Mass Effect Movie Adaptation: Why It Wouldn’t Work
The rumors about adapting Mass Effect, the hit video game trilogy, into a movie have been going on since 2007, but only three years later they were confirmed by an official announcement from Bioware. That being said, chatter has continued flurrying across the internet; often contradicting each-other in a span of several weeks. Fans keep debating about the film concept and the possible cast.
Another weave of debates started merely two days ago. There wasn’t any news on the topic from the official channels, but the notion came from a Facebook Mass Effect fan page when the page admin, C.J. Havens, answered a frequently asked question about the status of the movie.
Being a fan of the franchise, I couldn’t keep myself from jumping into that train and joining the rest of the fans in the discussion. In particular, I wanted to talk about why the idea of the movie plot presented by Legendary Pictures isn’t going to work.
First of all, the plan from the beginning was to fully adapt the plot of the first game, which would open the door to plenty of difficulties. The problem starts with the length of the game, which easily has over ten hours of narration, dialogue, and character interactions. That’s without accounting for all of the player-controlled action. Trying to squeeze it into two hours might present a bigger challenge than adapting a book to the screen.
Even if this problem would be solved with some masterful writing, we can’t forget what kind of game Mass Effect is. There are not only over ten hours of narration in the game, but over ten hours of interactive narration where player’s decisions affect the story; every choice leads to a different result.
From the very beginning the player has the opportunity to choose Commander Shepard’s gender, specialization, and background — choices which wouldn’t be available in a motion picture. Here the Legendary Pictures would most likely choose the safest route for a movie about a hero on a way to save the galaxy and cast a guy into the leading role. Even if I myself played male Shepard, and would have no problem with this decision, I wouldn’t be able to miss its unfairness.
Another big concern of mine is the love interest. In the game the player can choose one among many characters to build a relationship with, and each of them has a beautiful romantic story arc. Male or female, human or alien, anything is possible. The decision on that matter would be yet again left for the film creators, which means that any other love interests in the game besides the one they pick are going to be left out. The most logical thing here would be to assume the movie creators to go yet another ‘safe route’; choosing a human woman as the love interest for the commander.
After these issues, there is also a problem of every other decision the player has to make in the game. Is the player’s Shepard a hero with only good intentions at heart, or a ruthless soldier that will accomplish the mission at any cost? Whom the players decide to leave behind on the battlefield, whom they chose to save? Has al-Jilani been punched in the face for being too nosy, even for a reporter, at least once? Taking away this interactive storytelling would be like someone knocking on your door and telling you that everything you knew and believed in wasn’t true; that your canon wasn’t actually canon after all.
This approach can bring nothing but disappointment for thousands of fans.
That being said, there is still time for the movie creators to reconsider, and I personally hope they will listen to the fans. The universe of Mass Effect is enormous and not everything in it is about Commander Shepard. There are many stories to choose from like the First Contact War, or the discovery of Mass Relays. You don’t have to retell the same story twice to make a good film.
There is still no final confirmation on the plot of the film. There is plenty of time left to influence the studio, to make the movie enjoyable for both newcomers and fans of the franchise, to find a solution which can satisfy everyone.
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