If you could travel back in time about 10 years and pay me a visit at the flat I used to share with a friend of mine, there’s a very, VERY good chance you would have found the two of us playing Gears of War. Every night. All night. It was not so much a video game as it was a life choice. What’s more, Gears of War is actually the reason that I’m even writing things on this this website to begin with. It was through Gears that I befriended Gavin and Geoff (as well as Nick De Bruyne, who has since gone off and done his own thing on Pennyworth). We went from shooting each other in the face every night to talking about collaborating on websites, first for games and then movies, and the rest is (very drunk, oftentimes embarrassing) history.
As for the history of Gears… Released in 2006 by Epic Games for Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the third-person shooter was the very definition of a console system seller. It followed the violent exploits of Marcus Fenix and his squad of soldiers in the Coalition of Ordered Governments (Get it? COG… Gears?), the last remaining human authority on the planet Sera. Marcus and the rest of the COG are desperately trying to save humanity after it was very nearly wiped out by the Locust Horde, an invading race of tribal subterranean creatures who had been secretly living right under humanity’s feet without them knowing. Boasting jaw-dropping visuals and groundbreaking gameplay mechanics, it was a gigantic hit and spawned a massive franchise that has seen four more sequels added, with the latest entry, Gears of War 4, scheduled to release next week.
And last night, during a livestream about Gears of War 4, it was finally officially announced that Microsoft and Universal Pictures are teaming up to develop a live-action feature film adaptation of the game. “Offically” being the operative word there, as we’ve been unofficially hearing about a possible Gears movie for some time now already.
Film producers Scott Stuber (Ted, The Kingdom) and Dylan Clark (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), will be taking the lead on this one. No director, writer or cast was announced, but it’s still early days yet. But chatting to Variety, Rob Ferguson, head of The Coalition game development studio (who have developed Gears of War 4), revealed that they already think they know how to break the bad video game movie adaptation curse.
“I think you have to let the movies be the movies. They’re two different mediums, and two different audiences in some cases, and I think some video game movies in the past have failed because they tried to make a movie for gamers. If you have this great IP with a deep backstory and lots of lore that you can make interesting stories out of it’s great, but if you just go after the gaming audience then it isn’t going to be a successful movie.
“That’s one of the great things about working with Universal. We’re finding that line where we can say it has enough lore and canon that it feels genuine to the game while at the same time going beyond that and asking ‘OK what makes a great movie?’”
Now the Gears games themselves were not narratively complex affairs. This is the type of game where despite the fact that humanity is barely scraping by on the brink of total annihilation, everybody looks like roided out professional wrestlers who eat whole horses for breakfast. Hell, this is the type of game where people have CHAINSAWS ON THEIR GUNS! So yes, this could very much just be a balls to the wall, high octane sci-fi action shoot-em-up, and I’m okay with that.
However, I’m hoping they take a different angle with this. See if there’s one criticism leveled at the games, it’s their lack of storytelling. But this is kind of not true. The game actually has a very rich mythology as Ferguson pointed out, hinting at Marcus’ familial ties to the Locusts, humanity’s hand in their own near-extinction, conspiracies involving the COG, etc. But then Epic Games decided that instead of just telling you this info, they would rather scatter it in teeny tiny fragments and clues and hide it in hard to find places of the game. Normally, I would be very happy with this show-not-tell approach, but it’s kind of hard to look for diary pages in a game when a 14-foot tall cross between a reptile and a Sherman tank is trying to turn you into red paste. The result of this is that about nobody ever assembles the full picture of what actually happened.
Now some of this background story has already been filled in by other ancillary materials like books and comics, but there’s still a fair amount left to tell that this movie could tackle.
“As a way to support the franchise the next logical step was to make the movie. We’d done comics and novels in the past but the opportunity to work with Universal to bring the movie to life was perfect.”
Now the question just remains which director they will get for this (I’m sure Darryn’s going to want Michael Bay, probably because we punch him in the head constantly) and which human shaped slabs of meat will be cast as Marcus and co. Any suggestions?
Last Updated: October 6, 2016