News came earlier this week that the Metal Gear Solid film had basically been shelved, following in the footsteps of the equally dead Bioshock and Halo film projects. With the track record of game to film adaptations, the decision is probably for the best of the franchise’s dignity, especially since the Metal Gear Solid franchise presents some unique problems that make turning it into a blockbuster especially problematic.
1. The Voice
Solid Snake is one of the most iconic characters in all of video game history, and only slightly less iconic than his signature headband and mullet, is his voice. David Hayter’s take on the character is not only instantly recognizable, it’s the element you most associate with the character. Whoever they got to play Snake would have the dubious honor of coming up with a voice for the character which fit the fans’ expectations, and odds are fans will either find the voice too different, or simply a poor imitation of Hayter’s work. Short of having David Hayter dub the entire film (and MGS has enough Japanese quirkiness already, it doesn’t need to look like a Godzilla film), there’s likely no pleasing the fans with this one, and with an adaptation of a popular franchise like MGS, if the fans don’t show up, no one will.
2. The Dense/Absurd Mythology
To say the story of the Metal Gear Solid games is hard to follow is like saying NBC has a slight late-night scheduling problem. The four main games in the series have so much story information crammed into them that Konami found it necessary to include a digital encyclopedia on the PS3 explaining all the back story when the fourth game came out. The games are filled with far-fetched plot points from nanite viruses to resurrection from amputated limbs that just won’t fly in a Hollywood blockbuster. Sure, they could reduce the story to a more straightforward sneaking mission, but then why bother calling it Metal Gear Solid? They might as well just make up an original story and characters and save themselves money on the licensing.
Any screenwriter tasked with paring down all that into a semi-coherent story is in for the job of a lifetime, and the producers may have turned down the most qualified man for the job when they rejected David Hayter’s offer to work on the screenplay. Hayter is known for his knowledge of the character not just because he’s played him for so long but because he actually plays every game in the series. So when the producers declined Hayter’s offer to work on a screenplay for the film it spelled bad news for fan support, and good luck getting people who aren’t fans to come out for a movie about a long haired action hero with a nonsensical story. Wait a minute, I think I just described every Steven Seagal movie.
3. The Over the Top Visual Design
More than anything else, there is one element which is a cornerstone of Metal Gear Solid that just cannot be effectively translated to the silver screen – Robot Ninjas. So much of the charm of the games comes from the expertly choreographed cinematics that feature characters like the aforementioned robotic ninjas defying gravity and wreaking havoc with a sword in a way that resembles visual poetry. All of the character designs have a beautiful technophillia about them that would be hard to translate to live action. They’d likely have to do a large portion of the film, robot ninjas especially, in CG, and not only does that take a lot of fun out of seeing the digital character come to life, with an estimated budget of between 40 and 80 million dollars, they likely couldn’t afford the amount of CG it would take to render an entire Metal Gear let alone an acrobatic battle with one.
Metal Gear Solid, is just to hard to use as anything more than a rudimentary inspiration for a film because the essence of Metal Gear Solid is unique to a digital interactive medium, and any attempt to capitalize on its success in film couldn’t accurately capture the core of MGS in a way that would satisfy anyone.
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