Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who has been tasked with bringing the world of Metal Gear Solid to the big screen, has put forth the argument that the best video game movies aren't necessarily based on actual video games. Alongside live-action anime adaptations, video game movies are arguably the most consistently maligned cinematic releases, but that doesn't seem to have deterred studios from producing them. From Super Mario Bros. in 1993 to Assassin's Creed in 2016, video game movies have routinely failed to either please existing fans or attract new interest and although some examples are certainly better than others, there has yet to be a widely accepted "great" movie based on a video game franchise.
One iconic game destined for the big screen is Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid and after a number of years in development hell, the wheels are finally turning on the project, with Kong: Skull Island's Vogt-Roberts set to direct. The cinematic, cut-scene heavy nature of the MGS franchise has generated calls for a movie adaptation ever since the Solid Snake's 1998 arrival on the Sony PlayStation, but with those years of anticipation naturally comes a sense of expectation.
At this past weekend's San Diego Comic-Con, Screen Rant spoke with Vogt-Roberts about Metal Gear Solid and the checkered history of video game-to-big screen adaptations and the director had a very interesting take on the argument that there has yet to be a truly great video game movie. Vogt-Roberts claimed:
"I think that what's important is trying to translate the gameplay. But also I actually do think that there are incredible video game films. They just happen to not be based on video games. Like if you think about Snowpiercer, Snowpiercer is a side-scroller. Truly, the entire movie is the characters traversing from left to right and go into new screens and new levels. Edge of Tomorrow fundamentally taps into the mechanics of dying and resetting and respawning in a very meta video game way. Kubo [and the Two Strings] I think also has a lot of overlap with Zelda and Quest and the armor you gain and the way bosses are introduced. I think that there are really, really fantastic examples of what video game movies can be, that just oddly enough happened to not actually be based on video games. And so, you know, for me it's just a matter of time. It's not a question of, can there be a good video game movie? It's 'when' and for me, Metal Gear is just the perfect representation of what that can be."
The suggestion that there has yet to be a good movie inspired by a specific video game but there are many good movies influenced by video games in general is an intriguing twist on the topic and certainly worthy of further discussion. It also begs the question that if so many great movies have included elements plucked from video games, why do direct adaptations continue to disappoint? Vogt-Roberts' argument perhaps also opens the discussion that if, for example, Kubo and the Two Strings was superficially re-packaged as a Zelda movie but stayed fundamentally the same otherwise, would it still have enjoyed a positive critical reception?
Focusing specifically on the forthcoming Metal Gear Solid movie, Vogt-Roberts certainly seems confident about the project living up to the potential of what a video game movie can be. His philosophy on the matter perhaps also provides some reasoning behind the reports that the Metal Gear Solid movie wouldn't adapt a specific game in the franchise. After all, if Vogt-Roberts believes the best video game movies take inspiration from the medium but don't directly adapt a game, it only makes sense that his Metal Gear movie wouldn't seek to be a retread of the Shadow Moses incident or any other Solid Snake adventure.
Metal Gear Solid is currently without a release date. More news as it arrives.