Could Mass Effect Break the Game to Movie Curse?

Platforms: All

Those of you keeping a keen eye on release dates will know that the release of Mass Effect 3 is here. With even more choice, a tighter combat system, and a promise from Bioware that the action will take a truly unpredictable flavour. Hopefully this will mean no more turning to your friend on the couch and saying “we’ll be ambushed in 3-2-1 wahey how did I know that”. The third and potentially final part of the epic space-a-thon promises to be one of the best-selling games of 2012. In fact the franchise thus far has been so successful that Legendary Pictures- a partner of Warner Bros- picked up the rights to adapt the game into a film in May of last year and in doing so, caused every Mass Effect fan to shiver as one.

They have justified reasons in fearing the worst, for a multi-verse of reasons, with the first being that Mark Protosevich is working on the script. The last film he worked on was the surprisingly good Thor, but the last script he wrote on his lonesome was I am Legend; a film noted for its deserted cityscapes and ropey CGI, but definitely not for its script. Therefore the end result depends on whether or not he’s got his Thor hat on when he sits down at the typewriter and we hope so, partly because a Thor hat sounds awesome. The second is this: Star Trek. Now, a lot of Star Trek fans have made the not unreasonable claim that Mass Effect shares a fair few similarities with their favourite bit of space telly/films. For evidence you can see that some of Shepherd’s alternate costumes in Mass Effect 2 look extremely Star Trek:

There’s nothing wrong with similarities between Star Trek and a video game; especially bearing in mind the last decent Star Trek game was Star Trek: Legacy, way back in 2009 (Although a new Star Trek game slated for release in Q3 of this year could potentially change that). However, a release of major film with such similarities is bound to hack off one of the biggest fan bases in the world. Not to mention sparking a whole slew of unending who-would-win-in-a-fight-between-Shepherd-and-Kirk debates. And no sane person wants to see that. Basically, it boils down to this: If we already have Star Trek, do we need a Mass Effect movie?

But hold the comm unit/phone, before we continue with the smorgasbord of negativity, let’s look on the bright side for a few paragraphs. The first bit of good news is this quote from Legendary Pictures’ founder Thomas Tull, who said Mass Effect is “ripe for translation, as it boasts depth, compelling characters and an engaging back story”. We can hear your thoughts from here: PR spin, means nothing. That attitude may historically be well supported but in this case there is potential for it to be wrong; Legendary Pictures is a relatively young company, its first film was only released in 2005. But it’s worth pointing out that that film was Batman Begins and since then Legendary, founded individually by Thomas Tull who raised £500 million from private equity firms, has released 22 films.

And it’s a mighty impressive list with Legendary Pictures having produced The Dark Knight, Inception, Superman Returns, Watchmen, The Hangover and the criminally underrated Beerfest. Of the 22, the only major flop is Jonah Hex, which you should never seek out, not even out of curiosity as it could easily the worst comic book film ever made, and that’s including all three Punisher films. That small blip aside, if there’s any production company you’d trust with Mass Effect then you could do a whole lot worse than Legendary Pictures. Furthermore, if the founder and majority shareholder of the company is throwing his two cents into the debate and declaring his own interest, then that can only be a good thing. The company has also never adapted a video game before which, given the track record of companies that make a habit of such things, can only be a good thing.

So if you look at it from that point of view, there is some hope. However, if Legendary are going to make a decent fist of a Mass Effect movie, they are going to have to learn from the mistakes of those who have tried to make a movie out of a game and failed. Which is everybody. We’re afraid this brings us back to negative territory. But it’s also a chance for us to exercise demons (the demons being money we wasted on cinema tickets that we could have spent on more worthwhile things). So with that, here we go with a hall of game-to-movie shame, lessons to be learned from the past if Mass Effect is to be a success:

Mistake #1
The Mistake: Ignoring the game’s story.
The Main Offender: Tekken, and pretty much every game adaptation ever, apart from maybe Silent Hill.
Why it’s bad:Tekken had a budget of $35million, and made a lot less than that in profit. It only managed to secure a cinema release in the Philippines on a whopping 20 screens, and worldwide DVD sales were poor. Why did it do so badly? All the ingredients are there, there’s a great story of father vs son (two actually; Kazuya vs Heihachi followed by Jin vs Kazuya), a multitude of great characters and relationships (Marshall Law and Paul Phoenix would be a great focal point). Yet the film-makers opted to ignore literally EVERYTHING and fill it in with some bobbins about an alternate future where the corporations have taken over and the people are starving and ZZzzz…Check out the trailer if you don’t believe us. The advantage of turning a game into a film is that you’ve already got an established fan base and directors would do well to not rip away the story that they love. Artistic license is fine, changing gaming history really isn’t. Mass Effect has a great story, and from what we’ve heard from Thomas Tull over at Legendary it sounds like that’s appreciated already, so fingers crossed.

Mistake #2
The Mistake: Having Uwe Boll as Director
The Main Offender: Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead, Far Cry…There’s more but we’re getting quite upset just thinking about them
Why it’s bad: Some directors are born with a gift for extraordinary film making. Scorcese, Coppola, Spielberg and more recently, Chris Nolan. Then there’s Uwe Boll. The man isn’t afraid to face his critics: He took on three of them in boxing matches while filming for Postal, another terrible adaptation. He beat them all, and not surprisingly they still reviewed the film as the steaming pile it was. Boll’s thick skin comes in handy, as he has the reverse-Midas touch. Everything the man goes near turns to awful. Alone in the Dark cost $20million to make and only took a measly $5million of box office. As if that’s not bad enough, it also starred Tara Reid. Somehow a sequel was released straight to DVD despite this, so we’re guessing DVD sales of the first movie must have been slightly more brisk. Far Cry only managed a cinema release in Germany, where it made back barely a third of its $30million budget. Boll has been nominated for a record breaking five Razzie awards, which are basically the Oscars, but for things that are terrible. In 2009 he was nominated for “Worst Screen Couple”, under the nomination of “Uwe Boll and ANY actor, camera or screenplay”. He lost out to Paris Hilton and Christine Lakin for their performance in The Hottie and the Nottie, making it the only time in history when Paris Hilton has been unfairly judged. In the same year, Boll won the “Worst Career Acheivement Award”, being described as “Germany’s answer to Ed Wood”. There’s no other way to put this: DO NOT LEAVE THIS MAN ALONE WITH A SCRIPT, CAMERA OR PUPPET THEATRE OF ANY KIND. We’ve found 35 seconds of footage from Alone in the Dark to prove this. We could have offered you a longer clip, but that would just be cruel...

Mistake #3
The Mistake: Poor Casting
The Main Offender: Resident Evil: Extinction
Why it’s bad: Some video game heroes are truly iconic. Mario, Sonic, Lara Croft, Solid Snake…pick your own. And a great hero needs a great villain. And in the Resident Evil games, that great villain is Albert Wesker; the silver tongued, natty suited uber-bastard responsible for everything bad ever. In the games, he displays such malice, such quiet power that you wouldn’t dare get in his way. Despite the fact he rarely rises from his swivel chair up until Resident Evil 5, where he will kill you over and over in a variety of Matrix inspired ways. Look at our photo. Wait a minute, that’s not Wesker…that looks like a slightly jowly Californian surfer up in court. No wait! It looks like one of the blokes from Life on Mars! That’s because he is one of the blokes from Life on Mars. This gentleman is Jason O’ Mara, who played Sam Tyler in said British drama and, to be fair to him, he’s done some excellent work. But he’s no Wesker. He’s not helped by a clunky script and worse story (much worse than the trailer makes out), but Wesker requires someone with true malice, to whom nothing is a surprise. In our minds, Wesker should have been played by James Marsters, who you’ll know as Spike from Buffy. He has the accent, the presence and by now he’s old enough. Mass Effect producers take note: If you dare to cast Channing Tatum as Shepherd, we’re going to tie you to a chair and make you watch Step Up until you change your mind to Sam Worthington.

So there we are, some concerns, some hope for the future. The good news is this is all far in the future as the rights were only secured last year. There’s plenty of time to get it right. And in the meantime, we have Mass Effect 3 to play. And dear God, it’s looking epic…

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