'Metro 2033' Movie Cancelled: Russophobia and Racial Subtexts May Have Sunk Adaptation

MGM's adaptation of Russian post-apocalyptic novel Metro 2033 has been cancelled.

Metro 2033 , which spawned two sequels and three popular video games, including the upcoming Metro Exodus, is set in post-apocalyptic Moscow. Survivors eke out an existence in underground train stations, which become independent factions in the 20 years between 2013's nuclear war and the events of Metro 2033. Some factions are fascist, others are communist and some aren't even human.

The Moscow Metro has become a subterranean landscape of different factions. 4A Games

In an interview with VG24/7 Metro 2033 author Dmitry Glukhovsky revealed the movie adaptation had been cancelled.

"The project with MGM optioning this book and developing a script had brought us nothing and the rights reverted to me," Glukhovsky told VG24/7.

According to Glukhovsky, the biggest hitch for the movie studio was… the core premise of the novel. Perhaps it's unsurprising that a studio would be risk-averse about a sprawling, big budget post-apocalyptic epic set in Russia, particularly since anti-Russian sentiment is booming in the United States. But wouldn't moving the adaptation to a well-explored city like Washington D.C.—the setting for Fallout 3 and parts of The Walking Dead—transform the novel's political and geographic specificity into yet another generic post-apocalyptic action-adventure?

It seems Glukhovsky's concerns fell on deaf ears, at least until the project fell through. "They're kind of afraid of setting it in Moscow, because Americans have a reputation for liking stories about America," Glukhovsky 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."

Even worse, the attempt to Americanize Metro 2033 muddled the novel's political themes. "A lot of things didn't work out in Washington D.C.," Glukhovsky said. "In Washington D.C. Nazis don't work, Communists don't work at all and the Dark Ones don't work."

Balkanized across subway stations, the different factions of Metro 2033 are suspicious and war-like toward each other, and must find common ground when encountering a new enemy, the Dark Ones, who are themselves not the mutated monsters they first appear to be. This delicate balance of factions didn't map well on to the United States, in part because of the radically different racial subtexts of a city that's 70 percent black and ruled over by an overwhelmingly white federal government.

"Washington D.C. 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," Glukhovsky explained.

But it wasn't just real-world politics in the way. According to Glukhovsky, MGM had even wanted to change the Dark Ones, transforming them from mutated humans into "random beasts."

A Dark One, as they appear in video game adaptation "Metro: Last Light." 4A Games

"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," Glukhovsky said. "They turned it into a very generic thing."

While Glukhovsky's experience with MGM sounds frustrating, he's still hopeful the series will eventually be adapted. "Currently we are speaking with a new set of producers about a possible adaptation, but this is a very long and difficult process. I'm still optimistic."