New Line Cinema has won the feature film rights to Microsoft and Epic Games’ hugely popular videogame Gears of War. Stuart Beattie (Collateral, Derailed) wrote a 21-page adaptation and Marty Bowen (The Nativity Story) and Wyck Godfrey (Alien Versus Predator, I Robot) will produce the movie. Gears of War lead designer Cliff Bleszinski will executive produce the film and consult on its development for Epic.
The Studio’s deal is with Epic, the game’s developer, which held onto all ancillary rights to the property when Microsoft signed on to publish the game. Since Gears of War 2 is coming as well, New Line and Epic would surely love to see the film and a game sequel come out around the same time. Once Beattie’s completed the script, Bowen and Godfrey will start looking for a director. They’re aiming at a summer 2009 release. Although fans of the game would rather see the sequel hit sooner in 2008.
Gears of War reached 3 million units in sales in January (and rumors say its closing in on 4 million now) and is the most popular game on Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, which allows players to compete against each other online. Though released in November 2006 and available only for the Xbox 360 console, it quickly became the fourth-bestselling game of 2006 in the U.S. It won game of the year kudos at the Game Developers Choice Awards and the Interactive Achievement Awards.
The story, which is only modestly developed in the game, concerns a world reeling from an invasion by aliens known as the Locust. A small group of elite soldiers, including main character Marcus Fenix, who is rescued from prison at the beginning of the game, fight to retake their planet Sera for its surviving humans. As explained in this trailer:
Epic developed an extensive backstory in hopes of utilizing it for a film as well as potential novels. “We wanted to make an entertainment property that’s not just for games but for other media,” said Epic VP and co-founder Mark Rein. When asked about the poor reception of previous game-movies like Doom, he said: “Our first and foremost philosophy is to do no harm, so we debated heavily the idea of doing a movie at all,” he said. “But we feel we stacked the deck in our favor by working with the best players.”
Variety also reports that numerous other hit game franchises are in development for feature adaptations, including “World of Warcraft” at Legendary, “Metal Gear Solid” at Sony and “Hitman,” on which Fox is starting production March 29. And of course the on-hold Halo movie is still slowly being worked on by executive producer Peter Jackson until Microsoft can sell the movie rights again.