How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?
I actually posted this over on BSN, but it occurs to me I'm more likely to get a half way intelligent discussion over here.
OK, so first off a caveat: While I'd much rather they not just straight-up adapt the games, but come up with an original story set in the ME universe. Maybe as a prequel (First Contact War seems trite, but still a viable, if unoriginal possibility) or a interquel (is that a word?) like Paragon Lost or a story running parallel with the games. Don't see it happening though. I'd also prefer a femShep movie. Don't see that happening neither.
So, I can't help but wonder, if one *had* to make the story of ME1 into a 2 hour movie format, what would be the best way to go about it? What would need to be cut? What would need expanding on? Which characters need to stay and which need to go? Nevermind so much which "decisions" they'll make, since it's probably a safe bet that they'll go with the basic premise of a broShep/soldier/Paragade.
So yeah, here's my thinking: -
The basic problem here is numbers. Too many characters across three games and so many of them have such minor roles that some just have to go, and/or have their role altered/reassigned.
So, which of our favourite characters are Glorfindel and which are Arwen warrior princess? Which are to be as indespensible as Sir Lancelot and which as destined for obscurity as Sir Not Appearing In This Film? Which missions are to be expanded into the Battle of Helms Deep, or go the way of the Scorching of the Shire? (Yes, I know I'm overusing the LotR references, but it the only comparable adaptation I'm familiar with!)
- Ash & Kaiden:The first thing that leaps to mind is to combine Ash & Kaiden into a single character, who is doomed to a one-way trip to Virmire. Nothing against either character, but their impact on the second & third games was minimal. Maybe the romance should start with this character, making the loss more meaningful and personal? Of course that makes Liara the rebound...
- Liara: So, if Liara is to be the love interest, then she needs to appear a *lot* sooner in the plot. Maybe (and believe me, it pains me to say it) merge her character role with Tali's and have her be the one introduced on the Citadel. That way you can introduce her and Wrex at the same time, establish that she found "something" while on a dig and is on the run from the Geth & Saren's agents. Bonus points for setting up the Shadow Broker connection extra early.
- Wrex: Well, if it ain't broke, right? You just gotta have Wrex. Wrex is Wrex! He shoots things and and makes with the funny one liners. Moving on...
- Garrus: Now don't get me wrong, Garrus ain't broke either, but let's be honest for a sec. ME1 Garrus doesn't have much depth or anything to do besides get high strung over things that have little to do with the thrust of the narrative. He doesn't even calibrate things! While I'd certainly include him in a supporting role/cameo during the early Citadel "hunt for evidence" scenes, I think it's best he wait it out until film two where he can really be the Garrus we love. Tough, but fair.
- Tali: Again, tough, but like garrus she just just doesn't have as much to do after her initial introduction. Plus, as previously stated, Liara needs that extra screen time!
- Supporting Characters: Bit of a mixed bag this lot. Most can probably get by as glorified extras (Adams, Presley, Chakwas) but others like Joker Udina, Anderson and Hackett pretty much need to stay as they are. Contunuing the Lotr theme, these guys are the White Council. No prizes for guessing which one is Saruman!
- The Villains: There's really only three in the game (Saren, Benezia & Soveriegn) and they pretty much all need to stay as they are. Beneziais the only one that *could* be cut, but if anything I'd say her screen time needs to be increased. With Liara's presence increased, her personal stake in the mission must follow suit. Saren's threat is established fairly early on, but in the game Benezia is really only there to dump exposition and summerily killed. The mystery of why she went bad and her internal stuggle with indoctrintion certainly lends itself to a more fleshed out character arc.
This is the really tricky part. So many missions. So many hour spent trying to unwedge the Mako from a rocky crevase and no way in hell that they can all fit into the movie. So let's just stick to the main missions: Eden Prime, Therum, Feros, Novaria, Virmire & Ilos. But first....
- Prologue: Yup, one of these. They may not be able to get Cate Blanchett or Iam Holm to narrate it, but somwhere between the studio logos and the introduction of our characters, the audence needs to be (very quickly!) brought up to speed on what's going on.
The discovery on Mars. Protheans. Element Zero. The mass relays. Biotics. The First Contact War. The Citadel races. All of it needs at least a cursory primer just so people aren't busy asking themselves how come some characters fling blue energy around and what's the deal with the guys with two jaws?
- Shepard's Introduction: While it's certainly a viable option to just dump this character on the audience and let them get to know the protagonist on the fly. I like the idea of introducing the world through Shepard's eyes. Maybe even steal that bit from the start of 'Serenity' where a history lesson becomes a dream which becomes a holo-recording. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, the viewer is organically introduced into the world and (arguably) the protagonist without feeling like they're having to do homework.
In this instance the analogy would be Shepard giving the ME "how we got here" history lesson....as part of one of his signature speeches to a bunch of fellow marines on Elysium/Torfan/Akuze (doesn't matter which.) Cut to the battle...and freeze the recording as Udina, Anderson & Hackett discuss this possible Spectre candidate...
- Eden Prime: This bit is important but it needs to happen pretty fast. Indeed, I'd be inclined to have the attack happen *after* Normandy arrives. This allows Nihlus more time to be separated and subsequently killed by Saren. So he's gone to supervise moving the beacon while Shepard's squad stands guard at the Normandy. The attack hits and they make their way to the dig site only to find Nihlus dead and the site empty.
This time the witness to Saren's betrayl (since it can't credibly be Shepard himself) can be the gibbering wreck that is Manuel. Crazy ranting. Fan service foreshadowing. "Thoughts the colour of oily shadows" and all that jazz. An exciting action sequence later (on a speeding cargo train perhaps?) and they have the beacon, but no Saren. Then of course fizzle, crash, VISION-OF-DOOM, and beacon-explode-inna-face. Cut to black.
- The Citadel: This section pretty much as it is in-game. Just less loosing at Quazar, getting nookie with the consort or long elevtor rides. It's a pretty straight-forward:-
> Hey Garrus who I have just met, howz it going?
> It sucks, Saren is a slippery customer.
> No leads?
> Just some Krogan we have down at the Precinct. Let's go see him!
> Hey Wrex who I have just met, howz it going?
> Great except there's some alien chick with dirt on Saren the Shadow Broker hired me to "rescue" but she's hiding out in a nightclub and these guys won't let me shoot up the joint to go get her.
> How about we all go get her? Garrus?
<Insert Exciting Nightclub Shootout>
> Fear not alien chick, I have come to rescue you!
Yes, this is where Liara shows up (see above!) Then it's off the the council with her evidence, something about Benezia. Spectrehood. Normandy. (Garrus stays a cop till the sequel) and off we go!
- Feros & Noveria:This is where introducing Liara early beings to pay off. For one thing, no need for Therum, so that's straight out the airlock. That leaves us with Feros, Noveria & Virmire. Since the purpose of these three is to piece together what Saren is up to, they can basically be combined Fero & Noveria into just mission.
So let's just call it Noveria, a colony under attack by the Geth (no time for corporate shenanigans!) Shepard and co must get up to the Peak 15 facility where Benezia is hold up. There we find the the Thorian being studied by Cerberus (ah-ha! had to introduce them somewhere and there's ain't no time for dead Admirals!) The rachni plot is also out since again, it goes nowhere. the rachni
themselves may still appear of scary monsters (more Cerberus projects?!) to get shot at and die,
but that's it.
Here, Benezia has been given to the overgrown turnip-squid instead of Shiala. <insert mother-daughter drama scene> Thorian (and rachni queen?) is killed by neutron bombardment. Benezia gives Shepard the cipher and then dies. Goodbye little wing.
- Virmire: Again, Liara can save us some time by already having the Mu Relay co-ordinates from that prothean dig site she escaped from (without getting pointlessly trapped) before the Geth tried to kill her and Saren's agents chased her to the Citadel. This can be mentioned early on, but it's significance won't be apparant till later as the whole Saren evidence thing pushed if off to the side. A chekhov's gun if you will.
So basically this is the part of the film where it all goes tits up and our hero gets knocked on his arse, just so he can pick himself up again later. Not sure if there's room for the genophage discussion here, but there probably should be some Wrex'age at some point here.
Either way, Shep and co fight their way into Saren's base, finds beacon #2, gets filled with esoteric dread by Soverign. The mission goes bad and they loose Lt. Ashley Alenko (see above) when the base goes boom.
- From the Citadel to Ilos and Back Again: Not alot to say here. Pretty much as in-game. Normandy in lockdown. Council not buying the whole <finger-quotes> Reaper </finger-quotes>story. Anderson buys it and unlocks the Normandy by putting his fist upside Udina's face. Normandy runaway <insert Terminator rip-off sex scene> and the landing on Ilos.
At this point I'd say they find Vigil almost straight off since a pitched battle, followed by a long conversation followed by a mad dash would rather spoil the momentum in a film. So it's long exposition scene--including flashback/footage of Prothean cycle--then the mad-dash, Blues Brothers scale car Mako chase to the conduit.
Again, pretty much as in-game here. The save the council/not save the council decision can be safely side-stepped by the Alliance fleet showing up in time to save the DA's blue bacon (no input from Shepard required.) Saren suicide. Morphs into Marauder Sheilds Sr. <exciting fight scene> Soverign go boom. Shepard death fake-out. Queue heroic moment! Quick denouement. Normandy flies off into the sunset. Roll Credits.
- Optional Post Credit Stinger: <Shot of Collector General>
Harbinger: Nazara has failed. We will find another way. Assuming control...
So those are my rough ideas, feel free to share yours! Would you lay seeds for the sequels or presume they'll never get a green light? Do you think Tali should be kept instead of Liara? Garrus instead of Wrex? Would you keep the Rachni queen but ditch the Thorian? And just who the hell is the Tom Bombadill bloke anyway!?
Remember, it's just a fun thought experiment on how to make the best you can within prescribed limitations.