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Old April 29 2013, 04:19 AM   #1
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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: -

Characters

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.
Structure

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?
    > OK!
    <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.
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Old April 29 2013, 04:21 AM   #2
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

I'd just hand it over to J. J. Abrams. Everything would work itself out.
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Old April 29 2013, 04:29 AM   #3
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

Kelthaz wrote: View Post
I'd just hand it over to J. J. Abrams. Everything would work itself out.
Mass Effect has enough lens flares as it is.
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Old April 29 2013, 06:06 AM   #4
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

I would come up with a new story.
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Old April 29 2013, 09:12 AM   #5
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

Well...

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Old April 29 2013, 10:39 AM   #6
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

I seem to be in the distinct minority in that I would actually prefer a straight adaptation of the trilogy of games - it's a great story, and a new adaptation would give them the chance to put that f*cking ending right!

I'm pretty sure that they've already confirmed that the movie(s) will feature MaleShep. A shame, I prefer FemShep too.

Whilst they've only confirmed one movie, it's a no-brainer that they'll be hoping to tell the trilogy story over subsequent films too. If they do go down this route then the one thing I'm expecting is that they strip out a lot of ME2. It eliminates a number of superfluous characters and it removes a large chunk of what is essentially not that important plot. The only characters that are a real must from ME2 are Mordin, and possibly Legion. You could get away without including the rest.

It really wouldn't surprise me if they split the first, some elements of the second, and third games across a trilogy of movies. The problem with that model is where to finish the first movie. An obvious break would be to end the movie on Virmire. The question is whether or not they'd be bold enough to go with such a downbeat ending. Plus you're not solving the central problem posed in the story - stopping Saren.

Re the characters, I'd be disappointed if they morphed Kaidan/Ash into a single character, although it would get around the Virmire problem (people are going to moan whoever the movie kills off). TBF, I could see them doing that. Essentially after the Virmire decision those two characters are interchangeable anyway. Only question would be which one the movie went with - Kaidan to play up the 'buddy' role with Shep (although do they need that with Garrus onboard?), or Ash to play up the love triangle with Liara (although you could do that with Miranda if she turns up). Not sure. Given that one of the most important elements of the ME series for me has always been the characters, almost if not AS much as the trilogy's plot, then I'm reluctant to see them messing about too much with the characters.

I think at a bear minimum they'll have Liara (for LI purposes), Garrus and Wrex (for later Genophage purposes), Tali (for Rannoch purposes) and one of the Virmire two. Of the supporting characters, Anderson and Joker would be the big two that you'd have to have. The rest, Chakwas, Pressley, Adams etc, you could probably get away with almost cameos. Fans would pick up on the namechecks, whilst to casual viewers it would mean nothing but wouldn't take up much screentime.

I think whichever way they go they're going to have to just stick to the absolute core missions from the game. Even that will be too much, but there won't be any scope to really take much from the wider DLC. For the first movie, that won't be so much of a problem, but later on it's a shame that we'll likely not see anything from LoTSB. I guess they'll have to take a few things from the third game's DLC, particularly From Ashes and Leviathan though.

I'll be interested to see which way they go with a third movie if it's based on the final game. Particularly the ending. I'd bet my last $$$ on them going with high EMS destroy. Let's face it, after three movies there's no way they'll go with REFUSE. Likewise, I just don't see CONTROL being there either. Doesn't really seem epic enough as an ending. Sure, Shep dies, but that's it. There's no real downside beyond that. Destroy has the moral implications in that you're sacrificing EDI and the Geth. SYNTHESIS, while I abhore it, makes more sense than Control as the ending to a trilogy of movies. It's a fundamental shakeup of the workings of the entire galactic civilization, and the implications that that would bring. Also the moral dubiousness of actually making that choice on behalf of all other life in the galaxy. Given the general polarized reaction to DESTROY and SYNTHESIS, I'd be staggered if they went with SYNTHESIS. It would seem to have DESTROY written all over it.
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Old April 29 2013, 10:59 AM   #7
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

If you were to ask me what kind of a Mass Effect movie I'd make, I'd follow these basic principles.

1. No Shepard. It's not because I don't think Shepard is an interesting character, but mostly that I wouldn't want to tell folks who love playing the games that this is how Shepard should behave and act. Last thing I'd ever want to do is pull another "Revan is male and is light side in canon". Shepard should belong to the players.

2. That being said, this would also mean the story's characters will probably consist of entirely new characters if not all of them. I like the idea of characters doing important things in the universe that don't revolve around the main characters from the game. Gives the universe a sense of competence and awareness you don't normally see in other science fiction works. That's not to say that classic characters wouldn't appear, just that they wouldn't be treated as the thing that ends up saving the day for everyone.

3. So far things are sounding like Paragon Lost, but this is where it gets different. I'd Shoot for an alien lead. This is without a doubt the hardest thing to pull off and sell, but like point number 2, I'd like a Mass Effect story to be a lot more about the universe rather than another human story. There are plenty of human like elements and behaviors in almost every race in the game that people can identify and relate to.

4. Screw Earth. Screw Earth HARD. There's really no reason why BioWare had to fall back on it like they did in ME3 except to make a gimmicky story line that's been used more times than I care to count in other works of science fiction.

As you can probably summarize with all these points, my overall approach would be to focus on what makes the Mass Effect universe unique and dive right into it. No human lead or a human centered story line. Doesn't mean humans won't be involved or play a major role in the story, it just won't be a "humanity saves the day!" or "humans vs. aliens" story.

Oh, one other thing. If this is not going to be a side story in the game and we're free to move around a bit with the story,

5. There will be no Catalyst and there will be no Crucible. The true purpose behind the Reapers' cycle of genocide is going to be different and there will be no outside force that controls them. Their reasons will be their own so they will remain the threat. I've come up with some ideas on why they're doing the things they're doing, and I think in the hands of a good writer, it can work a lot better than what we got in ME3.

Again, the no human lead will probably kill this pitch the moment it's mentioned, but that is how I would approach making a Mass Effect movie.
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Old April 29 2013, 11:10 AM   #8
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

Jeyl wrote: View Post
1. No Shepard. It's not because I don't think Shepard is an interesting character, but mostly that I wouldn't want to tell folks who love playing the games that this is how Shepard should behave and act. Last thing I'd ever want to do is pull another "Revan is male and is light side in canon". Shepard should belong to the players.
To be fair, to a certain degree this is what happened in ME3 anyway, with all the AD, and THAT ending.

Definitely concur with no Starbrat/Crucible though. If they went down that route I wonder if they'd continue to build up the "We can't win conventionally" message throughout, thus necessitating a different deus ex machina plot device.....
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Old April 29 2013, 11:13 AM   #9
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

Find a story to tell pre-Shepard. Turian war, Batarians, Humans proving themselves. There's plenty to chose from.

By ME1 Earth is on the brink of becoming a Council Member, something the Volus and the Elcor never managed. Must be a few good tales on how we rose so fast.
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Old April 29 2013, 11:40 AM   #10
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

Jeyl wrote: View Post
If you were to ask me what kind of a Mass Effect movie I'd make, I'd follow these basic principles.

1. No Shepard. It's not because I don't think Shepard is an interesting character, but mostly that I wouldn't want to tell folks who love playing the games that this is how Shepard should behave and act. Last thing I'd ever want to do is pull another "Revan is male and is light side in canon". Shepard should belong to the players.

2. That being said, this would also mean the story's characters will probably consist of entirely new characters if not all of them. I like the idea of characters doing important things in the universe that don't revolve around the main characters from the game. Gives the universe a sense of competence and awareness you don't normally see in other science fiction works. That's not to say that classic characters wouldn't appear, just that they wouldn't be treated as the thing that ends up saving the day for everyone.

3. So far things are sounding like Paragon Lost, but this is where it gets different. I'd Shoot for an alien lead. This is without a doubt the hardest thing to pull off and sell, but like point number 2, I'd like a Mass Effect story to be a lot more about the universe rather than another human story. There are plenty of human like elements and behaviors in almost every race in the game that people can identify and relate to.

4. Screw Earth. Screw Earth HARD. There's really no reason why BioWare had to fall back on it like they did in ME3 except to make a gimmicky story line that's been used more times than I care to count in other works of science fiction.

As you can probably summarize with all these points, my overall approach would be to focus on what makes the Mass Effect universe unique and dive right into it. No human lead or a human centered story line. Doesn't mean humans won't be involved or play a major role in the story, it just won't be a "humanity saves the day!" or "humans vs. aliens" story.

Oh, one other thing. If this is not going to be a side story in the game and we're free to move around a bit with the story,

5. There will be no Catalyst and there will be no Crucible. The true purpose behind the Reapers' cycle of genocide is going to be different and there will be no outside force that controls them. Their reasons will be their own so they will remain the threat. I've come up with some ideas on why they're doing the things they're doing, and I think in the hands of a good writer, it can work a lot better than what we got in ME3.

Again, the no human lead will probably kill this pitch the moment it's mentioned, but that is how I would approach making a Mass Effect movie.
OK, but what if you HAD to adapt the actual plot, from the actual games. Shepard not optional. How would you go about it?

Like I said, I'd rather they not do it either, but let's just suspend our distaste and have some fun batting around some ideas!
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Old April 29 2013, 11:43 AM   #11
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

The first Mass Effect game is perfect for a movie, you just have to trim it down. Get rid of Garus and Tali, Benezia, Therum, Fero and Virmire, and you get a perfectly serviceable plot.

There's really no point in doing a movie if it's not about Shepard and his adventures, as the Mass Effect universe is not, in itself, distinctive enough to draw in the crowds. No, I don't see Hollywood investing millions of dollars on a story with no recognizable human elements and only a tangential connection to the game.
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Old April 29 2013, 04:37 PM   #12
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

The game is so cinematic i am not sure people would even care for a movie.
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Old April 29 2013, 05:12 PM   #13
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

The Mirrorball Man wrote: View Post
There's really no point in doing a movie if it's not about Shepard and his adventures, as the Mass Effect universe is not, in itself, distinctive enough to draw in the crowds.
That didn't take long.

While I certainly understand the appeal of having Shepard be the main character the story, the fact remains that Shepard wasn't really much of a character at all in the games. Sure, she made decisions based on choices, but there was never really a story arc that gave her a sense that she had changed as a character. Once she commits to stopping the Reapers, that's all there is to her till the very end.

This is why other characters in Mass Effect work way better than Shepard does because unlike Shepard, they have Arcs. They have character development. They do change their stances. Shepard just isn't that much of a character.
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Old April 29 2013, 05:22 PM   #14
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

You have to have Garrus and Tali in ME1 - even if only as minor characters after their into - for their introduction in ME2 to make sense, not to mention the everything to do with Tali's trial. Otherwise you'd have to completely rewrite their parts. And 5 supporting characters really isn't that many. 3 even - Liara, Wrex, and Ashley Alenko (a shame but it makes sense and the VS role can be shuffled on to others in ME2 and ME3), with Garrus and Tali being minors like Joker, Anderson and Udina until they get bigger roles in 2.

And there's no way they won't have the movie be about Shepard or prominently feature humanity.

But yeah, ME1 in itself would make a great movie.

The much harder one would be 2, since the "main plot" is actually very basic and much of the game has to do with the sideplots of the 12 squaddies - which is great, but doesn't lend itself easily to a film. Of the 12 the easiest to cut would be Jacob, Kasumi, Zaeed, Samara, Jack, Grunt, and Thane. All of whom really pain me (welll... except Jacob...), but it probably has to be done. Maybe cameos as part of a 10 minute "recruiting people" section and background characters after that? If Legion didn't have a critical role in resolving the Geth/Quarian conflict he could easily be cut too. Keeping that peaceful resolution would also up the drama with the likely Destroy ending.

So that leaves Miranda and Mordin who need proper roles and introductions, plus Legion without a rewrite. Up Tali and Garrus to fairly major characters along with Joker and intro EDI in a support role and you're good to go in terms of characters. In terms of plot, cut Ilium entirely (I know... it sucks), focus on Omega and Tuchanka (Wrex returns plus Mordin's genophage drama). Cut Freedom's Progress, move Veetor to Horizon. Cut Haestrom, bring Tali in to Horizon to pick up Veetor after Shep and company have their initial confrontation with the Collectors. Give Tali the VS "Why, Shepard?" speech, but tone it down and she's convinced to come along on Normandy. ETA: Or, really, just use her speech from Freedom's Progress. Pretty much all the DLC will probably have to go?

One problem with cutting Ilium and the Shadow Broker: where does Liara come in?

I can be totally convinced to include more ME2 squaddies though, I love them all. (Although, Jacob...)
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Old April 29 2013, 05:42 PM   #15
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Re: How would you adapt Mass Effect into a movie?

Jeyl wrote: View Post
While I certainly understand the appeal of having Shepard be the main character the story, the fact remains that Shepard wasn't really much of a character at all in the games. Sure, she made decisions based on choices, but there was never really a story arc that gave her a sense that she had changed as a character. Once she commits to stopping the Reapers, that's all there is to her till the very end.

This is why other characters in Mass Effect work way better than Shepard does because unlike Shepard, they have Arcs. They have character development. They do change their stances. Shepard just isn't that much of a character.
Yeah, see, I'm working under the bold assumption that a Mass Effect movie would actually have a script, and not just be some guy's playthrough. Shepard could have just as much character development as needed.
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