After The Avengers, major studios rushed to put together cinematic universes, and yet almost five years later, no one really has anything to show for it. Warner Bros. is the only one that’s really made progress, but the DCEU films have been critically reviled and underperformed at the box office, so while they technically “achieved” their cinematic universe, it’s not particularly good. There’s a failure to recognize that Marvel put all of their efforts into making Iron Man a good film, and then they tacked a fun little teaser on at the end that could or could not be delivered upon depending on the film’s success.
Unfortunately, the folks over Activision Blizzard Studios haven’t learned that lesson. Speaking to The Guardian [via The Playlist], they believe they already have a big cinematic universe ready to go by adapting their popular Call of Duty games:
“We have plotted out many years…We put together this group of writers to talk about where we were going. There’ll be a film that feels more like ‘Black Ops,’ the story behind the story. The ‘Modern Warfare‘ series looks at what it’s like to fight a war with the eyes of the world on you. And then maybe something that is more of a hybrid, where you are looking at private, covert operations, while a public operation is going on,” co-president Stacey Sher said.
“It’s going to have the same sort of high-adrenaline, high-energy aesthetic as the game, but it’s not a literal adaptation. It’s a much more broad and inclusive, global in scope … a big, tentpole Marvel-esque movie,” co-president Nick van Dyk added.
Quick: who’s the main character of the Call of Duty games? Just kidding. There is no main character. Sometimes the protagonist gets killed off midway through the game and replaced—that’s how important they are to the narrative.
Which is fine for video games! The Call of Duty games are ridiculously popular because they do first person shooters fairly well. They’re not story-driven games, and while Sher and Dyk may see that as an advantage, they’ve already gone astray by trying to look at the big picture rather than just focusing on making one good movie.
And this is in the notoriously difficult video game movie genre where, decades after it began, we’re still waiting for one that rises above “fine.”
I understand that Call of Duty is a valuable IP, and Sher and Dyk both have backgrounds working in Hollywood (Sher produced The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, and Contagion; Dyk worked at Disney when they acquired Marvel and Lucasfilm), but yet again this looks like a case of studio putting the cart before the horse. Tell one good story, and then figure out how to build from there.