Why the Mass Effect Movie Will Probably Suck

Posted: September 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“So I guess hav­ing a strong female lead isn’t cool in Sci Fi. We bet­ter inform Ellen Rip­ley and Honor Harrington.”

When Will Hollywood Learn?

Details on the upcoming Mass Effect film (I hesitate to call it a “motion picture event” as so many Hollywood types like to call their moviefilms) have begun popping up of late (including our own article, some of which has been refuted by Legendary Pictures’ recent Q&A). Now there are certain details that certain sections of the Mass Effect fanbase will not take kindly to; my purpose isn’t to point out those things. My mission here is to point out why this film, even so early on, has a minute chance of being worth a damn.

First, let’s consider the 800-pound gorilla in the room of any videogame-to-film adaptation – there hasn’t yet been a decent videogame movie.  Starting with Super Mario Bros., which seemed to have taken the plumber’s consumption of mushrooms to heart, videogame adaptations have been relentlessly bad. Some have been enjoyably bad, like Street Fighter (Raul Julia was clearly having a great time as Bison) and Mortal Kombat, which remains a guilty pleasure. Then there have been the irredeemably bad such as Wing Commander and Doom, and even the laughably bad but financially successful Resident Evil series. Probably the best videogame movie so far has been Silent Hill, which was visually and aurally perfect but ruined by changing the game’s Lovecraftian cult to a fundamentalist Christian sect that was ripped right out of one of Stephen King’s stories, not to mention hiring Sean Bean and completely wasting his talents. Prince of Persia couldn’t even be saved by having the series’ creator writing the script, turning an exciting, action and parkour-filled romp into a flaccid bore of a film that mostly involved wandering the desert for forty years. And this, of course, is without mentioning Uwe Boll’s oevure (Uweure?) which can, and has, filled entire pages.

Lest we forget.

So for starters, we have that working against the Mass Effect movie. In addition, you have the removal of player choice. Of course, this is in a series where your choices can have far-reaching and nerve-wracking effects (Virmire, anyone?). We’ve all played our own unique Commander Shepards. Male and female, paragon and renegade, reporter punchers and non-punchers, and so on. So those of us who played and enjoyed the Mass Effect series are expected to sit back and enjoy someone else’s interpretation? Of course not. We’re going to be yelling at the screen, chucking our five-dollar sodas and saying “NO! NO! THAT’S NOT HOW MY SHEPARD ACTS! MY SHEPARD HAS HAIR, DAMMIT!” and of course, “YOU SAVED THAT WIENER KAIDAN?”

Because in Mass Effect, who you're dating is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

While this may seem like an overreaction, it’s in fact the reaction we should have. BioWare spent a lot of time making sure we care about and identify with our personal Commander Shepard. One of the hallmarks of the Western RPG is the ability to define your character through their actions, and BioWare has gotten damned good at this over the years. So, are we ready to hand over our class, gender, alignment and – probably most dangerous of all – love interest choices to someone else?

Now, the Mass Effect novels (at least the one I read) have actually done a good job of existing outside the game’s storyline (acting effectively as prequels, the first one covering a young Anderson’s storyline). I guess I don’t see why the film can’t take a similar route, exploring the rich, cool, richly cool universe BioWare has created without performing a storyline copypaste. And if you think there’s no precedent for a BioWare game being given a terrible adaptation by a bad writer…oho, are you wrong. Oh, are you so freakin’ wrong.

This actually goes back to the novelizations of BioWare’s first RPGs, the Baldur’s Gate games. Like many Dungeons and Dragons properties of the time, it was given a novelization. But, rather than hand the job to someone like R.A. Salvatore (i.e. someone with genuine talent), it was given to TSR’s Forgotten Realms novel editor Philip Athans, proving the old adage that editors should not write (I kid! – I love ya Marty, Dec, Pascal). And what does he do with this tale of the sheltered lad/lass from Candlekeep, and his merry band of misfits? Oh, ’tis a sad tale. The blank-slate whelp hero becomes a sociopathic (and experienced) mercenary. Yeah, that’s what happened in the ’90s. Your editor spends too much time reading Youngblood comics and he’s like, “Screw this well-crafted plot and characters! Our hero’s gotta be a pouch-wearin’, shoulder-padded badass!”

"I didn't expect it to be THAT bad. SHEPARD."

I quote one of the best, and most damning reviews of the novel from Amazon:

What we have here is a very poor novel which takes place in a world where the places have the same names as that in Baldur’s Gate, and the characters do, but nothing else is even the same.

Even after that abominable embarrassment, there managed to be an even worse sequel (which is quite funny, considering how great a sequel Baldur’s Gate II was as a game.). What did Imoen ever do to you, Athans? And there’s a lesson in that, too. Even if the movie sucks, it’s probably gonna make a buttload of money and there will be a sequel which will swirl the carefully crafted setting of the game even further down the cinematic toilet. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be good to make money – Resident Evil proves this, Twilight proves it, Avatar proves it.

Heck, I’d almost rather see it not be taken seriously, as generic fratboy Shepard flies his intergalactic Delta House Normandy around the Galaxy, shootin’ stuff, fistbumping his broheims and scoring with alien chicks. See, that would be so completely awful that it would actually be worth seeing.

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Comments
  1. dakan45 says:

    Listen pal, mass effect story is TERRIBLE.

    A prequel mass effect might be better, what can you do? bioware has run out of ideas and recycle their cliches, thats all.

    • I would say that Mass Effect’s story is fairly unoriginal and the “Reapers” are awfully named, but you can’t use a sweeping descriptor like “terrible” without justification.

      • Chad M. says:

        Mass Effect actually has a pretty good story- but it’s not the plot that makes it good, it’s the characters and their personalities. Mass Effect basically takes every Space Opera cliche and spins it into an enjoyable and engaging universe with the player’s choices at the core of the experience.

        Yeah, Bioware falls back on a lot of story devices they’ve been using since Baldur’s Gate, but it’s not so much about the story’s events themselves- it’s how they’re told.

      • dakan45 says:

        Well, it has poor direction and it tells you what will happen next rather how it will happen. The “reapers” were something i facepalmed, i think the dialogues are pretty meh the “spectres” are not better than the jedi in kotor.

        Me2 improved greatly over everything, heh heh, they even rebooted the bad guys.

        To be honest the game has too much blah blah rather putting some cutscens to do the work, you have to hear everything from npcs, especailly the part that i spented 8 minutes pointing my gun at a reaper asking him questions about his masterplan and him answering, was completly ridicculous.

        Not to mention “you cant understand why we doing this”

        Whats up bioware? developing the story as we go?

        The characters had way too much to say, a little less conversation would have been better.

        In the end, mass effect has a nice universe, alien races and props but everything that happens in it is rather “un epic”

        Take a look at star trek, the story behind it alone can make a better story not mentioning the episodes that had an original story and some sci fi, you know defining human condition.

        Mass effect has the looks but not the substance and it constantly raising questions rather answering them.

        So i would say, the plot is pretty undeveloped a prequel about how humans found the relay and the war with the aliens would have been more interesting than hunting something that has destroyed everything many times before and wont tell you why they do it, way i see it, its a dumb plot device and pretty cliche and lacks climax.

        Not to mention the brainwashed spectre, i mean come on!!!

        To be honest the story is told in a terrible way, its “told” as you said, id very much prefer cutscenes showing me what happen than looking at a npc open and closing his mouth and read lines and lines of text.

  2. Johnny says:

    Bravo Chad M. You are right, it’s how the story is told. People here need to read a book, every story has been told. Look at Stephen King, his plots are the worst ever – a killer car? But it’s how he writes is what people love about him.

  3. Martin Watts says:

    Oh lord, this is one of the funniest articles I’ve read in a long time, I tip my hat to you, almightily Morelock!

  4. Nick says:

    @dakan45, if you hadn’t noticed there’s three games in the Mass Effect series and only two of them out. I’m thinking that might be why there’s a couple quesitons in the air. A trilogy doesn’t end at the second installment…

  5. Melkren says:

    @Nick you sir took the words right out of my mouth

    @dakan45 it’s an rpg, hence all of the dialogue, if you want a game full of cutscenes play something else

  6. Truth says:

    @dakan45 Bingo, took the words right out of my mouth.

    @Nick There’s no excuse for a crappy storyline – if there have been two games out already and they still haven’t answered most of their questions or really hashed the plot out, something is wrong. Mass Effect does have a story that is both unoriginal and terrible and it does sound like the feeble-minded writers are trying to make everything up as they go, hence all of the stupid responses from the Reapers in the game.

    @Melkren Just because it’s an rpg doesn’t mean they have to rip your damn ears off with dialogue – I think what Dakan45 was astutely pointing out, was that,it isn’t how much of what you say – it’s how much substance what you say, has.
    – And Mass Effect has very little, if any, of that.

    It sounds like people are trying to defend Mass Effect and make up excuses for it, just for the sake of doing so.
    It’s a flashy adventure game with an hacknied, crappy story and is over-done in many places.
    If they made it into a movie, it would intevitably turn out to be just as crappy.

    I hope they decide at the last minute to take the money they plan to use to make the crappy movie – and instead use it to feed starving children in our country, then it would be put to better use.

  7. Truth says:

    *Hands him a tissue box*

    Here, broham.

  8. Well, it has poor direction and it tells you what will happen next rather how it will happen. The “reapers” were something i

    من یک ایرانیمfacepalmed, i think the dialogues are pretty meh the “spectres” are not better than the jedi in kotor.

    Me2 improved greatly over everything, heh heh, they even rebooted the bad guys.

    To be honest the game has too much blah blah rather putting some cutscens to do the work, you have to hear everything from npcs, especailly the part that i spented 8 minutes pointing my gun at a reaper asking him questions about his masterplan and him answering, was completly ridicculous.

    Not to mention “you cant understand why we doing this”

    Whats up bioware? developing the story as we go?

    The characters had way too much to say, a little less conversation would have been better.

    In the end, mass effect has a nice universe, alien races and props but everything that happens in it is rather “un epic”

    Take a look at star trek, the story behind it alone can make a better story not mentioning the episodes that had an original story and some sci fi, you know defining human condition.

    Mass effect has the looks but not the substance and it constantly raising questions rather answering them.

    So i would say, the plot is pretty undeveloped a prequel about how humans found the relay and the war with the aliens would have been more interesting than hunting something that has destroyed everything many times before and wont tell you why they do it, way i see it, its a dumb plot device and pretty cliche and lacks climax.

    Not to mention the brainwashed spectre, i mean come on!!!

    To be honest the story is told in a terrible way, its “told” as you said, id very much prefer cutscenes showing me what happen than looking at a npc open and closing his mouth and read lines and lines of text.
    Reply

    Johnny says:
    24 September 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Bravo Chad M. You are right, it’s how the story is told. People here need to read a book, every story has been told. Look at Stephen King, his plots are the worst ever – a killer car? But it’s how he writes is what people love about him.
    Reply

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