There are a lot of reasons I don’t think a Metal Gear Solid film is a particularly good idea. These mostly come from personal preference, and my love of the source material. There are some things though, that stem from a less personal point of view.
The first thing that pops into my head, when someone mentions the words Metal Gear Solid, and Movie in the same sentence, is the sheer irony of the concept. Metal Gear Solid after all, is in many ways, a pastiche of popular films in itself. The film influences can be felt throughout the game, from the character design, to the game mechanics.
It’s common knowledge that Solid Snake is based on the character Snake Pliskin from Escape from New York. Pliskin’s eye patch was taken and applied to Sean Connery’s face for the original design of Big Boss. Metal Gear itself was based on various Mecha anime titles. Even Snake and Otacon’s real names, Hal and Dave, are references to Stanley Kubrick. The thing with Metal Gear Solid, is that it doesn’t try to lift these influences subtly. It outwardly references them. In MGS1, Otacon tells us that Metal Gear is based on anime. Snake actually calls himself Pliskin in MGS2.
In terms of gameplay, the entire Metal Gear franchise takes a huge amount of inspiration from the Night of the Living Dead films. Kojima once said that MG is basically Night of the Living Dead but with guards instead of zombies. Again, this is outwardly referenced in MGS4, when the guards take on characteristics typical of zombies in George A. Romero’s films. Another massive influence is, of course, James Bond. The references to Bond range from Sean Connery’s face, to an unlockable tuxedo outfit, all the way to a faux 007 opening sequence and song in Snake Eater.
The references go on, lining the very core of both the story and gameplay of the series. Kojima’s love of Spaghetti Westerns is embodied in the character of Revolver Ocalot, his love for samurai films can be found in Raiden.
As I said, all of these references are laid out for us to recognize and enjoy. They’re designed to make us go ‘Oh! This is from The Third Man!’ And we delight in it. I could literally sit here for hours listing the film references I recognise. I absolutely loved the conversations about popular films in the 60′s, that Snake and Paramedic share in MGS3.
So then, because MGS is essentially about films, isn’t it tailor made for the medium? After all, there are plenty of films about, or referencing other films.
Well, I think not. Here’s why:
Whenever someone is talking about making a film from a game, I think – So, what can the medium of film offer that the game can’t?
I guess the obvious answer is live actors. But in terms of MGS, the characters are now so well realised, that I don’t think live actors could inhabit them to the level that fans would demand. We all know exactly what Snake looks like, and god do we know exactly what he sounds like!
Special effects are made redundant. MGS has always had great special effects and epic set pieces (even back when the graphics were a bit crappy!). A film couldn’t offer anything that the games haven’t already, and I wonder if a film could even integrate the effects as well?
I think the only thing a film could do well, is deliver a trimmed down, shortened narrative – which is only a good thing, depending on your personal opinion on the rambling, idealistic dialogues of the games – which I love, by the way.
Now, what can a game offer that a film can’t?
Interactivity, of course, is the most important thing. Kojima wants us to feel that we are a part of the film, not just watching it. Instead of just witnessing a spy take down a Hind D, we are the spy. Without this, more so than many other games, MGS would just be a film, full of film references. But as it stands, MGS is more than that.
The games also successfully make the ridiculous believable. In the games it’s easier to believe, or at least to accept, that someone has psychic powers, is immortal, or has control over hornets etc. In a film, I think these larger than life moments will just come off as odd. Although, maybe if the film embraces the slightly mad quality of MGS, they’ll make it work.
It’s also very important that every title in the franchise offers something slightly new and interesting. Kojima is constantly doing something new with the genre, that he basically created. The film would somehow have to add to this tradition, doing something surprising and interesting with the medium. Otherwise, I can imagine this film being a bit like The Rock with Nick Cage. Although this is a fun film, it’s nothing new.
Anyway, I’m getting off topic. The point is, that MGS is a tribute to great films, but it does more than a film can. So now the film that is more than a film, is being made into a film.
I’d just like to make it clear now, that I don’t generally think computer games are better than films (I made it sound this way), and actually, I don’t think the two should be compared as much as happens (in fact, if anything I believe computer games are more comparable to theatre than film – but that’s another topic, for another time). However, I think in the context of MGS we have to look at things in this way. I really think that MGS succeeded in creating a film that you can be a part of.
Because of this, I find the concept of a MGS film not only ironic, but kind of pointless. For this particular franchise, it feels like a step backwards.
Either way, it looks like it’s going to happen, so we shall see.
If anyone has to play Snake, I vote for Hugh Jackman, because he can be hammy as well as cool.
I’m not particularly looking forward to this film, but I am intrigued to see what they come up with.
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