About a year ago, Activision Blizzard announced their plans to release multiple films based on the Call of Duty franchise. According to Activision, the first film based on the game franchise could come out as early as 2018. I don’t know when we ever asked for a CoD movie, and I don’t think we need one.
Through the years, we’ve seen video game franchises expand to film with varying degrees of success and failure. If we’ve learned one thing from these narratives it’s that a good video game does not always make a good movie. While variables like acting, directing, and sheer timing have an effect on the prosperity of a film, there are a few things that are crucial in making a solid video game movie. Plot, character development, and originality are just a few. We’ve seen from failures like the Assassin’s Creed movie that an amazing game with an interesting plot does not promise a favorable outcome for the film.
Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed many of the CoD games throughout the years, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch it in theaters. Frankly, I don’t feel that CoD has the features necessary to translate to a watchable film that would remain true to the franchise.
1. You’re not the main character anymore
Part of the reason we’re invested in the CoD campaigns is that they are mission based. At least for me, the plot is secondary. It is more important that a campaign have well-crafted missions than a riveting narrative. Don’t get me wrong, there’s suspense and action at every turn, but will an audience be as drawn into a story where they don’t actually get to play? When you look at the different campaigns we’ve seen from the Activision franchise over the years, are there any stories you’d actually want to watch as a film if you didn’t actually get to shoot anyone? For me, the answer is a resounding “no.”
2. It probably wouldn’t be for gamers
Films like J.J. Abram’s Star Trek appeal to a wider base with sexy leads and big-budget special effects, and rely less on the original characters and story. The first Star Trek was an enjoyable movie, but personally I felt like it lacked the nuance of the original television show. I feel like this will be the fate of the CoD movies. I don’t see the same depth in the CoD franchise that Star Trek has.
CoD film makers would likely have to develop a character based plot line into the story and risk pulling the film away from the things that players love about CoD. There is a very high likelihood that the film would be loosely based on the games, with a generic Hollywood storyline inserted in. If the storyline doesn’t have the right blend of exposition, character development, and violence while staying true enough to the franchise, it will fail. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to watch a film that abandons the idiosyncrasies of a game in order to widen the franchise’s fan base.
3. It would be every other bad war movie
There are a lot of war movies, and not all of them are good. How many worthy action movies about war have you heard about in recent years? Now out of those, how many of them were more about the action and fighting than they were about the story of the people behind the guns? There are only so many epic explosions and realistic gory scenes you can watch before you ask, “okay, this is cool, but what’s the point?”
In order to make a good war movie, the characters and their motivations must be primary, putting the action secondary. This sentiment is opposite to the CoD franchise. Perhaps it would be possible to take its characters and storylines and turn them into a decent movie, but at that point it would bear little to no resemblance of the franchise. It’s a paradox, because if CoD wants to be a well-made action movie about war, it can’t be a movie about CoD.
4. CoD is not Marvel, and will never be Marvel
Activision has said that they want the CoD movie franchise to resemble that of Marvel. I have so many issues with this, the first being that videogames are not comic books. Activision will never be Marvel, and CoD will never be any series of graphic novels. Ever. CoD games generally do not follow the dramatic structure that makes comics and graphic novels work in film adaptations. Marvel comics generally follow the typical “hero’s journey” story arc (graphic representation below, as the full explanation may be a little long).
Most graphic novels and comics generally follow this arc or some sort of variation of it. The CoD series focus mainly on the “tests, allies, and enemies” portion of this structure, making it mostly action based. In order for Activision to make the CoD film franchise “Marvel-esque,” it would have to develop and follow a story arc similar to this. Seeing as Marvel became a successful film franchise because they had a universe and characters that had proven themselves for generations, it was not a far step to turn their characters’ stories into films.
The CoD universe, on the other hand, does not have this same luxury. They would essentially be starting from scratch and venturing into unknown territory. While this risk could prove fruitful, there is also the very real chance that it will not go well for them. Gamers are some of the harshest critics out there, and if Activision isn’t able to create a compelling story that bears the defining characteristics of the franchise, there will be intense backlash from fans.
Some things just should not be done
Maybe I’m just cynical, but I don’t really understand why acclaimed video game franchises feel the need to expand to the world of cinema. While there are plenty of successful film adaptations of books and graphic novels, video games generally do not make exceptional movies. As we’ve seen in the past, many video games try to translate into films that appeal to their fans, but ultimately fail.
Just because a video game is wildly popular, this does not necessarily mean that the storyline of the game is strong enough to captivate an audience without the actual gameplay. Cool costume design and big explosions do not necessarily mean a movie will be popular, and it definitely does not mean that it will satisfy existing or prospective fans of the franchise. The stars will have to align and Activision will have to do everything right in order to make CoD into a satisfying movie, and frankly I just don’t think they will be able to hit the mark. In this case, the risk is not worth the reward.
Do you want to see a Call of Duty movie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!