Above all else, there is one thing that the upcoming Metal Gear Solid movie must get right.
The first game in the series made its debut on the MSX2 in July of 1987. Since then, the Metal Gear saga has expanded into one of the most layered and complex stories ever told in the medium of video games. Over the years, the series has touched on a vast number of wildly varied subjects. Everything from cloning, to spaghetti-western homage, to anti-nuclear sentiment, to vampire mythology, to ninjas and just about everything else you can think of in between.
Hideo Kojima has somehow managed to incorporate all of these things, which are obviously creative influences of his, into one, (mostly) coherent plot. Now that he has parted ways with Konami and founded his own successful studio, he is unlikely to ever return to the MGS franchise. The question that remains is; just how did he manage to pull that off?
The answer is; by creating one of the most amalgamated, uniquely strange tones ever adopted in any form of storytelling.
Why Tone Is So Crucial To MGS
If you ask fans of Metal Gear what their favourite element of the franchise is, most of them will tell you that it is the gloriously odd and distinctive tone that keeps them coming back to the franchise. That tone is the glue which holds the entire saga together and provides a consistent through-line throughout.
Regardless of what else it covers, it is this tone that the Metal Gear Solid movie has to get right.
Much of the speculation around the film right now is; how will Oscar Isaac be as Solid Snake? Which other characters from the games will appear? Who will play them? What will the story be?
These are all arguably pertinent questions, as they could indeed in fact affect the tone of the movie. However, it is the tone itself which will be the most pertinent aspect of the project. It will be the accuracy of the tone which will make or break this film.
How This Will Help The Film
This is what should be at the forefront of Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ mind when he is making this movie. Regardless of what other elements of the game they are capturing, the priority should always be recreating the tone from the games.
How else are they going to manage to capture the horror of the scene of Snake walking down that hallway of slaughtered genome soldiers towards Otacton’s lab? How are they going to capture the humour of Johnny the guard running back and forward to the toilet when he is supposed to be guarding Snake’s cell?
None of that will translate if the tone from the games is not successfully carried over into the movie.
What If They Don’t Get The Tone Right?
“We’re searching, we’re searching like Solid Snake. We’re climbing through air ducts, we’re looking for the story.”
Following Isaac making this statement, fans online were quick to express their concern that the story hadn’t yet been definitively decided on yet. This evolved into speculation that the film could be a mess, plot-wise.
Whilst that is a legitimate concern, the more important matter is that of the movie’s tone. Everything else comes second to that element of this project.
There is a lot of pressure on Vogt-Roberts and the studio to get this film right and do justice to the beloved game series. Metal Gear fans have been waiting for this project to come to fruition for decades at this point. The filmmakers have a responsibility to the fans not to let them down.
If the tone is not captured correctly, this movie could end up just being seen as another generic military movie, or even worse; a corny, awkward flop.
Maybe They Do Know What They Are Doing
Thankfully though, it seems that Jordan Vogt-Roberts understands this part of the monumental challenge that he has taken on. He spoke to Collider back in 2018 about what his Metal Gear Solid film is attempting to capture saying:
“I think there’s a way to lean into all of the oddities and the quirks and the idiosyncrasies of Metal Gear—and people forget Metal Gear is goofy. It’s filled with like military surrealism, it’s filled with these walking, talking philosophical ideologies of characters, it’s filled with almost horror tones at times—and that’s all in this container of this sort of super serious military game.”
Based on that quote, it sounds like Vogt-Roberts has his priorities in the right place. He seems to recognise what fans of the franchise are looking for him to deliver on. He has also had four years to work on the tone of his film since he made that statement, so you would like to believe that he has made some progress at least with regards to this.
A strong man doesn’t need to read the future. He makes his own.
As we don’t yet have a trailer for the film at the time of writing, there is sadly no way to yet know whether the filmmakers will capture the game’s unique tone. As for just now, we will just have to wait and see.