Perennial movie megastar Tom Cruise has had a somewhat uneven box office run in the past few years, with such disparate vehicles like 2012’s Jack Reacher and Rock of Ages underperforming, although the former film racked up hefty profits overseas (enough to keep talk of a sequel alive). Last year’s Oblivion was Cruise’s first foray into proper science-fiction since 2005’s War of the Worlds, and while we liked it, the film couldn’t break even in the U.S.

Cruise is headlining the upcoming Edge of Tomorrow, but after a run of non-hits, he is returning to his most lucrative franchise, producing and starring in Mission: Impossible 5. As a producer, Cruise has hired different directors for each film, and with The Incredibles mastermind Brad Bird at the helm of 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, that film became the top-grossing film of the franchise and Cruise’s career.

The next installment of the series has Jack Reacher writer-director Christopher McQuarrie aboard, with Iron Man 3 screenwriter Drew Pearce handling script duties. With the film scheduled for a Christmas 2015 release date and a potential co-star in the form of Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica ChastainM:I 5 was thought to be ready to enter production or even shooting by now.

However, a new report from Coming Soon suggests that pre-production on M:I5 isn’t over just yet. Screenwriter Will Staples has evidently been hired to take another pass at Drew Pearce’s script, the plot for which is still tightly under wraps. It’s currently unknown just how much or how little of Pearce’s take Staples has rewritten.

Staples is best known as a video game writer, having crafted the story behind the 2011 juggernaut Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 as well as Need for Speed: Rivals. Since making the jump to screenwriting, Staples has several projects in development, including crime story King of Heists, which still presumably has Ghost Protocol‘s  Jeremy Renner attached to star, and an as-yet untitled African-set geopolitical thriller intended as a directing and starring vehicle for Ben Affleck.

This news suggests that fans should possibly expect a shift in tone away from the fun and in-your-face, Saturday-morning cartoon spirit of Ghost Protocol toward something at least nominally grounded and realistic. Director J.J. Abrams delivered a somewhat dark and often tragedy-themed entry into the series with Mission: Impossible III, which Brad Bird’s sequel turned away from.

Staples’ Call of Duty credit could mean a more militaristic-minded M:I 5, too, and while a globe-trotting series of elaborate set-pieces are to be expected, the next entry sounds like it could marry director McQuarrie’s tough, straight forward style with a plot anchored in geopolitical current events.

Will Staples’ involvement mean a shift in the release date? Stay tuned for more details as they surface.

Mission: Impossible 5 is currently slated for a December 25, 2015 release.

Source: Coming Soon