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Why Mass Effect would make a good movie – and why it wouldn’t.

This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

The Mass Effect trilogy is widely considered to be one of the greatest video game sagas of this generation. The series has gathered much praise for its highly cinematic narrative; playing Mass Effect can easily be compared to watching a movie, except you are the director. The saga also has an extensive back-story and mythos, easily comparable to the likes of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.

If you’ve played Mass Effect, chances are that you would agree: the game would make an excellent movie. There have been various rumors floating around cyber space for some time, but as of May 2010, it’s official. Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers will be teaming up to make the Mass Effect movie. The release date and actors remain undecided, but a finished script has been confirmed and it has been states that the producers of the Mass Effect games will be working with Legendary as the executive producers of the movie.

So that leaves us with one question: Will Mass Effect be a good movie? Many would be quick to say yes, given that the all 3 games were almost made to be movies. Others however, would say disagree, for various reasons, which we will get to.


So how do we know that Mass Effect would make a good movie?

Well, the original Mass Effect, released in 2007 for the Xbox 360, has been cited by many as one of the most epically cinematic games ever made (rivaled only by the likes of Metal Gear Solid). The title's epic and engaging story has garnered much praise from critics and gamers alike, including aspects such as:

1. Realisticly well written characters, each with their own deeply defined personalities.

 Players can easily relate to any of the characters in Mass Effect, or completely disagree with anything, or everything they say. 

The writers of Mass Effect not only took the time to write their characters with deep and intricate personalites, they went as far as to explain to the last minscule detail, why their character thinks and acts the way he or she does. Characters like these can be handed over to the writers of a movie script on a silver platter.

2. The game is very cinematic in nature.

For anyone palying Mass Effect, the movie is already there — well…to a certain extent. The cutscenes in Mass Effect can almost be cut and pasted onto the big screen.

A strong central storyline serves as one of the main driving factors of Mass Effect, so therefore, cutscenes are utilized to tell much of this story. These many cutscenes are very cinemiatic in nature, being intense, dramatic, and ideal for portayl on the big screen.

The story of the entire Mass Effect series features many memorable moments that have been known to invoke sadness, sympathy, and even anger towards what transpires in front of players. Any good, engaging movie can be said to invoke all of these emotions, so the story — or the direction of Mass Effect to be more specific — is perfectly suited for a film adaptation.

For the movie goers who are unfamiliar with the Mass Effect video games, a movie adaptation will be sure to draw them into the epically expansive universe of the franchise, and with Mass Effect being only the first entry to the trilogy, chances are there will be two more movies to follow. 

This would greatly expand the universe of Mass Effect to a wider audience, far beyond the threshold of gaming.

3. ACTION!

Yes, intense action sequences grace the entirety of Mass Effect. Any movie critic can tell you that action sells.

Starship battles in outer space, intense firefights, Mass Effect has all of that and more. As you can guess, no Sci-Fi movie would be complete without its fare share of action sequences.

While these sequenses are un-scripted in the game, those writing the script would have no problem integrating various action-packed moments into a Mass Effect movie.

Writers have everything they need: the two opposing sides, as well as every detail, including specific locations. Unreal Studios should already know what goes down in Mass Effect, so fans can be sure to count on them to portray these key moments in epic fasion.

4. Mass Effect features various social commentaries.

The story of Mass Effect is open to many different forms of interpretation.

Throughout the plot, references to many forms of social dilemma are made. Social commentaries include allusions to racism, social acceptance, war, poverty, corruption of governing forces, as well as many others.

Fans of the series often debate the overall message that the story may be trying to portray. This in itself shows just how much of an intricate and in depth story that Mass Effect has to offer, one that almost forces the player to ponder their own universe, and will surley inspire movie goers to do so as well.


Okay, so why wouldn't Mass Effect make a good movie? Well, you could draw attention to the fact that video game to movie adaptations have a reputation of being disastrous, but that would be too easy. You could also state how most of them almost abandon their source material, but again, that’s not the number one reason. No, it should be evident to any Mass Effect fan, why Mass Effect would not be ideal for a movie adaptation:

1. The game puts a large emphasis on player choice. 

From the first moments of the original Mass Effect, the players are already deciding key elements of the story, including Commander Shepard’s gender, appearance, and background. Throughout the entire series, the player deciedes much, if not most of the story's outcome. Commander Shepard’s personality, the fate of characters and entire species, even the end of the game. In Mass Effect, the player is always given a choice.

So therein lays the problem. In a Mass Effect movie, there would be no choice.

It has already been confirmed that in the movie, Commander Shepard will be male. On top of that, one can guess that his personality and his decisions will be pre-determined by the script, along with key plot points and the fate of certain characters.

Players are not presented with simple black and white choices in the Mass Effect series, as multiple outcomes turn out to have very different consequences on the plot, which will affect any major point in the remainder of the series involving the descision in question.

Without a doubt, the outcome of these conflicts, as well as many others, have already been decided for the movie, as players can no longer make these choices.

Yes, we expect all of these things, and in the end, have to accept them, but the player's ability to think for themselves and decide what they think is right is one of the main aspects that makes Mass Effect what it is.

While its cinematic nature makes it seem as though it was meant to be a movie, it’s that freedom of choice that suggests otherwise. Only in a video game can something like that be given to us.

2. Optional points in the story make up almost half, if not more of Mass Effect's narrative.

While Mass Effect has one major storyline to guide the player and hold the game together, the game also features many optional side missions. These side missions include cut-off stories that may not pertain to the main conflict of the leading narrative. They also introduce new characters, locations, and other aspects that would be missed entirley if the player were to not take time to explore the world of the game.

While writing the script for the Mass Effect movie, the most important parts of the extensive story will undoubtedly be decided by those writing the script. Like in any other case, the parts that can be considered "most important" are completely opinionated. Chances are, someone is going to be dissapointed that some part of Mass Effect — being certain characters, places, or plot points — were not included in the movie.

One also has to keep in mind the vast amount of expansions released for Mass Effect as downloadable content. In Mass Effect, the downloadable content often inserts itself directly into the main story (playing the DLC is almost like watching a director's cut of a movie, with the deleted scenes put back into place) . Whether or not these extended parts of Mass Effect are worth a spot in the movie is sure to spark a debate.

For those who have played Mass Effect with the added expansions, one cannot ignore the blatant plot holes that become more evident once you realize where the DLC was meant to fit in.

Whether or not these optional side missions and expansions are completed, directly affect the outcome of the story, even going as far to affect the sequels that follow. If these things were to be omitted from the movie, surley the plot holes would have to be written out entirely. That may be completely unnoticeable to movie goers who are unfamiliar with Mass Effect, but to the fans, it may very well stick out like a sore thumb.

3. How faithful will the Mass Effect movie be to its source material?

Whether or not fans are satisifed with their favorite video game's movie adaptation almost always depends on one deciding factor: How faithful was the movie to the actual game? How much of the story, setting, characters, and atmosphere was changed, and how much of it remained fully in tact?

The fact that certain aspects of a video game may not translate as well to the big sreen may be difficult for fans to understand. What works well in a video game may not work very well in a movie. 

We've seen this before in any sort of adaptation. Book to movie, comic/graphic novel to movie; there are always things that have to be adjusted whenever this is done. Mass Effect fans now have to rely on the writers of the movie's script to make those changes for the better, and not tread on what fans have grown to love about Mass Effect the most.

It's understandable if long, cover-based firefights do not drive the narrative of a movie well, or if the order of certain events need to be switched around in order to create a better understanding of the story, but there are always those risky changes that are bound to dissapoint the tired and ture fans of the series.

Major adjustments to characters, key plot points, and overall continuity are very risky and very dangerous changes to be made when adapting any sort of story from one medium to another. Longtime fans of any long standing series almost always see this an abandonment — a failure to what they have grown to love as a story. Mass Effect fans can only hope that their beloved series will not suffer any sort of similar fate.


Now, of course no one can tell exactly how the Mass Effect movie will turn out until it’s released, but like in any other medium, there will always be two opposing arguments as to the chances of its success.

Since the game’s producers are on board, it’s safe to assume that it should be rightfully true to its source material, but of course there are bound be quite a few elitists out there, determined to boycott the movie and deter others to their side at any cost.

Surely a Mass Effect movie will turn out to be epic and entertaining, and in the end, gamers and Mass Effect fans are sure to be in for one hell of a win, just as long as we keep in mind what we are losing.


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