MGM’s planned take on Metro 2033 was abandoned following a failed attempt to Americanize the story. Metro 2033 started life as a novel by author Dmitry Glukhovsky and follows the survivors of a nuclear attack on Russia living underground in the sprawling metro system. The protagonist Artyom embarks on an epic journey to uncover the mystery behind the Dark Ones and has to fight warring factions and mutated creatures along the way.
Metro 2033 went on to spawn two sequel books and an acclaimed video game series, with the third game Metro: Exodus set for release in early 2019. Both the books and games combine sci-and horror with a strong political subtext, and the concept is inherently cinematic. It announced back in 2012 that MGM would spearhead a big screen adaption, with F. Scott Frazier (xXx: Return Of Xander Cage) hired to write a script.
Little has been heard of this planned Metro 2033 movie in the years since it was announced, but in a new interview with VG247, Glukhovsky confirmed the project was scrapped and the rights have reverted back to him. While he says Metro: Exodus could potentially kickstart the stalled project, there’s currently no movement on it:
The project with MGM optioning this book and developing a script had brought us to nothing and the rights reverted to me. So currently we are speaking with a new set of producers about a possible adaptation but this is a very long and difficult process. I’m still optimistic. We’ll see if the release of Metro Exodus can push the IP across a little bit the oceans and see how that works.
The author also revealed MGM tried to transplant the action and political subtext from Moscow to Washington DC, but it just didn’t work:
A lot of things didn’t work out in Washington DC. In Washington DC, Nazis don’t work, Communists don’t work at all, and the Dark Ones don’t work. Washington DC is a black city basically. That’s not at all the allusion I want to have, it’s a metaphor of general xenophobia but it’s not a comment on African Americans at all. So it didn’t work. They had to replace the Dark Ones with some kind of random beasts and as long as the beasts don’t look human, the entire story of xenophobia doesn’t work which was very important to me as a convinced internationalist. They turned it into a very generic thing.
In a way, it's not a surprise MGM tried to Americanize Metro 2033, but considering the source material is fundamentally Russian, any such attempt was almost certainly doomed to failure. MGM was likely concerned a big budget blockbuster following Russian characters probably wouldn’t appeal to American audiences, but given the worldwide popularity of the Metro franchise, it was probably a risk worth taking.
Metro: Exodus will take players deeper into the wasteland than ever before, and is set after Metro: Last Light. In addition to new gameplay mechanics, the title will also tell an epic story that takes place over the course of a year. Like Glukhovsky states, perhaps renewed interest in the series following Exodus will help a Metro 2033 movie get moving again. If studios are still concerned about movie’s appeal to an American audience, maybe a streaming service like Netflix would be a better fit for the project.