The planned MGM film would have moved the story from Moscow to Washington DC.
Work on the Metro 2033 movie that was announced in 2016 has been halted and the rights have reverted to Dmitry Glukhovsky, the author of the 2005 novel on which the movie was meant to be based. The reason, Glukhovsky told VG247, is that scriptwriter F. Scott Frazier had intended to “Americanize” the setting by moving it from Moscow to Washington DC, and it just wasn’t working out. (Which is a nice way of saying that it sounds like it would have been awful.)
“A lot of things didn’t work out in Washington DC,” Glukhovsky said. “In Washington DC, Nazis don’t work, Communists don’t work at all, and the Dark Ones don’t work. Washington DC is a black city basically. That’s not at all the allusion I want to have, it’s a metaphor of general xenophobia but it’s not a comment on African Americans at all. So it didn’t work.”
“They had to replace the Dark Ones with some kind of random beasts and as long as the beasts don’t look human, the entire story of xenophobia doesn’t work which was very important to me as a convinced internationalist. They turned it into a very generic thing.”
I haven’t read the novel so I can’t comment on it directly, but the conflict between Nazis and Communists is central to the game, and—spoiler warning—the Dark Ones are the vital twist: Villains, but not really, and you end up nuking them anyway because humanity is, generally speaking, fearful, terrible, and heavily armed.
Glukhovsky said MGM decided to set the film in the US because “Americans have a reputation for liking stories about America.” But one of the most appealing things about the Metro games is how marvelously Russian they are: Bleak, weary, hard, hopeless, but determined to soldier on to the next day anyway, AK in one hand and vodka in the other, if for no other reason than to spite the whole damn universe. That’s obviously a very stereotypical take on Russian-ness, but it’s also at the core of the Metro games.
As a fan of those games, that’s what I want to see, and it’s also apparently the kind of film Glukhovsky wants to see made.
“With Metro Last Light and Metro 2033—the books and the games—selling millions and millions of copies worldwide, it’s probably not as improbable now that people would accept a story happening in Moscow because that’s going to be the unique selling point,” he said. “We’ve seen the American version of apocalypse a lot of times and the audience that like the genre are educated and saturated and not really wishing to get anymore of that.”
Glukhovsky said he’s still “optimistic” about a Metro 2033 film being made, and expressed hope that the upcoming release of Metro Exodus will help the process by exposing the series to a wider audience. The new Metro game is slated to come out on February 22, 2019.
If you’re not familiar with how Metro rolls, watch this.