Kong: Skull Island Director on How to Make a Good Metal Gear Solid Movie

The director of the upcoming Kong: Skull Island has Metal Gear Solid on his agenda next.

Having gone from his impressive indie debut The Kings of Summer to his spectacular new monster adventure Kong: Skull Island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts now has his sights — and heart — set on what he hopes will be his next project: a long-awaited film adapation of the classic Konami action-adventure video game Metal Gear Solid. “That’s my baby,” said Vogt-Roberts when Den of Geek met with him over the weekend to discuss Kong: Skull Island. “That’s one of the most important franchises to me on the planet. Not even just as a video game, but as a piece of media.”

Metal Gear Solid, first published in 1998, is considered one of the greatest video games of all time – in part due to its cinematic presentation – and Vogt-Roberts was asked about succeeding where other filmmakers have been stymied in terms of transferring a game to the screen. “A lot of people that have tackled video game movies,” he explained. “There are filmmakers coming up now, guys like Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) and myself, whose brains were re-wired by games at a young age — it’s as much in our DNA if not more than films are, I think, much in the same way that it took a while for there to be a wave of filmmakers who really understood comic books for there to be good comic book movies.”

Things have come full circle for both video game developers and filmmakers, who have used their respective mediums to comment on the other. Kojima, for example, has been a life-long student of films, often employing many of the same techniques in his games that you might find in a Hollywood production. Kojima’s games are also known for their many nods to cinema. In fact, movies like The Great Escape, the James Bond series, Escape from New York, and The Terminator have been major influences on the auteur’s Metal Gear series. Over the years, his games have taken on an even more cinematic quality, often featuring lengthy CGI cutscenes that flesh out the stories beyond the gameplay. Kojima’s games walk that fine line between action and drama that is so characteristic of his biggest influences.

It’s the same process when it comes to adapting video games to the big screen, according to Vogt-Roberts. The director thinks that filmmakers need to understand how video games work — and how they’re different from movies — before they can actually adapt them to the big screen: “I also think it’s about understanding the difference between a passive and an active experience. There are things that work in an active experience when you’re playing a game that don’t translate to something compelling when you’re watching a passive experience in a movie. It’s really understanding the core of what makes a game work, why it works, and how you translate the fundamentals of the gameplay into a passive experience and how you take the characters and the essence of what makes that game work.”

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But why this game over, say, a more straightforward action title? The Metal Gear series features so many twists, double-crosses, and metafiction that it’s daunting to even consider how it might work in a 90-minute movie (or a much longer one, ideally). Vogt-Roberts, however, is specifically drawn to how the games make you feel as well as its eccentricities.

Metal Gear Solid is about that sinking feeling as you go deeper and deeper into the belly of the beast and you’re further away from safety. Every step you might get caught. It’s about the palpitations your heart gives when an alarm goes off and the cat-and-mouse game that ensues, but it’s also about this highly idiosyncratic, beautiful property that (Hideo) Kojima created where the characters spew philosophy and ideology. It’s a hyper-specific thing that is unlike anything else. You cannot take Metal Gear and say, ‘It’s like Mission: Impossible. It’s like G.I. Joe.’ No, no, no. Metal Gear is only like Metal Gear.”

Vogt-Roberts said he’s working on a script for the film right now, although he admitted cameras won’t roll until he is confident in what he’s got to shoot: “That’s a movie that should only get made the best way possible because it is a pillar. Not just to me, but to the game industry and I think in modern media. I think Kojima is an absolute master. That’s a property that deserves to be done with the utmost respect because it’s an important franchise. I’m more interested in showing audiences a new world, the world of Metal Gear, than just about any existing IP out there.”

Just listening to him speak about it, it’s clear that Vogt-Roberts does have a deep passion for the game and for wanting to get a film version of it right. That alone may be enough to help him triumph where recent high-profile game adaptations like Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed have not, and bring the adventures of Solid Snake and the other Metal Gear Solid icons to life in a way that both hardcore gamers and mainstream filmgoers can enjoy.

We’ll have more from Vogt-Roberts closer to the March 10 release of Kong: Skull Island.