Why Jordan Vogt-Roberts Isn’t a Surprising Choice to Direct the ‘Metal Gear Solid’ Movie

By  · Published on June 4th, 2014


It’s interesting that we should get video game adaptation news the week when the best video game movie not based on a video game should come out. Hopefully everyone working on such adaptations will be looking at Edge of Tomorrow, as it could be something of a game changer (or should that be movie changer?). I have a feeling that Sony’s Metal Gear Solid, which is reportedly now finally moving forward with a seemingly strange choice for director almost officially attached, is a good property to follow its lead.

About a year ago, I suggested that Jordan Vogt-Roberts would be the next great comedy director. I wrote, in a post highlighting his short film work, that the Kings of Summer helmer had what it takes to be the next Judd Apatow or the next spoof master. But the deal in Hollywood lately is that fresh indie comedy voices are the go-to guys for huge tentpoles rather than smaller, funnier studio pictures. We’ve seen Marc Webb land the Amazing Spider-Man franchise (which shares a producer with MGS in Avi Arad) and Colin Trevorrow head into Jurassic Park territory, for two examples. Now JoVoRo (as Vogt-Roberts should always be referred as) is next in line by going from a little teen movie out of Sundance to one of the biggest video game franchises of all time. Yet it doesn’t seem like an odd or shocking choice when I think about it.

As much as I was hoping to see the filmmaker do something hilarious, preferably involving his friend Thomas Middleditch now that the actor has broken out some with HBO’s Silicon Valley (which also stars T.J. Miller, of JoVoRo’s great short film Successful Alcoholics), I have high hopes for his take on MGS. Admittedly, though, it’s not a video game I’m terribly familiar with other than I’m aware of its sense of humor. Or, rather, creator Hideo Kojima’s quirkiness. JoVoRo similarly has shown signs of great intelligence combined with great silliness. Surely he has an appreciation for the cardboard box stuff, and hopefully he’ll be able to turn that into a good gag in the movie.

The game designer and the filmmaker also seem to share a love for movies in a way that shows through in their work. Kojima has admitted to paying homage to his favorite action and comedy films, and there are clear or acknowledged nods to Escape From New York, The Great Escape, James Bond, De Palma’s The Fury and Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Rope, among many others. JoVoRo, meanwhile, is inspired enough by other movies that he tends to create “tone reel” supercuts like the coming-of-age montage he compiled ahead of The Kings of Summer.

But can he direct action? His indie feature was often likened to The Goonies, but that comparison ignored the thrilling parts of the latter. Still, JoVoRo could be the Richard Donner of our time. Maybe Kings of Summer is more akin to The Toy or Radio Flyer, in which case he’d logically have to be able to make an even better blockbuster than even Superman: The Movie or Lethal Weapon. But until that happens, what he has to show for his action skills presently is mostly in the form of comedic material like his Bad Boys II Men in Black mashup and his video of Arnold Schwarzenegger running over various things with his tank. But there are tanks in MGS, right?

It’s going to be a tough balance to make the MGS movie primarily action-oriented yet also include some goofy comedy that will play well to viewers who aren’t familiar with the humor of the games. Even being a fan of them, it’s hard to have complete faith in either JoVoRo or Duncan Jones with their huge video game based tentpoles (the latter’s being Warcraft), mainly because there hasn’t really been any positive models yet for these kinds of movies. That’s not me saying they’re hopeless as much as it’s me expecting studios to not know the best way to go about them and also not being willing to let these be test subjects for fresh ideas. And they’re not going to trust me on Edge of Tomorrow, which does mix incredible action with a great self-aware sense of humor, if it’s not a hit this weekend – and it’s not expected to be.

I certainly wish JoVoRo the best of luck with this and hope for all our sakes that it turns out to be a great movie – because, yes, we all should want all movies to be great. And if it’s at least okay, I hope that it’s good enough to be a stepping stone towards his dream, as stated to me last year, to do one of the Star Wars movies before he dies.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.