This is a heavy plea, the title was a trap to get your attention and it worked! Why though would I trick you? First, you should always expect deception and traps from me, but why Christopher Nolan and why Metal Gear Solid? Well maybe it’s the same reason why Joss Whedon had to direct the Avengers; because my harsh skepticism would have come true if someone else did it. A concept is no good without its proper execution; I mean could you imagine the ideas of the second Alien and Terminator movies being done by someone other than James Cameron? Or if Michael Bay directed the Lord of the Rings trilogy instead of Peter Jackson?! It comes down to having the best person for the job – someone who won’t screw it up. The best of anything is all subjective and deeply opinionated: I love a lot of directors and I love a lot of video games. This isn’t just about admiration for both Christopher Nolan as a director and Metal Gear Solid as a video game series; it’s about finally having a good video game movie. We’ve seen comic books come to life on the big screen that 10 – 20 years ago we would have never imagined and I think it’s time we get that from a video game to the big screen.
It all happened from an idea within an idea; I’m referring to when my brother and I decided to go see Inception. We both loved this movie and I think people that didn’t get it should throw themselves and their children into the great mouth of Oblivion that is Cthulhu. There was that scene at the very end of the film when they’re infiltrating a snow fortress and midway through the scene I glanced over at my brother sitting across from me. Silently we both gave this head nod, we knew exactly what we were thinking and smiling about, an old game of legend from back in 1998, Metal Gear Solid.
Video games for the longest time had no real story to them. This changed with Final Fantasy 3 (US) for the SNES where game developers started to put actual character emotions and plot into a video game. This storytelling evolved along the way through the 90s and then another milestone of storytelling happened with the release of Konami’s Metal Gear Solid for the Sony Playstation in 1998. Metal Gear Solid spun everything around and almost made gameplay feel secondary to the dramatic depth of its cinematic story telling. In other words, Metal Gear Solid was a movie with gameplay in between. It’s one of the few videogame series to maintain all its professional voice actors since 1998, which to me was key to the first game’s success since graphics were limited on the PS1. Metal Gear Solid is a story that pulls your attention through the screen into an emotional and very intelligent gameplay experience that is very hard to find in video games.
Now how do I go from a video game series that started in 1998 to choosing Christopher Nolan as director of its movie? You might think it’s the easy win card; “sure Dave, he directed the Dark Knight you might as well have him direct the Donkey Kong movie with Inception soundtrack…” Let me explain. Metal Gear Solid is a game series based on elements of reality that make it convincing to the viewer/gamer. The game’s creator, Hideo Kojima, had the actual US military help his team with terminology, weapons, and overall intelligence to make sure everything was completely accurate. Not only that, the game doesn’t stray far from science as in even when it comes to invisibility, psychic powers, and cloning, the game explains to you how it’s done without any BS and uses actual historic events to make you want to put on your tin foil hat. This resource of reality is the first relationship between Nolan’s movies and Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid series. The Prestige, Batman Begins, even Inception – all have fantastical and crazy ideas yet each of them were done in such an intelligent way they convinced you it was possible in these worlds.
The second asset both Nolan and Kojima do so right and so well are their villains. As much as Nolan drives me insane with his love of muffling voices, Bane in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises trailer reminds me exactly of a Kojima-style bad guy. Metal Gear Solid isn’t about one sole iconic game villain such as Sephiroth, Bowser, or Ganon (in other great games,) but rather a group of individual creative characters who range from lawful mercenaries to chaotic madmen. Nolan did the same in his films, the villains weren’t simply “evil” like Skeletor is evil – they were individuals molded, scarred, decayed, and pulled in all directions by their own self-judgments of right and wrong. Hugh Jackman’s character of Angier in Nolan’s 2004 film The Prestige felt his sacrifice was worthy of its outcome (I can’t go into more detail than that for fear of spoiling the entire twist of the movie). There’s the king of the pile of crazy, The Joker from the Dark Knight who seemed like the human embodiment of chaos, yet he was believable as an insane human being. Kojima has the same formula of villains; Psycho Mantis was a psychic, but Kojima convinced us gamers by having Mantis’s backstory related to actual Soviet telekinetic experiments done during the Cold War (Google it). Revolver Ocelot was this slick old school gunslinger that fit modern day espionage and covert ops sneaky personal agendas. The villains in both weren’t these super powerful demigods, but rather intelligent people with a unique edge over the average person and extensive background story.
If Hollywood wants to transform video games into movies the way they did it with comic books, it has to be done smart and loud, meaning no half-assing. The comic book movies that gave Hollywood the success were both intelligent and exciting, it was when crap movies like Steel and the 1994 Fantastic Four were stopped being made and Blade, X-Men, Batman Begins, Iron Man, Spiderman were being produced with serious budgets. We could take a poll about what we all think is the best video game movie thus far, but let’s be honest, it’s more about picking the least from the worst. So Mr. Nolan: I know you’re out there surfing the net and you should have received at least one out of the 1,250 plea letters I’ve sent you. All I am asking is what the same thing others are on message boards and fellow geek blogs: please consider it, watch 20 minutes of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Street Fighter movie and you will see how much we need a good video game movie.