Five Ways To Make The Mass Effect Film Not Suck

by Kyle Hilliard on Oct 26, 2012 at 02:21 PM

Like most video game movies, a film adaption of the Mass Effect series has been “in the works” for some time. A few days ago, we got a tiny little nibble of information about the state of the film. It has a new writer who is a fan of Mass Effect, and Casey Hudson, the director of the Mass Effect games, is an executive producer.

We wrote about how to make sure an Assassin’s Creed movie wouldn’t be terrible earlier this week, and now it’s time to set our sights on the Mass Effect movie.

1 – Characters Over Everything Else
Even more important than the overall story (which is still admittedly excellent) are the characters. Reapers are bad and they are going to destroy everything is an easy enough premise to establish. What keeps you interested though, are the individual plights of each character. More time needs to be spent on character development than plot development.

2 – Don’t Follow Shepard
Every single Shepard that has been created belongs to the player that created him or her. There is no way to emulate the compassion players feel for their created avatars in a film scenario. Mass Effect is an interesting universe where new stories can be found or created that run alongside Shepard’s journey, and these can be just as interesting as the ones experienced in the games. Shepard’s story can be referenced, and characters can revere Shepard and what he or she is doing (or did), but the movie should not be about him or her. That story has already been expertly told.

3 – Make-Up Over Special Effects
It’s difficult to empathize with a digital character that has been placed into a real world. It is not difficult, however, to empathize with a puppet character placed into a real world. Who feels more real? Kermit the frog or the film version of Scooby-Doo? Mass Effect has a huge cast of bizarre aliens with strange faces and bodies, and if you lean too hard on creating them with CGI, it will heavily diminish their on-screen presence. I don’t know much about film-making, but I understand that working with puppets is much more difficult that hiring a team of animators to fix it all in post-production. It will be worth it though in the end. You may be surprised to learn that us humans can quite easily tell the difference between things that are real, and things that are digitally animated.

4 – Don't Make It An Action Movie
Mass Effect has action in it, and the film version should have action sequences, but the thing you should be thinking about when you leave the theater are the characters, not the awesome explosions. The recent film Looper is a good example. A science-fiction story with engaging action sequences that is all in service of framing the relationships of the characters. That is what Mass Effect needs to be.

5 – Rein It All In
Mass Effect may be a story about a galaxy-effecting alien menace terrorizing all known life, but that doesn’t mean that a Mass Effect movie should be broad with a wide focus. Subtlety is important. A Mass Effect movie should focus on a small group of characters and how they are affected by the state of the universe. In the same way a good zombie movie isn’t about the zombies, a good Mass Effect movie shouldn’t be about the threat. The threat sets up the premise, and the film should be an examination on how people are affected by that threat, how they are fighting against it, and how it has changed them.

That’s how I feel about it, anyway. How do you feel about it?