What is the 'Destiny 2' link to Detroit?

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Before the first Raid launches Wednesday, find out how the Motor City had a role in promoting the

After finishing the long, strenuous, globe-hopping process of making "Kong: Skull Island," director Jordan Vogt-Roberts talked convincingly about wanting to spend some time in Detroit, his hometown, and bring work back here. 

This summer, he made good on his promise.

The filmmaker, who grew up in Royal Oak, was in the Motor City in July to film the new live-action trailer for "Destiny 2," the latest from the popular sci-fi video game franchise.

In the promo, which premiered Thursday, Detroit fills in for the game's mythic futuristic city and real actors wear battle gear made by the same company that does the suits for the "Iron Man" movies. The trailer's playful vibe is set to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage." 

"Destiny 2" is set to launch on Sept. 6.

The cool live-action trailer is about the first-person-shooter game, but it also speaks to how much belief Vogt-Roberts still has in Detroit as a viable, valuable filming location, even after the elimination of Michigan's film incentives.

"For me, it's always been a dream to take this back to Detroit, not only because as an individual, I want to be spending more time there. I also think, cinematically, the city has so much to offer."

"Destiny 2" is a potential blockbuster in the gaming world. When Bungie and Activision debuted the first "Destiny" in September 2014, it drew more than $500 million in pre-orders alone.

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Filming in Detroit's Packard Plant for new 'Destiny 2' online game commercial directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Photo: Chase Madrid)

Those figures are impressive, much like the ones generated by "Kong: Skull Island." The monster movie, which came out in March, earned $168 million domestically and more than $566 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.  

Critics praised Vogt-Roberts for the film's retro-fun tone (it was set in the 1970s) and zesty action sequences, which included clever homages to '70s epics like "Apocalypse Now." For a director whose previous film was the 2013 coming-of-age indie "The Kings of Summer," scoring good reviews for a film with a half-a-billion-dollar box office take was a whole new ball game.

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But Vogt-Roberts approaches his work with an eye toward doing what he finds most interesting, whether it's a major movie or an ad. When the opportunity to do the "Destiny 2" project came up, he pitched bringing the production to Detroit. 

It just so happened that Activision's CEO Eric Hirshberg is from metro Detroit, too. "I think both of us got deeply excited about bringing this giant job back to Michigan," says Vogt-Roberts.

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(L-r) Director JORDAN VOGT-ROBERTS, THOMAS MANN, TOM HIDDLESTON and BRIE LARSON on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures and Tencent Pictures' action adventure "KONG: SKULL ISLAND," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo: Chuck Zlotnick)

After initial trips to scout locations and several weeks of local preparation, Vogt-Roberts and his team spent a week filming at locations that included the Packard Plant, the old Cadillac Stamping Plant, the Cobo Tunnel, the Woodward Presbyterian Church, the abandoned St. Agnes Church and the Michigan Theatre-turned-parking lot.

Vogt-Roberts, a longtime video game fan, admits it would have been an easy choice to shoot a sci-fi-themed ad in a green-screened soundstage. But he envisioned using some of Detroit's landmarks as a futuristic backdrop of stunning visual power. 

"You look at it on the screen and there's nowhere else in the world I would have rather shot it," he says.

Vogt-Roberts says he would like to return to metro Detroit for more projects from many different genres that show the beauty inside and nearby the city. And it's not just a recent desire. When he landed the "Kong: Skull Island" job, he originally wanted to film it in metro Detroit.

Instead, he wound up shooting that movie in Hawaii, Australia and Vietnam, yet he still laced Detroit references into the final version. The nods ranged from obvious (a conversation between two main characters about the Detroit Tigers vs. the Chicago Cubs) to subtle (a character named Steve Woodward, as in the well-known avenue).

Vogt-Roberts also made sure supporting roles went to friends and colleagues from the Detroit Creativity Project, a nonprofit group that offers improvisational comedy training to Detroit public school students. Like Keegan-Michael Key and other Los Angeles-based Detroit ex-pats, he has been part of the group's effort to bring free arts education to local young people.

During work on the "Destiny 2" ad, Vogt-Roberts saw the impact of Michigan's decision to end its film incentives in 2015.

 "Honestly, it was a little disheartening to me... (with) the tax credit going away, how much the available) resources had also gone away," he says.

"It's a shame that people, for whatever reason, didn't see the value in what an incentive like that can bring to the area, what type of jobs it can bring to the very hard-working, disciplined crews of Detroit."

But whatever the state's policies are, Vogt-Roberts isn't changing his long-term goals. His upcoming projects include a film adaptation of the "Metal Gear" video game. But he'll still come home again.

"Regardless of whether that incentive ever comes back or doesn't, it's always going to be a mission of mine to keep bringing projects back to Detroit," he says.

Contact Detroit Free Press writer Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or jhinds@freepress.com.

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