Netflix's Gears of War movie will only work with one big change

gears of war 3 key art
Netflix is making a Gears of War movie - but it needs to leave the Fenix family out of it. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

It's time to rev up those lancers and scream "Locusts!" at the top of your lungs, Gears of War fans. After 15 years of Sera-based dreaming, a live-action movie is on the way – and it's being developed by Netflix.

Making the announcement on November 7 via its social media channels, Netflix confirmed that it has partnered with The Coalition – Gears of War's current developers – to adapt the hit Xbox videogame franchise. Initially, Netflix will produce a live-action film based on the first-person shooter (FPS) series before turning its attentions to an adult animated show. Other Gears of War projects could follow, depending on how well the first two perform.

That all sounds great in practise. An R-rated Gears of War animated series is an intriguing prospect, particularly in light of the critical acclaim other animated Netflix videogame projects have been met with. We're looking at you, Arcane (check out our Arcane season 2 hub while you're here) and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

On the flip side, a live-action Gears of War film doesn't sound appealing. In an official press release, Netflix confirmed that it was adapting the Gears of War saga into a feature-length movie. That suggests it'll focus on the Fenix family, which has been a key component of the series' overarching story, including the IP's most recent entries in Gears of War 4 and Gears 5.

Yet Netflix is walking into a major trap if it thinks it can adapt the Gears of War franchise from a beat-to-beat narrative standpoint. Simply put, the streaming giant should make the difficult but crucial choice to leave the Fenix family where they belong – in the games – and craft an entirely original story with new characters for its film adaptation.

Ella Balinska's bloodied Jade sits against a wall as zombies try to break into a building in Netflix's Resident Evil TV show

Netflix's other live-action videogame adaptations, such as Resident Evil, haven't always been successful. (Image credit: Marcos Cruz/Netflix)

That might be a perplexing opinion to have. If Netflix is adapting the videogame series, why does it need to forego the Fenix family saga? Shouldn't it stick with the franchise's fan favorite plotlines and beloved characters, build up a core viewership, and then branch out into stories set in the wider Gears of War universe?

Well, no. Netflix doesn't have good form when it comes to creating live-action adaptations of wildly popular videogame series. 

Its recent Resident Evil TV series is a classic example of such projects that failed to appeal to the masses. Okay, the show took some major liberties with the source material, allowing it to exist in its own universe. But it still featured some of the horror game franchise's most notable characters, monsters, settings, and story beats. While it did a better job at honoring Capcom's acclaimed gaming series than other live-action Resident Evil properties, it fell way short of what fans expected from it, resulting in Netflix canceling its Resident Evil series after a single season.

Incredibly popular as it is, Netflix's live-action TV adaptation of The Witcher also has its critics. The Witcher season 2 drew fierce backlash from the fantasy book series' fanbase for playing fast and loose with Andrezj Sapkowski's Witcher novels, despite being met with more acclaim than the show's first season. 

Even with The Witcher season 3 arriving in mid-2023 and a fourth season greenlit, things aren't rosy for Netflix's The Witcher. Lead star Henry Cavill won't be back for The Witcher season 4, while former writers on the TV series claim some of their fellow writers "actively dislike" Sapkowski's original works. Ouch.

League of Legends champion Vi engages in a fight in Netflix's Arcane

Netflix has enjoyed more acclaim from its animated videogame TV shows and films. (Image credit: Netflix/Riot Games)

Netflix's best bet at making a successful Gears of War live-action film, then, doesn't lie in creating a direct adaptation of its source material. 

If development isn't too far along the creative pipeline, it's not too late to reverse course and tell a non-Fenix story in the Gears of War universe. The FPS franchise is full of other fascinating stories – you only need to look at the plethora of books and comic books to see where Netflix should draw inspiration from. There's a whole universe that could be explored in its live-action movie. Why back yourself into a corner by retelling the story of Gears 1 – or even the first Gears of War trilogy – in film format especially if, as a studio, your track record for this kind of content isn't great?

Netflix has succeeded with its videogame adaptations – live-action or animated – when it tells unique, original stories in those game series' universes. Yes, TV adaptations of other game franchises have gone down well with audiences despite sticking closely to the source material, such as The Cuphead Show and DOTA: Dragon's Blood. These productions, though, are animated offerings and, in The Cuphead Show's case, are even animated by the same company – Studio MDHR – that created the gaming series in the first place.

Gears of War isn't the only live-action videogame movie coming from Netflix. Other beloved properties in Bioshock and Assassin's Creed are also in active development, with the duo getting movie and TV show adaptations respectively – proof that Netflix is doubling down on its live-action game adaptation projects.

Still, it's not too late to change tack, Netflix. If you really want to do a stand up job of adapting Gears of War (or any of the above videogame series) for a live-action project, don't re-tread that old grub curb-stomping ground and tell the Fenix family saga in another medium. Give us something new and exciting that drives the whole franchise forward. Otherwise, you might be in for some more middling Resident Evil-style review scores in the near future. 

For more Netflix-based content, read our best Netflix shows, best Netflix movies, or best Netflix documentaries guides.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across. Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.