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New York 1997: How was the film the major inspiration for Metal Gear video games?

Released in 1981, “New York 1997” has become over time a cult film, by its dystopian atmosphere, the charisma of its main character and the depth of its subtext. John Carpenter’s feature film is thus a flagship work of the SF genre. A work that has also been an important source for the developer Hidéo Kojima with his famous video game saga Metal Gear.

New York 1997 : LE film post-Watergate

New York 1997 is written in a particularly troubled time in the United States. Indeed, the people, already affected by the Vietnam War, are disillusioned because of the Watergate scandal. From then on, artists such as John Carpenter no longer trust the great institutions which govern the country. Consequently, it translates for him into a scenario of the end of the world, where the country becomes a breeding ground for crime.

Written in 1976, the screenplay found no studio to produce it because it was considered too dark and violent. The filmmaker will then realize The Night of the Masks in 1978, with the critical and commercial success that we know.

This success will then help him to relaunch the project which will find a taker this time, with a modest budget of six million dollars. To accentuate the apocalyptic atmosphere, Carpenter decided to shoot the film in Saint-Louis, whose city center burned down in the 1970s had the ideal atmosphere to embody this New York in a state of disrepair.

Along with business success and a host of rewards, the work will mark pop-culture by its subject echoing a very complicated political news in the USA at the time. Above all, its resonance was revived after the attacks of September 11, 2001 since there are many similarities between this tragic event and the film.

New York 1997 ©StudioCanal

Manhattan prison island

As a reminder, New York 1997 takes place in a dystopian universe where the United States is plagued by an increasing crime rate. This then prompted the authorities to transform Manhattan as a prison island where three million prisoners live in micro-society. In 1997, the President’s Air Force One was hijacked by terrorists and crashed in the middle of Manhattan. Captured by prisoners on the island, he has top-secret documents which could endanger the future of the motherland.

Faced with the incident, the authorities decide to send Snake Plissken, a former war hero who has become a dangerous criminal sentenced to life imprisonment. In exchange for forgiveness for his crimes, Snake has 24 hours to save the President and complete his mission.

Of New York 1997 at Metal Gear

Initially, Tommy Lee Jones was the producers’ first choice to play Snake Plissken, deeming Kurt Russell as too little known at the time. However, John Carpenter insisted on having the actor. The sequel proved him right since Kurt Russell has become one of the archetypes of the charismatic film antihero who obeys his own codes.

The interpretation of the character thus marked the designer of video games Hideo Kojima, when he saw the film for the first time in theaters. Great cinephile, he will use his many cinematographic influences to develop from 1987 the Metal Gear series. Indeed, if the game is hailed for its history and its playability, it is especially the nods to many films that are noticed. From James Bond and others, New York 1997 was thus a major influence.

New York 1997
New York 1997 ©StudioCanal

On the one hand, we find it through its story. Indeed, like Snake Plissken who must complete his solo mission in hostile territory, the characters of Solid Snake and Big Boss in the Metal Gear series must also infiltrate enemy terrain to counter a threat. terrorist.

Let us also add that in the film, Snake Plissken constantly uses a radio in order to be in contact with his hierarchy and to have information on his mission. Concept that we obviously find in Metal Gear.

On the other hand, the themes are quite similar. Indeed, Kojima delivers deep messages that often revolve around overarmament, war and the danger of nuclear power. These themes were clearly inspired by New York 1997 which has an equally deep subtext on the collapse of institutions and the corruption of authorities.

De Snake Plissken à Solid Snake

Finally, the taciturn and solitary character of New York 1997 is clearly similar to Solid Snake and Big Boss. Physically first, the protagonists of the video game series have the same physical traits as actor Kurt Russell, not to mention that Big Boss has the same eye patch as Plissken. This inspiration will be assumed more and more by Kojima over time. Indeed, in Metal Gear Solid 2, Snake will take the pseudonym of Iroquois Pliskin in reference to the hero of the film.

Mostly, psychological personalities are similar. Indeed, Snake Plissken, Solid Snake and Big Boss are soldiers marked by the war, which made them cynical and disillusioned.In addition, the tone of voice used by actor David Hayter to dub Solid Snake in the game is similar to that of Kurt Russell in the film. We can finally suggest that Ocelot, another central character in the Metal Gear series, has some similarities with Lee Van Cleef who is in the film.

New York 1997 vs Metal Gear
New York 1997 vs Metal Gear

Carpenter adore Kojima

Since the debut of the video game series, the director has never hidden his respect for the work developed by Hideo Kojima. Carpenter even fiercely defended it duringa strange lawsuit led by… Canal + against Metal Gear Solid.

Indeed, the case dates back to 2011. Canal + being co-holder of the rights of New York 1997, it attacks Europacorp which it accuses of plagiarism with its film Lock Out. Justice then ruled in favor of the channel. However, Canal wanted to go further by attacking Kojima for the same reasons while the latter had never refuted his tribute to the film. Fortunately, John Carpenter was able to calm things down quickly:

They also wanted to attack the Metal Gear Solid series, which is more or less a remake of New York 1997. But I told them not to. I know the creator of the games and he’s a good guy. Anyway, he’s always been nice to me.

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