Artificial Continuum

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In 2008 former Marvel CEO and Spider-man film producer Avi Arad obtained the rights for a Mass Effect film. The idea is an interesting one to say the least. Could Bioware's epic space opera grace the silver screen? It is certainly an easy concept to visualise. Space battles, intense combat, indepth characters, and deep moral dilemas, Mass Effect has all the makings of a great sci-fi film. It even had scantily clad blue women before James Cameron did. But could it work? We have not heard much from the project outside the initial announcmenet, but buzz has picked up again with the release of Bioware's Mass Effect 2. There are many reasons why Mass Effect could work or not work as a film, reasons that will discussed in depth in the following.

Why it could work:

1. Epic Sci-fi

In many ways sci-fi has reached its golden age in cinema. Every year dozens of science fiction films are released under the guise of summer blockbusters and arthouse films. Last year saw the release of such huge science fiction hits as Star Trek, Moon, District 9, and Avatar. One could even consider the new Transformers atrocity a science fiction film. Mass Effect delivers some of the best sci-fi storytelling in any media in decades. It has the escapism and spectacle of Star Wars and Avatar, and the relevance and moral resonance of Star Trek and District 9. Mass Effect also delivers on the idea of heavy action sequences and creative set pieces that could easily be transitioned into a film.

2. Complex and Emotional Characters

The characters in the Mass Effect series are some of the most human and empathetic pixilated cast members of all time. From Garrus struggling with issues of loss and justice, to Wrex struggling to save his dying wardriven people, Mass Effect is filled with memorable characters that have been lacking form such sci-fi films as Avatar. The chemistry between the cast can easily be compared to JJ Abram's Star Trek reboot, which shined primarily due to its excellent casting and group dynamic.

3. Technology

CGI performances have begun to revolutionize what is possible in cinema. With such visionaries as Peter Jackson and James Cameron clearing the way for endless possibilities of digital acting, it is easily concievable that we could see a motion capture Asari or Salarian gracing the screen. The technology has also become cheaper and easier to reach following Avatar's release.

Why it wouldn't work

1. Video Game Movie Trackrecord

Video game movies are notorious for being awful. Whether it be the Mortal Combat or Street Fighter films, or even the Super Mario Bros. atrocity, there has yet to be a truly good video game film. Although it might be possible for Jerry Bruckheimer's (Pirates of the Caribbean) Prince of Persia to change that around, it is still a genre that has yet to be truly realized.

2. Difficulty of Adaptation

Perhaps one of the most obvious flaws in the idea of a Mass Effect film is the idea that each of the games in the series runs about thirty hours in length. Stripping this down to a two and half hour film could be a serious disservice to the characters, and the scale of the plot. Many of the moments that gave the game series its magic could and most likely would be lost in the transition.

3. Lack of Personal Input

The most dangerous prospect of taking on a Mass Effect film would be streamlining the story into one cohesive plot. What Mass Effect and arguably every Bioware game relies upon is player choices and input. Everything from the main characters design to who lives and dies is decided by the player. Commander Shepard could be a man or a woman, a hero or an antihero. A movie could only tell one of these stories, and by doing so could alienate much of the fanbase. It is possible that the movie could be based in the game universe but not involve the main plot, much similar to the Mass Effect book series, yet this would lose the significance of being a film based on the game. People want to see Shepard, but most of all they want to see THEIR Shepard.


Whether a Mass Effect film is a good idea or not is an interesting debate, and an even more difficult gamble for Avi Arad and his team. There is as much potential for sucess as for failure. One things for sure though, Mass Effect has reached a level in story telling that is sure to attract much more attention as the series continues.