I can’t go a day without hearing some kind news about a video game franchise I’ve enjoy getting turned into a movie. A few years ago, Halo was all anyone was talking about, with Peter Jackson at the helm no less. Then rumours about a Bioshock movie were buzzing around my feet, until they realised how expensive filming underwater was going to be. More recently I’m hearing rumours about an Assassin’s Creed movie and Mass Effect being sized up for the silver screen
The latest stories have been chatting of who is going to have the unenviable job of writing the script. Not too long ago Mark Protosevich, know for working on Thor and I am Legend was apparently writing it, however, the latest rumours are buzzing around the head of relative unknown Morgan Davis Foehl. The most notable films attached to his name are Click and I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry. Working on Adam Sandler movies doesn’t really bring thoughts of a nuanced plot development with deep and layered characters.
Before I jump the gun though, he doesn’t have any writing credits on either of those films, so his chops in the pen and paper department are yet to be proven. I’ve also read that he’s a ‘fan’ of series, I’m not going to judge a script I know nothing about though, so let’s leave that for now. The thing is though, as good or as bad a writer they get for the script is irrelevant, in this day and age I think cinema and video games should remain very separate entities.
Mass Effect is a prime example of a game that really shouldn’t be made into a movie, and I’m going to give my 10 reasons I think they shouldn’t make a Mass Effect movie:
10. Games are already cinematic enough
It’s no question that the majority of video game movies are bad, sure one or two of them might be entertaining romps, but I can’t think of one that I would classify as an outstanding piece of cinema. The problem is that as video games have evolved as a medium, they’ve taken so many pointers from cinema and television in the development of their stories that often making a movie version of a game will be nothing but a neutered version of what we’ve already seen within the game, chopped down to last around two hours.
Years back, there was a lot that could be interpreted from popular video games. They were so simplistic that writers could take a basic idea and just roll with that, making up everything else as they went along, the Super Mario Bros. movie would be the classic example. Super Mario Bros. was a premise, not a full narrative, unless of course, you make a movie about a guy running to the right and jumping on a few turtles for 90 minutes.
Around the era of the Playstation 1 though, storytelling in games became more dynamic and started to take on traits of movies in their cut scenes and plot development. Metal Gear Solid being the most iconic game of that era that really had the cinematic style and things has only become more cinematic from there.
9. It will be indecisive about it’s target audience
This is something of problem that all video game movie share, they’re caught in a perpetual limbo between being something that is trying to be faithful to its source material, and something that is going to appeal to the masses that don’t know what Silent Hill or Prince of Persia is.
In the end, the backers are more interested in exploiting an established fan base for a quick pay day, and couldn’t give two craps whether the thing is faithful or not, which sadly is a very common problem amongst these types of films. While I’m sure screen writers do some very thorough research when writing scripts based on video games, chances are, they’ve never played the games themselves nor have the same feelings about it as the fans. Although, I could be wrong.
And even if they did get a writer in who knows the lore like the back of their hand, executives and censors will want the film to have mass appeal. With the movie based on a game, that would mean it’s for kids right? So any mature or violent themes that come from these adult themed games will be cut, giving us a neutered final product.
Seriously, there have been so many movies that could have been great in the past year, but have been ruined so that they can get a PG-13 rating. This is something that really gets on my nerves and leads to my next point.
8. Hollywood has a lack of respect for video game movies
Despite the ridiculous amounts of money the video games industry makes, coupled with the fact that the most successful entertainment releases of the past few years have been Call of duty games, games with a Mature rating, video games are still seen as a kid’s pastime by a lot of the western media, including Hollywood.
In spite of the money it makes and the average gamers’ age being in their 30s, I see talk shows featuring middle aged hosts attacking video games and the industry in a witch hunt like fashion. They make ill informed and ludicrous claims towards an industry they have no intention of trying to understand. “Video games are for children, and no adult themes or situations should ever take place within them”, which is silly considering some of the best games to come out in the past few years have had 15 and 18 age labels on them here in the U.K.
The point I’m trying to make is that if they were to make a Mass Effect film, in all likelihood the movie would have a pg-13 on it. Any real drama, emotion or harsh realities displayed in the games will be omitted in favour of a family friendly sci-fi action film.
7. Inevitable changes to established characters
Returning to the prospect of the film itself, if there was one thing I could pick out from the Mass Effect series to try and define it, it would be its cast of characters and their development as the series went. Joker, Garrus, Liara, Tali, Kaiden and Ashley: They all go through a lot of character defining moments throughout the series, and the player is there for every moment of that.
Hence, these characters have become incredibly recognisable to the gaming and internet community at large. Many would (and have) argued that if Seth Green wasn’t cast as Jeff “Joker” Moreau, then they’d refuse to see the movie at all. With so many memorable voices and faces ingrained in our minds after three games of constant interaction, to see any difference attached to these characters would be jarring.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting the cast of the movie to be the exact same cast of the game, that would be unreasonable, but seeing anyone but Martin Sheen sitting in that chair, staring at that sun while taking a drag of that cigarette just wouldn’t sit right with me. It would just take me out of the movie and I would always be comparing different versions of the characters, be it on a conscious level or not.
6. Whose stories do you tell?
This is something of continuation of the previous point. With so many characters in the series, all with their own complex back stories and character arcs; it’s easy to see how people spend hour upon hour on a single play through. Part of the enjoyment I got from playing these games was from interacting with these characters and finding out what made them tick. I can guarantee you, there will be nowhere near this level of development in a movie.
Even if they do decide to try and focus on one or two of the characters, it would either slow the movie to a snail’s pace. This won’t be a movie where characters fight inner demons, any character development will probably be rushed and heavy handed.
On top of that, not everyone will get to see their favourite characters in action, I’d almost put money on characters like Tali being relegated to the background of the movie despite her enthusiastic fan base.
A Mass Effect movie wouldn’t be an in depth character study, of course not, it would be a brainless action movie. In a movie based around the events of the first game, the three human crew members would most defiantly be the stars while all our favourite aliens would be relegated to cameo duty.
5. Male Shep or Fem Shep?
This might seem like an odd one, but it really is a genuine issue that some people will have with the film. Obviously, if this gets made Shepard will be a man, there is no question there, but for some of us, Commander Shepard is and always has been a woman.
Personally, I much prefer playing the female Shepard, I think Jennifer Hale’s voice acting is a notch above her male equivalent and her interactions with the other characters are just generally more entertaining.
The movie having a male Sheppard isn’t something I would hold against it in earnest, but the fact that a great number of people do play as femshep, coupled with the fact that it is a definable choice in the game is something that the movie just won’t be able to do anything to make up for.
4. It will define a universe not everyone agrees with
Again, this is a continuation of the previous point. Like picking Commander Shepard’s gender, the Mass Effect series is about defining your own galaxy and making your own choices as to the fate of everyone in the galaxy. Every person has a slightly different version of the Mass Effect universe as they play, whether they allow the Rachni queen to survive on Noveria, to if they decided to punch out Khalisah al-Jilani. Even the ending isn’t set in stone with four different endings, each of which has a few variables within that.
There is no defined course of events in the Mass Effect universe and the entire story is open to the player’s interpretation. The Galaxy and end up any number of very different places after the events of the game depending on what the player does.
If the movie is made, it will likely star a male Shepard, he’ll likely be of the solider class, he’ll most likely choose all of the paragon actions, he’ll be romantically involved with Ash and will most likely leave Kaiden to die on Virmire.
In a game with this many branches, any choice the movie makes will alienate an audience member that really wanted to see events turn out a certain way. It will take the fans out of the movie when they so badly wanted a renegade Shepard biotic charge some geth into oblivion. Bottom line is, you can’t please everyone, and with so many divergent possibilities, you’re guaranteed to disappoint everyone at least once.
3. It will be nit picked to death
Like any series with a rabid fan base, chances are the writers or the actors or the set designers are going to get some little detail wrong at some point. And when they do, you can bet that their names will be cursed to the sky by those amongst us that have played through the series till our fingers bled.
Not that it will ruin the movie itself, but with the internet becoming so jaded and rage filled, people are going to hate on it, and continue hating on it given any opportunity. Even the biggest and most anticipated films have the trolls and the complainers trying to kill the joy everyone else want to experience. Mass Effect, being a series with a massive fan base and pretty extensively established lore on top of the three games; it won’t be a stranger to these problems.
2. It will likely be a cartoon
This is a personal grievance above anything else. Films are becoming too reliant on CGI and post effects as they develop and get ever cheaper to produce, I can easily see a Mass Effect movie suffering the same fate. If conventions have taught me anything, it’s that it is perfectly possible for a fan make a real life Turian or Krogan costume that looks pretty damn good. Taking this into consideration, imagine what highly paid professionals could do.
An animatronic Wrex head would be a thing of real beauty, but the cost in realising it will make it extremely unlikely. While I can see the Asari and Quarians getting away with being real actors in costume and make up, the Turians, Krogan and Salarians will almost defiantly be computer generated, and at that point, I end up thinking I might as well just go play the game.
All I can think of when it comes to the visuals of a potential Mass Effect movie is a behind the scenes clip during the making of Revenge of the Sith. I distinctly remember seeing a scene shot on a huge green screen stage where the only real thing on there was a single actor and the vast majority of the rest was CG. I can only hope the film turns out more Galactica than Star Wars prequels.
1. They might make more
So let’s assume they do make the Mass Effect movie, and let’s also assume that all my complains made in this list amount to nothing and the movie turns out to be absolutely god damn fantastic. Where do we go from there? Well the obvious thought in many people’s heads would be ‘Holy crap, a good video game movie. Maybe they’ll make some more like this’.
And thus the flood gates open. With a proven VG movie released and sold, many, many more game movies will get the green light and be fast tracked into production, and you never know, there might be quite a few gems in there that made the whole thing worthwhile.
But, as well as these gems, there will be a lot of films rushed out that will turn out to be utter crap. The thing that pains me about this prospect is that these rushed and crappy films they could make might be the series that have had a lot of potential. They could then find themselves black listed for the foreseeable future. It happened with the Fantastic Four and Daredevil, I’d hate to see it happen with Bioshock or Metal Gear.
And those are ten reasons I don’t want there to be a Mass Effect movie. In spite of my moaning though, I’m not entirely a miserable old fart, there would be some up sides to this movie coming out, good or bad. And just to try and go out on a high, I’ll give you my top three best things to come out of a potential Mass Effect movie:
3. Some great props and costumes
I have seen some great props and costumes made around weapons and characters based on the series. Prop builders and cosplayers really have shown their passion for the series my making some amazing replicas of things from the games.
Getting to see some expertly made firearms and armours from the games realised in real life and being used on the big screen will be very nice to see.
2. The terror of the Reapers
The thing that made the Reapers such effective villains was the inevitability of them. They were so big and so numerous that when they eventually land in Mass Effect 3, I wondered how the hell Shepard was supposed to beat an enemy that just seemed like a force of nature more than anything else.
And that’s how they are portrayed throughout the entire series, as an irresistible force that you can’t fight no matter what. I remember the feeling of dread upon seeing them at the very end of Mass Effect 2 and the effect they had on me as I connected to the universe the games created for me.
Seeing the Reapers in any shape or form on the big screen will be a treat and if the writer who eventually does finish a script knows anything about the games, he’ll make them the defining moment of the whole thing.
1. It gives makes video game movies a more genuine prospect
This is basically me contradicting my final point in my other list, but if a Mass Effect movie were to come out and be anything above Dragonball levels of awful, then it would start to pave the way for video game movies with some genuine passion behind them, rather than being a product of the money making machine.
I suppose my closing thoughts on the matter would be how you want to look at it, and whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. If you think a few bad movies being made is worth a few gems and the eventual embrace of the two entertainment mediums, then more power to you. But personally, I would seat video games and movies at opposite ends of the classroom and make special effort that they grow up without ever so much as a brush of elbows until one eventually keels over and dies.
Article from Gamersyndrome.com