In an interview with Glixel, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, director of the Metal Gear Solid movie, talks about how important the series is to him and how he managed to become the one to bring it to the big screen.
Roberts explains how, when looking for writers, he would take them to his house to give them a tour through the series.
“I basically took them on this weird journey where I brought them over to my house and I designed this weird course where I would load up the original Metal Gear and I would have the writer play that for a while, and just teach them this idea of stealth gameplay.”
After playing for an hour or so, he would show them Metal Gear Solid V, so they would see the beginning of the franchise with MG1 and the end with MGSV, both ends of the spectrum.
“Then we would jump back to Metal Gear Solid on a PlayStation. […] You get into some pretty powerful cutscenes right away, you’re thrust right into the gameplay right away, and people were able to get into that. Then I would jump to Metal Gear Solid 2. I actually found that was almost the sweet spot for a lot of people. You weren’t fully in control of stuff, you didn’t have to independently move it around, and so it was just really interesting watching non-gamers, and seeing where modern games became difficult for them.”
This way, Vogt-Roberts tries to ‘teach’ what Metal Gear is about, as it’s not something that is easily explained.
“Obviously, it would be amazing to find a writer who very intimately knows Metal Gear. Metal Gear is something that is so beloved by so many people and yet, even if you Google the plot of Metal Gear, it’s almost impossible to find a self-contained video or summation of that storyline that isn’t 30 minutes long.”
Another characteristic of the series (as opposed to for example the Batman comic that has been handled by different writers over the years) is of course the fact that from its inception it was heavily influenced by a single voice, that of Hideo Kojima.
“We’re talking about an auteur and someone who was able to excel at the highest level in terms of both gameplay and creating something with a cinematic quality.”
Vogt-Roberts continues: “He was able to push forward this wave of cinema within games and fuse those things together, and for me, that’s why I chased the movie. I mean, I chased it.”
He goes on to explain how he did everything he could to be able to do this project.
“I was sitting in an executive’s room at Sony, and there was a Metal Gear Solid book on the table and I said, “Oh my God, you have Metal Gear?” And they said, “Yeah but that’s not for you,” more or less. I went to my agents and I was like, “You guys don’t understand how important this is for me, how much I love it, how much I love the tone, the characters, the idiosyncratic nature of what these games were and what they mean to me, and there’s no greater project that I would rather embark upon.” I told my agents and managers that I want to do this movie.”
He proceeded to create a book that would detail his vision for a movie adaptation of the series.
“I spent three months of my life putting together this massive book that basically broke down what Metal Gear is, why it’s important, the problem with video game movies and why they haven’t worked – getting into the active experience versus the passive experience, what these games represent, what Kojima’s voice is, and also distilling what I thought was the essential part of the story. […] So I made that book and it just started going up the ladder, meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting, and eventually, I got the job.”
The director realized that the greatest challenge was still in front of him – translating the series into a movie that works, while avoiding all the pitfalls game movies usually end up falling into.
“I remember the day I got it, I was so overwhelmed – just because I’ve now been through the process of making a giant movie like this and it’s incredibly hard and there are so many things that can go wrong. There are so many reasons that movies like this end up bad. You really have to have the right team and you have to shepherd it in the right way and you need to understand the core of what you’re really talking about, the core of why these games work – why they resonate, what people take away from them, and to me, there was just nothing greater that I would rather try and fall on the sword for and protect than Metal Gear. It’s funny, when that first got announced, I think a lot of people were like, “Who the fuck is this guy?” Straight up, “We don’t know this guy. Who’s this guy who’s going to touch our favorite property ever?”
Vogt-Roberts hopes that the positive reception to the tone of Kong (which mixes different styles and is at times serious and at times goofy) will help to give people some faith in the project.
Recently the director got to spent some time with Kojima, someone who he considers his hero.
“It’s been one of the more surreal things in my life getting to know him, befriending him and working with him as a colleague, in addition to constantly having to sit across from someone who essentially I identify as a hero and an icon. He’s everything you want him to be when you talk to him. The way his brain works and the way he approaches his projects and, I think, all of media – you understand why he’s such a seminal figure in the game world and, in my mind, far beyond that.”