In a recent article from ScreenRant, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts revealed some key details concerning his METAL GEAR SOLID movie script. While the film will recreate METAL GEAR’s spirit rather than a specific storyline, it will indeed embrace the franchise’s inherent weirdness. The result (fingers crossed) will hopefully be the first truly “great” video game movie.

METAL GEAR
METAL GEAR SOLID 2, Courtesy of Konami

On paper, this sounds like the right path to take. After all, game director/auteur Hideo Kojima’s franchise infamously revolutionized cinematic storytelling in video games. Telling an expansive narrative across thirty years of titles, METAL GEAR’s characters, cut-scenes and innovative gameplay remain deeply engaging to this day. Yet his games were deliberately “weird,” juxtaposing militaristic realism against fantastical elements like psychics, robo-mechs, vampires, and nanomachines.

However, there is a key component to the franchise’s success that Hollywood simply cannot replicate: METAL GEAR is a video game. It utilized the interactive dynamic players share with the gaming medium to produce specific reactions and certain moments. This extends beyond playing a game that lasts 8-12 hours instead of the usual 2-2.5 timeline expected in cinema. It means using the fluxes in tone and deliberate lack of self-awareness to create a setting that is as much compelling as it is disturbing.

CALL ME SNAKE

At first glance, METAL GEAR’s storylines are a mix of Western military thrillers and spy movies. They traditionally involve one man sneaking into a heavily armed enemy territory to foil a nuclear-based threat. The enemies are rogue terrorists and the hero is a soldier with ties to America. And there are a plethora of weird, but almost semi-plausible weapons that would feel at home in a Bond film.

METAL GEAR
Solid Snake and Metal Gear Rex, Courtesy of Konami

Despite this familiar setup, METAL GEAR infuses its Western archetypes with Eastern and anime-based abilities. The antagonists possess absurdly supernatural powers, including mystical shamans, bee-controlling soldiers, and a seemingly immortal vampire-like creature. METAL GEAR SOLID features a mysterious cyborg ninja with camouflage abilities and a tragic past. The titular Metal Gears are bipedal mechanical nuke-launching behemoths that feel like they should exist in the world of GUNDAM. Everything feels deliberately weird yet at the same time completely “normal.”

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This sense of normality is reflected by the serious manner in which METAL GEAR’s protagonists treat the absurd. Whether it’s Solid Snake, Raiden or Big Boss, every player-controlled character starts the game under pretenses of a straightforward mission. As the mission progresses, however, fantastical characters and plot lines are gradually incorporate into the narrative. But, where other franchises would make this feel out of place, METAL GEAR instead keeps a straight face. Every instance of campy, anime-like weirdness is treated with gravitas throughout your interactions and CODEC conversations.

Push The Select Button

But this deliberately subversive narrative is further heightened by Kojima’s incorporation of gameplay mechanics into the dialogue and set pieces. This doesn’t just mean seeing a HUD indicating which buttons to press for something to happen. Instead, characters directly inform you of button commands mid-conversation, but without any hint of silliness. Instead, they are treated as military commands, threats or just casual dialogue, a fourth wall break with little resemblance to Ferris Bueller or Deadpool.

METAL GEAR
METAL GEAR SOLID 2 Codec, Courtesy of Konami

Finding the frequency to an ally’s CODEC requires looking on the back of your game case. Killing specific characters in previous timelines will result in a game over because “time paradox.” METAL GEAR SOLID 2’s final act manipulates its protagonist in a manner that resembles a gamer’s own overhyped expectations of the game itself. And then there’s Psycho Mantis, a boss who “reads” the player’s mind via memory card and can only be defeated by switching your controller into Port 2.

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What makes these moments not only iconic but innovative is how Kojima uses gameplay to weaponize a player’s interactivity against them. They require you to interact with the story through mechanical tactics that emphasize just how little input the characters actually possess. Every protagonist is effectively a pawn, manipulated by conspiracies and shady benefactors while also being controlled by the gamer. This, in turn, forces the player to realize that playing the game manipulates them into following the game developer’s rules.

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This unique take on self-awareness and camp help deepen both the serious and ridiculous aspects of METAL GEAR’s premise. Ordinarily, camp is a “seriousness that fails,” promoting appeal through its poorly exaggerated and un-ironic tone. But METAL GEAR, while exaggerated, expects the player to notice its absurdity while keeping a straight face. By capitalizing on this absurdity, the franchise’ surprisingly emotional moments feel down to earth by comparison.

METAL GEAR
Naked Snake/Big Boss in METAL GEAR SOLID 3, Courtesy of Konami

Similarly, METAL GEAR relies heavily on melodrama to flesh out its villains beyond the standard bad guy. You fight them, then you learn about them through lengthy cut scenes and dialogue, then you pity them in death. Ask anyone who played these games, METAL GEAR SOLID 3 especially, and they’ll tell you that certain death scenes and revelations were downright heartbreaking. That’s deeply impressive for a franchise where exclamation marks appear over enemy heads when they spot you.

Ultimately, METAL GEAR’s dramatic moments work because they reinforce the gamer-character bond formed through serious self-awareness. The game builds up its fights as a source of “fun,” only to then reveal the circumstances behind why your opponent took this particular path. Given how the game actively encourages players to avoid combat at all costs, the battles you DO partake gain greater purpose. This only serves to make your supposed victories feel both cathartic and hallow in execution.

Metal Gear: Movie Material?

So, what does this all have to do with the upcoming METAL GEAR SOLID film?

It matters because removing that interactivity from a film could hurt the essence of METAL GEAR more than previous video game movies. In previous adaptation attempts, the struggle was how to seamlessly transition narrative and gameplay onto the big screen. However, these fights usually feel generic and uninspired, with only the occasional lip service paid to an iconic move or power.

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By comparison, METAL GEAR doesn’t just need to replicate stealth gameplay and boss encounters. It needs to recreate the sounds, moves, and emotions that gamers felt their first time around playing these titles. And the context surrounding most of these encounters can’t be replicated using another storytelling medium.

METAL GEAR
Psycho Mantis, Courtesy of Konami

Let’s go back to Psycho Mantis for a minute. The character wasn’t just effective for being psychic, but rather because his “powers” genuinely messed with 1998 gamer’s minds. He not only predicted your moves but also looked beyond the fourth wall at what you previously played. Thus, breaking Mantis’ “link” with the fourth wall required moving your controller outside of his vision and into Port 2.

Now try translating this same encounter to a film. How would a Mantis-like character be able to read a moviegoer’s mind? Would he read their ticket stub or speculate where they’ve driven from? Maybe he could comment on the amount of time they watched movies or had to use the bathroom. None of these options seem plausible.

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The fourth wall breaks in a METAL GEAR SOLID movie should be used for dramatic, rather than comedic, purposes. This is different from the meta humor of the DEADPOOL movies, which succeeded at balancing dramatic moments with darkly amusing commentary. This comedic subversion allowed viewers to laugh with Deadpool at his genre’s absurdity, ironically making his character feel relatable. Being meta in the traditional sense, therefore, is to make a product feel less serious than it really is.

METAL GEAR
Solid Snake and Raiden, Courtesy of Konami

METAL GEAR SOLID, by comparison, will have to be meta for the sake or seriousness, rather than comedy. To do this, characters will have to acknowledge the fourth wall’s existence using film terms rather than game mechanics. The film should segway these breaks in between action scenes and character conversations, albeit without winking at the camera.

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This doesn’t mean that every element of a METAL GEAR SOLID movie would be problematic. On the contrary, the games already provide a template for adapting characters, set designs, fight choreography and cinematography. Vogt-Roberts himself has stressed the complexity of making these components work, despite describing METAL GEAR as “one of [his] favorite properties on the planet.” So at least he understands that he’s not dealing with any ordinary gaming franchise.

Kept You Waiting, Huh?

Alongside the UNCHARTED series, METAL GEAR SOLID is the gaming franchise most affiliated with movie-like production value. On some level, this should make it an easy movie to adapt. Simply condense all the lengthy cutscenes, set pieces, character interactions and some stealth bits into a feature-length movie.

To truly succeed, however, Vogt-Roberts’ movie will have to replicate the feeling of playing a METAL GEAR game. That weird feeling where absurd and serious are interchangeable and fourth wall breaks feel unnerving rather than humorous. If Vogt-Roberts can pull off that weird balance of realism and fantastical, then the film just might actually work. But best to keep a cardboard box nearby in case thing don’t go according to plan.

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