'The Wolverine' helmer directs latest live action spot that brings Activision's military videogame franchise to life
With each edition of the series topping the sales charts, Activision has found success in making the military game appeal to a broad audience beyond just hardcore gamers.
To help achieve that, the videogame publisher has released a live action trailer, often featuring bold-faced names like Robert Downey Jr., Jonah Hill, Sam Worthington and foreign stars like Omar Sy in over-the-top action sequences and settings directed by helmers like Guy Ritchie.
This year, “The Wolverine’s” Mangold made a rare switch from films to the commercial world to helm “Epic Night Out,” an over-the-top Las Vegas set spot for “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” out later this month, that features a group of friends in explosive situations unfolding to the Frank Sinatra tune “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die.” Fox is featured as a gun-toting heroine along the way.
“The idea of camaraderie and making this the ultimate boys’ night out led us to ‘Epic Night Out,'” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing.
The ad premieres on television Saturday night during the Miami vs. Florida State college football game on ABC and on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
The purpose of the live action ad (the newest is broken up into 30-, 60- and 90-second versions) is meant to bring to life the game’s action and overall theme that “there’s a soldier in all of us,” according to Hirshberg.
“Briging the game world to life and showing every nationality, different genders, celebrities, athletes, regular people inhabiting the game world has always been part of the franchise’s campaigns from the beginning,” Hirshberg said. “They’ve been about making the gamer an integral part of the game. Games are a unique medium. Rather than a movie where you can show clips, with videogames you and your friends are a huge part of the story and creating the experience.”
With “Call of Duty,” Activision has sought out new ways to capture what makes that year’s sequel stand out.
While last year’s live action spot for “Black Ops 2” revolved around futuristic weapons, “Ghosts” focuses on new character customizations and squads.
Fox was added to the cast because “Ghosts” marks the first time you can play “Call of Duty” as a female soldier in the multiplayer mode.
As for the heavily stylized action in the spot, “we’ve set an expectation of production value and scale with these and we have to make sure we over deliver every year,” Hirshberg said. “Every year we want this spot to have a shock and awe quality to it.”
Fans have also come to expect it from “Call of Duty,” with Hirshberg saying “we’ve reached a status of pop cultural inevitability.” It’s one of those things that happens each year that you feel like you have to be part of.”
Mangold sparked to the idea of directing “Epic Night Out,” because it wasn’t dependent upon celebrities.
“As much as it was spectacle based it was character based,” Mangold said. “You want people to identify with these young men in this story in a way that they’re seeing themselves. They’re not seeing famous people, they’re seeing someone that looks like them in a hybrid where the game has become so actualized.” Activision and Mangold wanted the spot to emphasize “the sense of being your own hero in your own film,” Mangold added. “Your Gregory Peck in ‘The Guns of Navarone.”
Shot in September on the Warner Bros. backlot, a spa in the City of Industry and Burbank airport, Mangold wanted to “have real pyrotechnics,” “a lot of stuff breaking” during the production. “To call it a spot is an understatement of galactic proportions from a production level,” Mangold said. “When you’re doing something like this you’re directing a trailer — all of the good bits in a movie.”
“One of the goals everyone had was not to rely too heavily on CG,” Mangold said of the production. “I’ve sensed that a lot of people are getting a little exhausted on the wonders of what can happen in a visual f/x house and a lot of dough. Story still matters and makes the specatacle much more fun or dramatic or witty.”
With the Sinatra song, Mangold essentially treated the spot like a musical. “There was a tremendous effort to create a tour de force action sequence set to something recorded by one of the great singers of all time,” Mangold said. “It separates the spot instantly and gives it a swagger.”