In an interview with The Guardian Stacey Sher and Nick van Dyk, co-presidents of Activision Blizzard Studios - the film and TV arm of Activision Blizzard - have revealed the company's plans to "use the multi-layered, interconnected approach that has made Marvel’s superheroes a dominant force in cinema to turn the first-person shooter into an all-conquering film franchise of its own".
The article continued thusly: "According to the pair, work on the Call of Duty films has already generated multiple scripts, and involved extensive research with military experts and retired soldiers.
"They are mapping out a Call of Duty universe which will draw on the feel of the different incarnations of the game rather than transposing existing plots. A first instalment could start shooting as early as 2018 and, if all goes to plan, there will be more to follow."
“We have plotted out many years,” Sher told the Guardian. “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.”
Van Dyk added this: “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."
Van Dyk says the aim is to emulate the way Marvel has created “these individual universes that interconnect and a timeline that makes sense with consistent themes and Easter eggs."
I scarcely even know where to begin with pointing out how wrong-headed and stupid and ignorant and depressing this all is.
Let's start here: you don't build a cinematic universe by talking about Easter eggs right at the very beginning. That's like starting the design of a new car with the cup-holder.
In fact... you don't even think about building a cinematic universe at all unless you have a property like Star Wars or Marvel. Call me wrong-headed... but Call of Duty is not Star Wars or Marvel. It's not even close. It's a series of tonally very similar, but utterly disconnected, paramilitary shoot 'em ups, which feature virtually faceless, identikit, characters.
You don't need to make an interconnected universe out of that. What would even be the point?!? But even if that was your intention... you don't go about it by forcing it, by assuming that there's an audience there for such a thing, and that your universe of movies will run and run for years. A movie series, a franchise, maybe, but an interconnected movie universe?! It's mental. Getting one film made is a monumental task. Making it a success faces nigh-on impossible odds.
Even Marvel - with all its property, with its broad brand awareness and even broader appeal - only very tentatively entered into cinematic universe building. Look what a mess you get when - as with DC - you set out to make movies with that express intention from the very off. And that's DC Comics - owners of some of the best characters ever created!
Name a single Call of Duty character other than Soap MacTavish (and - let's face it - we only remember him because he has a weird nickname).
Furthermore, Call of Duty is a terrible, terrible property upon which to build even a single movie, let alone a franchise. Marvel, DC, Star Wars... these are cinematic universes based upon properties rooted in storytelling. Surely there can't be anybody who plays Call of Duty for the story?
The plots in the games are functional, and work to serve the gameplay. Nothing more. They're bland delivery methods, regardless of whether you get Kiefer Sutherland or Kevin Spacey to provide a voice. That's a selling point, not a creative one.
More pertinently, the stories in these games exist to convey a world, a setting, for an exciting video game. Not a movie. Not a movie universe. The function is entirely different.
Activision Blizzard Studios has been in existence around 18 months. It's currently working on an animated TV series based upon the Skylanders property - which, frankly, seems like a far more logical and understandable project than Call of Duty,
Van Dyk and Sher both have years of experience in the film and TV industry, and know how Hollywood works. They were no doubt hired, on the promise of enormous salaries, to get Activision Blizzard properties into cinemas, and that's what they're going to try and do. You can't blame them for that.
No... this is coming from the top of Activision Blizzard. Like so many other games company bosses they're seduced by the superficial glitz and glamour of Hollywood, without really understanding how Hollywood works.
I've never really understood the games industry's fixation on La La Land, but it seems that movie-making is perceived as sexy and garners respect... and making games is the opposite.
That's what it always feels like to me; rather than doing something which feels creatively-driven, it always seems to be borne more from the insecurity of individuals.
HOLLYWOOD HERE I (DON'T) COME!
In my day job as a telly writer, I've had some tentative experiences with Hollywood - and it's every bit as mad as you might've heard. No... actually, it's madder. Like, off-the-scale bonkers.
Frankly, I want nothing to do with it ever again. The industry is built more on ego-stroking, false promises, and high-budget development than it is actual production.
Indeed, the advice given to most Hollywood screenwriters is to make a living - not to get films made. And in Hollywood, you only have to sell your screenplays to make a living. You don't actually have to get those screenplays into production.
Simply put; you just have to keep writing them, and keep flogging them, and with each one you flog your reputation increases and so does your fee, and eventually you might get to sit in a room with Tom Cruise one day, who'll trample all over your work with his "suggested" changes, and nobody will be able to stop him because he's Tom Cruise and he might put a curse on you with his magic Scientology powers.
I've twice been approached by Hollywood agents. The first one I walked away from when she wanted me to sign a contract which gave her 40% of all my earnings - even my work in the UK - whether she had helped to find me that work or not.
The other was a major agent who I "won" as a prize in a Hollywood screenwriting competition. I had several very exciting days where he was talking big about what he planned to do with my screenplay; how it was going to be shopped round all the major studios, and I was going to be flown out to LA, and how I was the best guy ever, and blah blah. Within a week he'd stopped replying to my calls and emails, and I never found out why.
What I did learn is that I not only needed an agent but a manager and a lawyer too, and they would also be creaming money off of my earnings. Also... they would all be taking producer credits on any projects I got into development.
To make it in Hollywood you have to give up everything, and make it the sole focus of your life. I wasn't prepared to do that, regardless of the potential rewards. I suspect he may have gotten wind of that - I was, at fortysomething, old by "new" Hollywood screenwriter standards, and had more important priorities. I didn't buy into any of it; to me it just seemed nuts.
Having heard stories from friends who have worked out there - and similarly would never go back - you need to be desperate or desperately hungry, and not yet see through the bullshit. I have little time for the superficial.
I want to work with people who are real and direct, in an industry that is real and direct and driven by creative impulses. I don't want to have to decipher hidden meanings behind the big talk, or navigate the weird personalities and paranoia of the people I'm working with, or keep in mind that everything I hear is probably a lie.
Behind the surface glamour of Hollywood is an industry built on hollow promises and distortion and the cosmetic. It's about showing off, about the flash; when the possibility of flying out there arose, the expectation was that I'd have to consider my wardrobe, my greying hair, my teeth - I needed to glamourise myself, all to portray something that I wasn't, that had nothing to do with my work.
Just on the off-chance of selling a few scripts. Um, well... maybe no?
The US TV industry isn't quite as nuts, but having had more recent experience with it... it still isn't far off. One day you're flavour of the month... the next you're off the radar altogether, because you have a life.
As bad as the Star Wars prequels were, I have enormous respect for George Lucas for staying independent. That's what most people forget about him; he built the biggest movie franchise of all time while remaining an independent filmmaker, because he couldn't be arsed with Hollywood's nonsense.
When he was more directly involved - with the original Star Wars - it nearly killed him... so he got out, even moving his operation out of Hollywood altogether, and refused to play their games. He always seemed motivated by the work, for better or worse, rather than the success and ego-stroking.
Conceivably, the Call of Duty games are sufficiently influenced by Hollywood movies that they could be translated into films... but I'm not sure what it is about them that would cause them to stand out among other modern military movies, other World War 2 movies, or sci-fi war films.
It could work, of course. They could release the first Call of Duty movie having hired a decent director, screenwriter and cast. They could make a film with a great plot, with memorable, likeable, broadly appealing characters... but it would hardly be a movie version of a Call of Duty game would it? The point of a Call of Duty game is that it's a game. You're in it. You're the main character.
It's interactive, stupid.
I suppose the reason this has pressed my buttons is because of my first-hand experience with Hollywood. It irritates when the PR hyperbole of wannabe movie-makers is regurgitated by the press, and accepted at face value. When journalists are beguiled by the glamour.
Shortly after I left Digitiser, I wrote a freelance piece for a print magazine, for which I interviewed the boss of a UK game developer who told me his big plans for making movies out of his properties.
He clearly wanted me to be impressed, but even at the time - before I gained experience as a screenwriter - I thought he was deluded, that he was clearly more excited about the prospect of making movies than he was of making games. It felt to me as if he wanted to make films to gain respect, that he wanted me to be impressed by his ambitions as a movie producer.
This was underlined when he told me how nice his car was, clearly thinking I'd be dazzled...
Years later, entirely coincidentally, a friend of mine did indeed help get a movie made based upon one of the characters the guy owned.
I had all my suspicions confirmed; as part of the deal to get the film made, the guy was insisting that he - with absolutely no experience of screenwriting - was going to write the screenplay himself. Suffice to say, there was no way my mate and his producing partners were going to let that happen. And they didn't.
SICK OF HOLLYWOOD
I guess I'm just sick of Hollywood being held up as some sort of creative Nirvana - the pinnacle of all human achievement - when for the most part it's a horrible, cut-throat, money-obsessed, ego-driven, success-driven, shallow, narcissistic, support network for needy, selfish, damaged, gym bunnies and Botox casualties, who get held aloft as our gods.
I love films, but I hate the way that the people making them are deified, as something more than the rest of us. It's an insult to anybody who has ever done a hard day's work at anything, anybody who has ever taken pride in their job, ever done what they do for the right reasons, rather than to fill some chasm in their soul.
Gaming - at the coalface level - has always felt as if it is driven by passion, not ego. I'm sick of video games company bosses and producers thinking that being a part of Hollywood is somehow more desirable and worthy than making the games themselves.