Call Of Duty: Operation Hollywood

At this point in the proceedings gamers are all too familiar with the concept of videogame-to-movie transitions. We are also depressingly aware of the consequences of trying to cram a videogame-shaped idea into to a movie-shaped slot. As far as the videogames industry has come in honing the art of the cinematic narrative, it’s fair to say that often the source material simply isn’t up to the task of surviving on story alone.

The recently binned Halo movie is a good example of this syndrome. Master Chief can be forgiven being a faceless, characterless, monotone cliché in the Halo games because players are having far too much fun reducing giant cosmic rings to space-dust and violating the Covenant to worry about things like character depth and dialogue. The story, far from being the focus of the project, is one element of the overall Halo experience, and by no means its strongest suit. Most gamers bought Halo 3 so they could enjoy the sheer kinetic thrill of sticking plasma grenades to people’s backs and battle rifles up people’s arses in multiplayer. They did not hand over 40 of their hard-earned pounds to listen to the Arbiter and Master Chief indulging in passive-aggressive cutscene banter.

Some games don’t even bother with narrative. Would Geometry Wars 2 be any better if there were cinematics slotted in-between every stage of Sequence, with the camera zooming in to show the pilot nonchalantly flipping up his visor, revealing his chiselled, unshaven jaw-line and dishing out D-grade one-liners to a bunch of blue and green diamonds? No, it would suck harder than a nuclear vacuum cleaner. And why? Because what makes Geometry Wars 2 such a great title is its gameplay. No preposterous, arbitrary plotlines about kidnapped girlfriends or poorly contained viral contaminants; no insufferably smug lead characters or hackneyed moustache-fondling villains spewing recycled dialogue like somebody gives a crap; just pure, undiluted gaming.

Geometry Wars Strikes Back
Geometry Wars with added drama.

On Monday it was revealed that Activision has filed a trademark reserving the rights to a Call of Duty movie. An enigmatic twitter from Infinity Ward’s community manager on the same day invited further speculation, reading: “First round of meetings in Paris wrapped. Grabbing lunch with Xavier Gens, director of the Hitman film while in town. Talking game films.”

Sigh. A movie based on a game based on a war that already has literally hundreds of movies based on it. In spite of the Modern Warfare sub-series, the Call of Duty label is still synonymous with World War II. This means two hours of watching a generic American WWII soldier advance to an objective, destroy the objective, then advance towards another objective, before (and this is only if the writers are feeling particularly faithful to the source material) being transplanted into the body of a generic Soviet WWII soldier who continues to advance towards another objective, only this time the objective is covered in snow. Even bearing in mind the list of pre-existing videogame-to-movie cash–ins this feels like a pretty hollow endeavour. If they make a Call of Duty movie, World War II is going to have a multimedia brand.

The franchise itself is already bears the influence of war movies. The assault of Pointe du Hoc, the memorable beach-storming introduction to Call of Duty 2, was lifted wholesale from the opening 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. A Call of Duty movie would be a mind-mangling example of art imitating art imitating art imitating life. Surely this can only water down whatever message may have existed in the first place?

Call Of Duty Movie
War. Brought to you by Call of Duty.

There is also the seriousness of the subject matter to consider. When you’re dealing with the single most horrific event of twentieth century history you’ve got to exhibit a degree of sensitivity in order to pass it off as entertainment, something which Call of Duty: World at War managed with surprising dexterity. Now take a look at the roster of directors that consistently sign up for videogame-to-movie translations. Even if Gens doesn’t get it, there’s the likes of Paul Anderson and Uwe Boll waiting in the wings to reduce the Third Reich to a bunch of goose-stepping Nazi-Roids who do nothing but scream “VEE VILL KILL ZE FOREIGN PIG-DOGZ!!!” over and over to the tune of ‘Deutschland Uber Alles’. You can kiss nuance goodbye my friends: welcome to Mortal Kombat: Fatality on Utah Beach.

Such concerns may be premature though. A Call of Duty movie might never come to pass. Just because the rights are secured doesn’t mean a studio will actually pick it up. If the Halo movie couldn’t make it through pre-production with the might of Peter Jackson on board then there’s no guarantee that this adaptation will fare any better, especially considering how saturated the WWII genre already is. But a part of me, the same part that didn’t bat an eyelid when Lando betrayed Han, senses that the idea has sufficient dollar potential to be aggressively nurtured to fruition. I have a feeling there will be a controller rather than a ticket stub in my hands come opening night.


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3 responses to “Call Of Duty: Operation Hollywood”

  1. Ramsden avatar
    Ramsden

    Of course, they could mean to be making a movie based around Soap and the Modern Warfare sub-series. With Modern Warfare 2 released in just a month, almost to the day, the timing of this hint seems significant more than looking back over the wider Call of Duty series history. Modern Warfare is also about the only Call of Duty with some kind of coherent story or character development to draw on.

    The more important thing is that regardless of anything else, all game-to-movie adaptations suck without exception. I will bring out Tomb Raider. Don’t make me go there. For all our sakes.

  2. Lorna avatar
    Lorna

    Great article, very enjoyable read.

  3. Eddy avatar
    Eddy

    That’s an idea…everyone goes to watch COD at the cinema and handed a controller from which you forge your own story and legend. Be better than an actual movie after all….i get a horrible suspicion dinosaurs would be involved. Some sort of saving private ryan/jurassic park ugly hybrid with all the relevance of a speckle of dust.
    Enjoyable and entertaining article..good work:)

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