies were attracting children and families in large numbers.

However, Warcraft: the beginning offered viable alternate viewing for any mature person who did not have young children to take along to the impromptu junior movie feast! It therefore scored a few solid ticket sales every viewing from a range of adult viewers.

A tank can overcome unfavourable conditions such as the PG 13+ rating.

Warcraft: the beginning was rated PG 13+ which places it in an uncomfortable niche.

Being a fantasy about war, many parents would be uncomfortable allowing children to attend the movie, so there was no point trying to enter the child market. Moreover, the movie contained elements of dark supernatural magic, which some parents also censor.

Trying to keep mature themes and graphic violence to a minimum may have reduced the appeal for the movie’s main market – adult gamers. I do not attend a movie to see graphic images of blood and hear swearing, but I do like a few adult themes, such as politics and relationship issues.

I must admit, however, that while I noticed the romance between Garona and Lothar was restrained, I did not think the plot lacked much else in adult appeal. The battle scenes were well and truly there and body count was horrifying, given the inequality of strength between the Orcs and humans. There was also the wasteful deaths of all prisoners drained so that the orc necromancer could perform “fell” magic.

Image from:
Image from:

Film age PG 13+ doesn't match gaming age

The game is rated as suitable for 16+ by Commonsense Media and attracts this warning:

  • “Parents need to know that this game is incredibly fun to play and spectacular in terms of its beauty and creativity, but it requires adult involvement to be a positive and safe experience for teens. There is violence, some of it bloody, references to alcohol, and occasionally subtle sexual innuendo. Most importantly, parents need to know that this game is conducted online and may involve chatting with unknown players.”

Hence a film with a PG 13+ rating really makes no sense, unless it is meant to attract future players. (??) I would have thought box office considerations came first.

Image from:
Image from:

A tank has strength and staying power like an Orc bent on survival.

The film features two main forces, the Orc Horde and the human alliance. It is set early in the history of “Azeroth” as the Orc Horde arrive from another world through the portal. The humans have been living in peace because they have forged an understanding with all “known races” in their cosmos. The Orcs arrive from another dimension seeking land as their own world has been devastated by the evil effects of “fell” magic.

Some Orcs are willing to negotiate with the humans, with the motivation of freeing their people from the evil sorcerer who poses as their leader. Other Orcs see no path but war as they seek land and the means to survive.

After a few plot twists and turns, the film finishes with this conflict essentially unresolved. This sets up a status of on-going play as found in the game.

Conclusion: like a tank, the Warcraft movie may persevere towards victory.

US box office expectations may have been too high for the early days. However, the length of time the film remains in the cinema, and the success of DVD sales after it is released onto DVD will affect the overall financial success of the movie.

International sales have gone well with some sources reporting it has broken records in China.

According to Forbes, the film has made $37 million in North America, $134.9 million internationally (under Universal distribution) and $205 million in China (distributed by Legendary). This means it outranks Disney's Prince of Persia as top world wide seller amongst video game adaptations. That is in approximately the first fortnight!



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    • creativearts2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Australia

      I think there is a non-gaming use of the word. has:

      Slang meaning "detention cell" is from 1912. v. "to lose or fail," 1976, originally in tennis jargon, but said there to be from boxing, from tank (n.) in some sense. Related: Tanked; tanking. Adjective tanked "drunk" is from 1893.

      I find the gaming meaning easier to identify with!

    • CYong74 profile image

      Kuan Leong Yong 

      3 years ago from Singapore

      If it tanked, it meant it did pretty well. Goodness, the writer probably though tanked means bombed.


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