A Metal Gear film looks like the most promising adaptation to date. We look through the particulars
For years, video game fans have had to endure many film adaptations of their most beloved games, the best of which can only barely muster guilty pleasure status. The Metal Gear franchise has been one of those series than fans have hoped might break the mould if adapted to the big screen and, given the recent news that The Kings of Summer’s Jordan Vogt-Roberts is in talks to direct the long-gestating project, perhaps now would be a good time to ask: is a Metal Gear film actually a good idea to begin with?
If the studio wants someone small with proven action chops, Gareth Evans would be a suitable choice.
Firstly, is Vogt-Roberts the right man for the job? It’s hard to judge someone based on one movie, and maybe buried deep within that indie sensibility he’s got the chops to make the Metal Gear movie fans deserve. Sony did a similar thing when they hired (500) Days of Summer’s Marc Webb to make The Amazing Spider-Man, so maybe they’re trying to see if they can do the same thing with another up-and-comer. But if the studio wants someone small who’s also proven they’ve got action chops, perhaps Gareth Evans would be a more suitable choice. The Raid movies are fantastic pieces of action cinema, more than showing he has the talent, but he’s also still a relatively unknown name who’s never tackled a huge studio movie. It’s probably not going to happen, but if it did this movie would get some immediate bonus points from action fans and gamers alike.
Then there’s the pressing matter, for fans at least, of which game they’re going to adapt. The most obvious choice would be Metal Gear Solid, the most popular game in the franchise, but both Snake Eater (first game in the timeline) and the original Metal Gear (first game in the series) would be viable candidates. Then again, how about this: maybe they shouldn’t adapt any of the games at all. Maybe it would be better for them to craft their own story made for the screen instead of trying to cram the storyline of entire plot-heavy game into two hours. It could still be set it in Metal Gear canon, making it a side story to the main games but one that still works as a movie on its own. There are still plenty of holes in the timeline where the story could be set, like during Solid Snake’s early years before he joins FOXHOUND, or during the two-year gap between Solid and Sons of Liberty. The issue of starting mid-story isn’t too much of a big deal either. Remember most fans of the series started with Solid having never played the first two games, and back then it didn’t really matter. Those curious enough to want to know more can go play the games if they’re that interested. By going this route, the filmmakers could avoid pissing off fans with a compromised retelling of one of the games and make something that adds to the Metal Gear story rather than just rehashing parts of it.
But the element I’m most curious about is how they’ll handle the underlying themes and messages that the games are all about. Hideo Kojima’s works are full of subtext about war, genetics, politics, philosophy and more. Then again, ‘subtext’ is putting it generously considering the franchise’s tendency to stop the gameplay and give PowerPoint presentations examining all of these concepts and throwing subtlety to the wind. This is possibly the trickiest part of the adaptation, and going too far either way could easily sink the Metal Gear film. You could keep all of these ideas in, but then you’d probably end up with a four-hour movie with poor pacing and not enough action. But if you remove them, you lose what makes Metal Gear what it is and then you’ve got just another spy thriller with a recognisable name slapped on it. Besides all of the nonsense philosophising, the Metal Gear games seem prime for adaptation. The games already have complex and thought-provoking stories, memorable and interesting characters, and the cutscenes alone are packed full of Hollywood-style action. But if you mess up that tone, it will be all for naught.
So could the Metal Gear movie work? Sure, but it needs to be handled with care. There’s no real point in making it unless it does the source material justice, because Metal Gear is more than just a guy sneaking around military bases in a cardboard box. It’s an important part of video game culture. It helped give the medium a sense of maturity and class, and showed games could be just as involving and tell just as deep a story as any other form of media. That and it has cyborg ninjas and nuclear-powered mechs. That helps too. Whoever ends up helming this project needs to understand that. The world has seen enough poorly adapted video game movies, and though Duncan Jones’ Warcraft shows promise, a really great Metal Gear movie could confirm that video games can work on the silver screen.
Or it could be just another Resident Evil. I don’t know. We’ll see.