Back in 2006 Microsoft and Epic Games unleashed the brutal and bloody third-person action shooter Gears of War on Xbox 360. Set on a post-apocalyptic Earth-like planet called Sera, players take on the roles of COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) soldiers Marcus Fenix and Dominic Santiago as they battle against monstrous underground inhabitants, The Locust Horde.
The game proved hugely successful, picking up many awards and accolades and shifting close to six million units world-wide (second only to Halo 2 for Microsoft). With that kind of success it was only a short time before the film rights were secured by New Line Cinema, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra screenwriter Stuart Beattie was brought on board to start developing the script with input from lead designer Cliff Bleszinski.
In March 2008 Wyck Godfrey – producer of hit vampire adaptation Twilight in addition to Gears of War – told ComingSoon.net that, “we’ve got our script on and a director we’re about to attach. We’ll hopefully make that early next year for the summer of 2010.” A month later Latino Review got their hands on a leaked version of the Gears script, which begins during Emergence Day and shows the Locust Horde launching their initial attack to devastate Sera before skipping ten years to chronicle humanity’s last stand against the invaders. The script featured main characters Marcus and Dom alongside other familiar faces such as Augustus ‘Cole Train’ Cole and Dom’s wife, Maria.
Through-out the latter part of 2007 Underworld and Die Hard 4 helmer Len Wiseman had been strongly rumoured for directorial duties and in June 2008 he became officially attached, bringing in Chris Morgan (Wanted) to help revise the screenplay. “We want to get it right,” said Epic Games founder Mark Rein on his hopes for the film. “There’s no timetable for us. We just want to make as good a movie as we can, and we think Wiseman’s the guy who will do it.”
With Wiseman officially on board, in January 2009 he spoke to BloodyDisgusting about his intentions and stated that plans were afoot for a trilogy, which he described as “a harder edged Lord of the Rings“. The director also elaborated slightly on his approach towards the adaptation, suggesting that “it’s going to be much more [on the] science fiction side of it than the creature side”.
Fast-forward a couple of months to May 2009, and writer Chris Morgan confirmed to MTV that he had completed the screenplay and turned this over to the studio who were busy considering the budget. Morgan described his script as a “spectacle… the fact that the world is being taken over by Locust, it has to be huge.” He also suggested that the game’s legion of fans would be pleased with the results, and that “all the stuff you want to see, we put that in there and then we blew it out a little more.”
With the script in the hands of studio executives and the money men, both Wiseman and Morgan attended the Gears of War panel at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con in July to discuss the project with fans. With the production still in the earliest stages of infancy the pair had nothing to show the audience in attendance, although they did manage to dispel the rumour that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson had been tapped for the lead role. “A Doom connection would not be smart for us”, said Wiseman referring to The Rock’s previous 2005 video-game-to-screen effort.
In terms of casting Wiseman suggested he would look to avoid the typical ‘strongman’ type for Marcus, “I’m looking for an actor for the role and then put him into shape… you want to get hooked into the character and then all the amazing spectacle.” While actors were yet to be considered for the COG soldiers, Underworld actress and Wiseman’s wife Kate Beckinsale could be in line for the role of Maria, with the director joking that he ‘has a chance’ of securing her services.
Other information that came out of the SDCC panel was confirmation that Emergence Day would feature in the film, while executive producer Rod Ferguson also warned fans not to expect a straightforward adaptation of the video game. “You can be too tied to what is in the game. We’re about making the best movie possible, not making Gears of War the game into a movie.” Ferguson explained that Epic Games had pretty much left Wiseman and Morgan to get on with things, providing only three pages of notes and the instruction not to kill off Marcus.
One change which does seem likely is the addition of female COG soldiers, with Wiseman proudly claiming to be a big supporter of the idea, although he is also keenly aware of the property’s built-in fanbase: “There’s so much opinion out there about what this movie should be and shouldn’t be,” the director said. “Are you going to respect the game? Of course I am. It is a different experience from watching a movie, but it’s my job to translate it into the best cinematic story.”
Wiseman is also attached to adapt the graphic novel Shrapnel, and his next picture Motorcade has been scheduled for a release in 2010. With the Gears of War movie still in the early stages of pre-production almost a year and a half after the official announcement, expect it to be some time yet before Marcus and Co. make their way into cinemas.