Mass Effect movie a bad idea

Bioware community coordinator Christ Priestly announced this morning that Legendary Pictures has picked up the rights to turn Mass Effect into a movie.

From the forum post:

Legendary Pictures, the studio behind great films such as The Dark Knight, Watchmen, The Hangover and 300 have picked up the rights to make Mass Effect. Legendary Pictures will produce with Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni along with Avi Arad (who has been behind great films like Iron Man, X-Men and Spider-Man). From BioWare Ray Muzyka, Greg Zeschuck and Casey Hudson will serve as executive producers.

“At BioWare, we’ve always thought of Mass Effect as having the depth, emotion and plot twists perfectly suited for an adaptation to a motion picture,” said Casey Hudson, executive producer of the Mass Effect series. “With Avi Arad and Legendary attached, we believe that the Mass Effect movie will be an extraordinary entertainment event that realizes our vision for the franchise and thrills fans.”

Legendary has definitely put out some stellar stuff in recent years, so that’s optomistic. IGN reports that screenwriter Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend, Thor) is being tapped for the script, which is also positive.

However, I’m skeptical. Not because video game movies rarely turn out well – that trend has been slowly dying; Max Payne was at least watchable, and Prince of Persia looks fantastic so far.

I’m skeptical because I’m not sure there’s any real reason for this movie to exist.

Mass Effect is a video game, in every sense of the word. The reason its story and characters are so compelling is because it is a video game – you, the player, have a personal stake in everything that happens in the game, and your choices and actions drive the drama forward.

A movie is opposite of that. It’s passive. You don’t get to interact and you don’t have a personal investment in anything that happens on screen. It’s just there. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies, but Mass Effect is not a movie franchise.

It’s doomed if it tries to retell the same story the game trilogy tells. Shepard is so personal to each individual player – even the captain’s gender is different for different players – that any portrayal of him would instantly alienate 90 percent of the fanbase, because he wouldn’t be the Shepard they know and love.

There’s a chance it could stand on its own, however, if it explores new territory within the universe. And there’s plenty of universe to explore. The First Contact War (a conflict that erupted when humans first ventured outside their solar system and encountered alien life) would be a fascinating story. If the film does that, it can expand on the universe and tell a different kind of story without stepping onto the games’ toes.

The cynic in me suspects this won’t happen, though, because the cynic in me also suspects this is mostly about money. If it is mostly about money, than the producers aren’t going to want to take risks, and exploring new territory is always risky, especially with a genre of film that typically doesn’t do too well in the box office.

In addition to all that, a Mass Effect movie would have to be Oscar-nominee material to stand up to the incredible experience provided by the games. It’s possible, I suppose, but the cynic suggests it’s about as likely as a Jack Frost building a summer home in the ninth circle of hell.

I hope I’m wrong. I really do. Done well, this could be a great movie. But due to the nature of the property and the high level of quality the games have, the margin for error is quite small.

Think I’m full of it? Have something to add? Leave a comment and let us know what you’re take on the matter is.

Jerod Jarvis is an independent gaming journalist and founder of Duality Games. He maintains gaming columns for The Washington Times Communities and for The Outpost. When not blogging madly about games, he freelances for the Spokesman-Review in his hometown of Spokane, Washington and attends school at Whitworth University. Check out his presence on Facebook and Twitter to stay up on Duality Games updates and the inside scoop on the gaming news you care about.

About Jerod Jarvis

Jerod is a passionate gamer who loves looking beneath the surface of entertainment to examine the values and messages it seeks to convey. Currently playing League of Legends, FTL, Minecraft, and The Ship.