Jordan Vogt-Roberts is keeping busy. Coming off the success of Kong: Skull Island, he’s got adaptations of Metal Gear Solid and The Stars My Destination in development, but rather than rushing into production on a new feature film or even returning to the excellent TV series You’re the Worst (for which he helmed the pilot), he decided to go back to commercials and direct the fun Destiny 2 trailer.
Last week, I spoke with Vogt-Roberts about the Destiny 2 trailer and was also went into a variety of other topics including the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong, his plans for Metal Gear Solid, adapting The Stars My Destination, and his screed against Cinema Sins.
So did you want to move from Kong: Skull Island into Metal Gear Solid?
JORDAN VOGT-ROBERTS: Look, I would love to go straight into Metal Gear Solid. There was a bunch of other movies that I got offered. Things that honestly would have been a childhood dreams franchises that I care very much about, but they were like, “We got to start now,” and I was like, “I can’t, I don’t have it in me to just jump into something right away, and so I was going to go and do some episodes of “You’re the Worst,” which is the FX show that I directed the pilot of and it has a really brilliant show runner and a really brilliant cast and I’m really proud of that show. That would have been me working with actors?
And I love that show.
VOGT-ROBERTS: Thank you. But it would have been a very big departure from visual effects and things like that. It would’ve been casual. I was going to go and sort of ease into that. Then I’ve been doing commercials for a while, but I’ve been out of the commercial game for like seven years, because I went back to back from “Kings of Summer” to the “You’re the Worst” pilot to “Kong.”
I’d been wanting to do commercials just because I love playing around in that art form and that medium. Then these boards came in and suddenly, I was like, “Wait. These are boards for a video game, a sci-fi game. It’s made by Bungie. It has comedy in it. It allows me to sort of flex my own sort of creativity and design a bunch of set pieces and it just became this really perfect storm.” The copy that came to me from 72andSunny and Activision was just, I thought, a great spot. It was an unorthodox commercial because Joe Kosinski did the previous versions of these, so there was filmmaking pedigree behind it. For me, even to be able to play in that sandbox, was kind of an honor.
How did you strike the balance between you want to tell a story just within the short time frame, but you’re also trying to sell the game, both to old fans and people who have never played the first game?
VOGT-ROBERTS: Well, that actually, to me, was the number one thing that was super important to me, because outwardly, I think 72 and Activision very much have Bungie’s best interests in mind in terms of getting this game out there in the right way, but as a gamer myself, there was a long time where you feel like these things that you love are being sold to people that fundamentally aren’t you. Especially back in the nineties, when we were all playing video games, people would go and they would take these properties that we love and try to sell them to the non-core.
I was very vocal really early on of saying, “Great. We absolutely can make a spot here there that reaches as many eyeballs as possible who’ve never heard of Destiny, who don’t know who Bungie is, who have heard of the first game or maybe looked past the first game. We absolutely can target those people, but if we do that, and when we do that, we can never lose sight of the fact that there are people that have logged thousands of hours into this game and it means something to them. We have to be able to kind of walk that total tightrope the entire time. We need you to design something that Destiny fans can say, ‘Hell yeah. That’s the world that I’ve been playing. That’s what it feels like to be a Guardian. That’s what it feels like to play with a fireteam.’ That’s what it feels like to sort of execute an amazing move, but also through the use of the explosions upfront and Cayde speech, we’re able to ease an audience in who might know nothing about that world.”
No, and it gives a good impression of, like you said, sort of the comedy and the action combined, to not just say, “This is just another shooter.”
VOGT-ROBERTS: Well, it’s not just another shooter.
VOGT-ROBERTS: I give so much credit to Bungie as a developer. I went up there for a day and just was able to really pick their brain on so many things, but those guys are so talented and so smart. I think that they wear their influences on their sleeves, but nothing in that game really feels derivative. The whole game has this kind of beautiful ad hoc art style that’s such a fusion of different things. You have a very Moroccan-bohemian vibe that’s mixed with a bit of Blade Runner. You have sort of sci-fi magic in the game that’s fantasy but also pure sci-fi.
It’s such an interesting combination and, to me, one of the biggest challenges in it was actually saying, “Even more so than the previous spots, even more so than what Hollywood would traditionally do when they try and adapt something like this, let’s fully commit to that world. Let’s not be afraid of the use of color. Let’s not be afraid of this crazy art style. Let’s not be afraid of the fantastical stuff, and I promise you we can make something that feels like an awesome shooter that you can market to the world, but that is awesome because it commits to what it is.”
I’m so happy reading so much feedback where a bunch of people are talking about the use of color. They’re talking about how crazy that it sort of looks. They’re talking about the feeling of what it is to kind of be on a fireteam.
Is that all-in approach something you’re also thinking about taking with Metal Gear? Because that game is one of the few video games that breaks the fourth wall. It does a lot of weird, interesting things.
VOGT-ROBERTS: It’s all-in, all the time. For me, I think … look. With properties, you obviously have to make adjustments and concessions and there are just certain things that translate differently on film, but we easily could have shot this Destiny spot and muted the colors and not gone for that stuff and played in a much different way. But to me, that’s not what Destiny is, so then that’s a failure to me. I’m so fortunate to have people like Eric Hirshberg at Activision who really want to back that vision and the people at 72 that say, “Yeah, let’s go for it so we can protect Bungie’s voice.”
With Metal Gear, absolutely, my thing is we need to not just make a Metal Gear movie, but we need to double-down so hard on the oddities that make Metal Gear idiosyncratic and what it is—Kojima’s voice, the fourth wall, the goofiness, the anime, the manga, the hyper-violence, the talking philosophies, the characters who just represent ideologies. These things are Metal Gear, and I think, when you look at Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s like, “What genre is that before that movie came out?”
James [Gunn] doubled-down on that world and said, “No. This is what’s going to make people love it,” as opposed to saying, “Uh, it’s kind of like this” or “It’s kind of like that.” “It’s sort of a little bit of that.” No. That was able to be what it needs to be, and so for me, in the success of Kong, in the success of Logan, in the success of Deadpool, I’m able to go to the studio and say, “Let’s double-down on this and make this the absolute best version of Metal Gear that it needs to be.”