Original ‘Mass Effect’ Movie Writer Says Game Was Too Difficult to Adapt

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Mass Effect Male and female Shepard Original Mass Effect Movie Writer Says Game Was Too Difficult to Adapt

Fans of the Mass Effect franchise probably shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for the much talked-about movie based on the first game in the series, given producer Avi Arad’s recent comments that it could still be a few more years away. There have been some confusing mixed messages regarding the adaptation, including Legendary Pictures radically changing their answers to some pretty fundamental question about it within the space of a couple of weeks.

Development was further complicated last year when the script by screenwriter Mark Protosevich (Thor) was thrown out and newcomer Morgan Davis Foehl stepped in to take over writing duties. As far as we’re aware the movie is still in the script-refining stages and doesn’t yet have a director or any cast members attached – and Protosevich has opened up on the subject of why Mass Effect was such a difficult movie to write, to the point that the attempt may have put him off writing video game adaptations for life.

Speaking to Badass Digest, Protosevich explained that he had admitted defeat when Legendary decided to turn his drafts away and bring Foehl onboard instead:

“I wrote a couple of drafts and then they brought on a new writer… When I was on it I was definitely adapting the first game. That story, it was very much the first game. And that was the approach.”

“It was the first game adaptation I did and it will probably be the only one. They’re hard. I will freely admit it was hard. Because – especially with ‘Mass Effect’ - there’s just so much material. Narratively, with the game, you’re talking about nine, ten hours of narrative you’re jamming into two hours.

“I hope they pull it off. I’d love to see a ‘Mass Effect’ movie. I think I did some good work, but even I’ll admit I didn’t pull it off.”

Protosevich wasn’t kidding when he talked about the length of Mass Effect. While some games only have a paper-thin plot and minimal dialogue to justify lengthy bouts of shooting, the Mass Effect series is largely built on verbal interactions with people from all over the galaxy. There is a huge amount of depth to the first game, which was tasked with establishing all the different alien races and their respective cultures, as well as galactic politics and humanity’s position within them as a species that made first contact only relatively recently.

That’s not to say that it would be impossible to turn the first Mass Effect game into a two hour movie – incredibly long novels have been boiled down to the same length in the past – but it’s understandable that Protosevich might struggle to fit the game’s story into such a short space of time whilst also managing to retain the depth of the game.

Mass Effect Legion Original Mass Effect Movie Writer Says Game Was Too Difficult to Adapt

Ubisoft’s recently-established film studio, Ubisoft Motion Pictures, also has plans laid out to extend quite a few of the game publisher’s franchises into the movie world. UMP’s plan of action involves two major factors: retaining as much creative control as possible over the properties, and making sure that each movie has its own story instead of just adapting one that was already told in a video game.

Some fans might favor this approach for a Mass Effect movie as well, not only because it would mean a new story in the Mass Effect universe instead of a recycled one, but also because Mass Effect is already a pretty cinematic game. There are plenty of interesting events referenced in the series that could make for a solid movie, such as the First Contact War between the humans and the turians, the uprising of the geth against the quarians, or Commander Shepard’s various origin stories.

Tell us in the comments if you think making a decent Mass Effect movie is possible, whether or not it should just be an adaptation of the first game’s story, and whether Foehl, who was handed script duties after Protosevich and reportedly got the job because his enthusiasm for the game series impressed the producers, has a better chance of making it happen.


We’ll keep you updated on Mass Effect as development continues.

Source: Badass Digest

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  1. Why make it a movie series at all? Of course its going to look better than doing a tv series but as large as the stories are in each game I would say the safest route would be a tv series. 12 1hr episodes could easily tie up the first story ending it at the 3rd season?

  2. I say use the magazines to make the move is and make it a 5-7 part series

  3. Dont write 2h movie, make a serie like stargate,startrek,babylon it is perfect for that, may be a big pilot, many individual warrior serie, it is not only sheppard. many story, investigation, empire, privateer,diplomacy,secret mission, etc.. the univers of mass effect is very rich and need to developped in detail. and it is not a only human view.

  4. The best way for them to go I think would be a Series. This would let them get all the good stuff in while not full Movie Budget Quality it would allow them to go through the entire Story fully and not screw it up as Hollywood Movies always do to everything they turn into Movies that were once Comics, books, or Games.

  5. Movies make a ridiculous amount of money compared to TV series, and they have such awesome budgets to make things look right. So I see the appeal in making a film from both the creators and the fans perspective. However, I don’t believe you need do one or the other.

    A 1:45-2:00 film about the First Contact War (with a 5-10 min intro about events on mars and discovery of the Charon Mass Relay) would be AWESOME to all fans and to people not familiar with the franchise. You then use that as a spring board for a TV series (HBO always a good choice…).

    This TV series should only reference the FCW and the events of Sheppard. This allows for a wholly new and dynamic story, and could even involve some side characters to guest star. I mean Maranda ACTUALLY looks like her voice actor… as does Samara. They could easily be in a couple episodes, allowing fans to geek out. Maggie Baird (Samara) has been in full costume to conventions… I’m sure she’ll be down. But the best part is that the writers can be very ambiguous when they talk about Sheppard. Its the future, and there are aliens. Moreover, this is the military. People will refer to Sheppard by the missions, rank, fame, etc. NOT by the gender. Fans don’t have to get mad about the Shep vs Femshep war. The writers don’t need to talk about which back story they went with.

    As a matter of fact, the writer only have to worry about the BIG decisions! Like which character joins the council? Are the other 3 council members saved? Ashley or Kaidan? Save or Destroy the Krogan cure, etc. These won’t be all at once. Heck, make 1 be part of the season finale each season. And which decision should be put into the viewers hands. Put up a web site and say, VOTE NOW. Then reveal it when the episode is aired. OR just stay mostly Paragon, that’s the favored version by most anyway. (most, not all. I’m aware that tough guy shep is fun to play, but simply not as good for a cinematic hero).

    I hope this gets people thinking and helps to write an amazing script!!! I really want to see the galactic society unfold!

    P.S. If Seth Green doesn’t have cameos… I’ll be VERY disappointed!!!

  6. This is a no brainer…don’t try to do the first game as a movie…do it as 2 or 3. The first movie should start with the discussion to make Shepard a Spectre, and end with him becoming a Spectre. This should be a 3 hour movie. Also, don’t worry about the timeline being correct with the game. In the game Virmire was pretty much right before Ilos. I would make Virmire the Climax to movie #2. Then do some of the other side missions like Noveria as a prelude to Ilos and the Citadel battle.

    Also, the could consider making some filler straight to DVD movies with all of the little stuff, like Feros and Noveria. This can be done using most of the same sets and props. Bring down the Sky can even be one of them. Maybe do Opening scene on the Normandy to Shepard becoming a Spectre as one movie, and then 3 or 4 straight to DVD movies, Noveria (including Liara recruitment,) Feros, Bring Down the Sky, Virmire. Then Ilos to the Citadel as another Big Screen movie. Bring Down the Sky and another DVD movie or two could be before the ME2 opener. ME2 should be broken up similarly. Destruction of the Normandy, to Shepard waking up, to meeting the Illusive Man, to Freedom’s Progress, to talking to Aria T’Loak, to recriting Mordin and Garrus, and then on to Horizon, which ends the first movie. The climactic end is driving off the Collector ship, and reuniting with Ashley/Kaiden. I think Ashley is the one to keep.

    Also, I would have them bring much bigger landing parties. 2 squadmates was just to fit the game mechanics, but in a movie, it would make more sense to have squad/platoon sized landing parties. Would give you an opportunity to have more Corporal Jenkins to die on missions. Maybe make them all were royal blue…since red short always got toasted in Star Trek.

    Anyway, this needs to be done as more of a 6 to 9 movie project ME1 to ME3, with a lot of straight to DVD movies in between. Movies could be 1 to 1.5 years apart, with 2 or 3 DVD movies in between.

  7. Why not start with a movie (discovery of mass relay and the first contact war maybe?), and a movie for every major event (taking down Saren, destroying collector base, fight against the reapers, etc?) with TV series in between telling stories that happen between the major events in a bit more details? Mass Effect may even be great movie/TV show franchise without Commander Shepard alway being on the centre stage. It’s got deep storyline and rich background behind this big name. Every episode can focus on supplementary stories which will provide background information for the main storyline (recruitment of squadmates, history of squadmates, conflicts on Omega, etc). Telling the history of squad members and how they met Commander Shepard in the perspective of that squad member instead of Shepard him/herself would be nice. Not every single battle need to be made into a movie, some of them can be covered in TV series episodes. My opinion is this franchise shouldn’t be produced with every single detail of Commander Shepard as it shouldn’t be made for die hard ME fans only. IMHO, covering stories of all species would be important to make the franchise successful.

  8. Making the first movie about the first contact war would probably be the best approach with Commander Shepard making his first appearance towards the end of the movie as a earth born kid based on his childhood history within the game.

    • Whoever is to play Shepard must be no older than about 25 to 30 at this point. Preferably younger since it takes years between each movie. If this were stretched out over several movies, even 5 movies, you could be looking easily at 15 years before the series is done. This is why IMHO it is vital that they do it similar to Lord of the Rings in that they get the main actors to commit to all the movies and they do it all in one big fell swoop, releasing each movie as soon as it is ready, but even before that one is in the can, they are already working on the next one. If they did it like that, they could get 5 to 10 movies out of it. Or 5 movies with a bunch of HBO miniseries in-between.

      Also, I am going to have to disagree on Shepard being black, or even half black. It isn’t a crime for him to be white. His canon character is white, and this allows for it to be cool in my opinion, how close he and Jacob become. IMHO Jacob was one of the coolest human characters in the game. He’s black, so I see no problem making Shepard white so we can have an equally cool white person. Kaidan Alenko appeared white but I would make him the one that is sacrificed. Ashley was the better one to bring along through the story.

      If they were ready to begin filming right now, and planned an aggressive schedule for 5 or 6 movies, they could use some of the voice characters. However, I don’t think that is realistic since filming is likely 4 or 5 years away, and they would then need about 10 years for the 5 or 6 movies to be completed. So I think to be realistic, the actors at this point need to be somewhere near 38 years old. Maggie Baird appears to be in her mid to late 40s even now. She would be too old to be used all the way to the later movies. Many of the other voice actors are older. Seth green is also 40. How is he to be the young brash pilot when he’s 50 years old in the final movies?

      I think they would need an all new cast. When filming starts for the first movie, the main characters such as Shepard, Jacob, Kaidan, all need to be no older than about 30 to 33. Miranda, Ashley, Liara, Tali, Joker, and Kasumi should be no older than about 25 to 28 when filming starts. Zaeed Massani should be somewhere in late 30s to early 40s when he joins the cast. Same for the Illusive Man, unless they go with the man born to take over his father’s role, Emilio Estevez, though he would likely need to get in shape.

  9. I want Mass Effect movie action figure and vehicle toys for the movie.

  10. I hope they pull it off. A Mass Effect movie needs to happen. Currently there are two giants in Sci Fi cinema. Star Wars and Star Trek. It’d be nice thatf if our generation can sucessully take those franchises on with something orginal.

  11. Give it to lucas

  12. My opinion differs from most in that I’d make just one movie out of all three game, but I’d do it twice. Make a single 2.5 hour movie and devote 50 min to the events of each game, and you’ll have enough time to get all the critical parts in. Who really wants to watch Shepard scan 50 planets for Palladium anyway?

    But here’s where I’d throw in a twist: deliver the movie with 2 different stories. Make one movie with male Shep, making various choices and with one of the endings. At the same time film another version of the movie where Shep looks female and makes different choices and has a different ending. Deliver it so the audience knows which one they’re watching, maybe title subtext (maleshep) or (femshep). That way you could capture a lot of the greatness of ME, and get double the payback, and not alienate any fans.


  13. If they were to do mass effect movies, then they should go all out with the budget and effects. If done right it could be an epic sic fi film (or films!) maybe they could start the story from when humans discovered the mass relay and through the first contact wars to the invasion of the reapers. Could end up being a great bunch of films.

  14. If the first movie will be based off ME1 then they should have an Easter egg after the credits of the Normandy being destroyed and death of Shepard.

  15. Hi everyone,

    Here’s my shpeel, I hope some of you agree.

    I think if it was/is made in to a movie the perviously suggested Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter method would be the best way to go.

    Secondly, I actually think that making a movie where we the fans cannot make the decisions about the plot and it’s outcomes like we could in the game is going against everything Bioware and Casey always said Mass Effect was about and that’s “choice” our, the fan’s choice.
    The only way to do it, the movie, I feel is to break boundaries and write film/game history and make two identical films at the same time. One with a Female Shepard and one with a Male Shepard I think that is probably one of the biggest choices in the game that really allows anyone to connect to the Commander, if they do, as it has been stated, choose only to focus on Male Shepard then they are neglecting half of their audience.

    On that note I think it is time to write history in this way, if money is the problem I would look at examples of the artform mattering more than the money like Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick and Peter Jackson all made movies that rewrote what was possible in film and storytelling. All of them made these films that were outrageously new ways thinking let alone new ways of film making and all of which should have bankrupted them SnowWhite, 2001, Lord of the Rings. And yet, out of blood, sweat, and tears their passion to tell their or the story the way it was meant to be told prevailed and rocked the world.

    I believe that Mass Effect should be that new ground breaking movie where we as a culture break the mold of the movies and make two movies one. Mass Effect was meant to give the audience, the Fans, “choice” at least give us the choice as to the gender of our hero and let’s see what happens!

    This would make a lot of people happy, it will undoubtedly make a lot of people mad, but you (oh movie making gods/ Casey and crew) would change a lot of young lives for the better, not just making film history, but by making cultural history. It would make Mass Effect a landmark for the globe more than it already is.

    I want them/you (if you are reading this movie makers) to accept this challenge!

    Anyway in a nutshell that is my opinion, give us choice at least one big one, and if you are gonna do it, don’t you dare try to squeeze it in to one 2hr movie.

    Commander Out

  16. Its too long to be a movie. They’d have to make seasons on TV to make it work. Anyone that says TV series can’t work are stupid. Anything can work, look at Falling Skies, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc. Just need good production, and don’t stray away from the story of Mass Effect. People don’t like when things are changed from games to the movie

  17. If ever they do a Mass Effect movie, which does not have to have Shepard and the gang mind you. The movie needs to be done Avatar style, ESPECIALLY they in fact decide to show Shepard and gang. I don’t wanna see any actor running around trying to portray him, and sounding nothing like him. The voice acting was extremely well done, and truly are apart of the characters. Do it Avatar style, have the voice actors return.

    Even if its set in a completely different time, with different characters. Do it Avatar style, real life actors running around, don’t always fit a game movie well. Breaking it up like Lord of the Rings, or The Matrix, or yes Harry Potter, is all well and good… But do it Avatar style lol.

  18. I think it would be great if they made the Mass Effect movie I am a big fan of the games and they did a awesome job with a storyline and yeah it would be a little bit long movie but Lord of the Rings was a long movie

  19. There is a big difference between Lord of the Rings and Mass Effect. Mass Effect is in the scifi genre that is called talkie tech like Star Trek was. That means you often have to have scenes where tech is explained. EDI did a lot of that, but so did Mordin Solis and others when it was needed. Mass Effect also had far more characters, whose stories must be told. If you don’t know their stories, you don’t care about them as characters. Lord of the Rings took 3 movies to do, Mass Effect would need at least 9, and maybe 12 to even come close to telling the story in a manner that is acceptable.

    I still think it would be better to do a combination of movies and mini-series like Game of Thrones. But do it on a channel that allows the writers to tell the story without having a social engineering agenda.

  20. Make MASS EFFECT into a TV SHOW like Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5 — would be the much better medium than a movie, and could make much more money selling the DVD series!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I agree Wernher. But they can still do movies. Mass Effect 1 was a bit rushed in its pacing. A movie could be made just about the Eden Prime, going to the Citadel, finding Garrus, Wrex, and Tali, and then Shepard becomes a Spectre. Then from there, it moves into the TV series. Then, a new movie that would, end Mass Effect 1. Then the TV series could start off with Mass Effect 2. The 1st show after the 2nd movie could cover the first part of Mass Effect 2, and end with Shepard meeting the Illusive Man. Another movie could be when they go onto the Collector’s ship. Then the Suicide mission would be the next movie. In between movies would be one to three seasons of Mass Effect the TV series.

      For an ending to the whole thing, they would have to fix the abomination that was the ending of ME3. If Shepard is going to die, let him truly save the galaxy. No exploding relays, etc… But, what would be even better is Miranda brings him back one more time, after he dies. The very end would show him with his daughter, and Liara, the mom.

      • No way. Even though my shep was male and also was with liara. Its not fair to others who went a different path.

      • Great idea, but too much work switching between movies and series. and although I love Liara…. I don’t think that ending will be favorable so… a romance can start between them (let’s face it, liara’s the canon romance) but I don’t think that your idea is a good ending. the ending should be something that will lead up to the new ME4 game… whatever it’s gonna be, and I’m fine with Shepard dying really….

  21. I would love to see a movie/movies, but do it as Star Wars did. Don’t recreate the Mass Effect stories from the games, but rather do prequel to the games. Perhaps make two to three movies about Humans discovering the artifacts on Mars, the First Contact War, and Andersons story. While only vaguely referencing Shepard if needed, since Shepard could be male or female and was played through differently by everyone. Make the movies take place in the Mass Effect Universe like Star Wars games did. Recreating the games story will only ruin the franchise. If done correctly, Mass Effect could be as Successful as Star Wars is, if not greater.

    • if they do a movie the best actor to take the role would be Dominic Purcell as Sheperd

  22. Shepard cant be in the movie… Since we all had different sheps it just would make no sense to do that. Just tell a story from the mass effect universe.

    • I disagree. People have to get past this notion that a movie would have to mirror the choices made by you when you played your game. This is the point of canon storylines. While you can make the choice to depart from that while you play, it doesn’t alter the fact that there is a canon storyline. In the event that there was no canon storyline, one can naturally evolve, or be chosen. In this case, most people have agreed on multiple polls that the canon is or should be a male Shep with Liara as the LI.

      If I were going to make this into a movie, I wouldn’t make it into a movie, I would do a series, preferably on HBO or some other network that allowed for a bigger budget. Maybe do movies and series in conjunction with each other.

      If I were to do that, I would tell the story that I wanted to, and that story would be a modified version of the story in the game. I would keep what I think is best, and alter the rest of it. I would also add to the story in ways that make it fresh.

      One such idea is that near the beginning, they take on an N7 squad at the request of the Admiral. This team would mirror the team in ME3 MP DLC. The squad leader would have a dislike/barely contained disrespect for Shepard. This storyline would play out as the series moved along. It would come out that the leader’s older brother served under Shepard as the senior enlisted, or as Shepard’s senior officer, during a mission where Shepard was the sole survivor. This guy would believe that Shepard was really a coward who ran in fear, but they would find his brother’s tank from the incident, in a Cerberus warehouse, and this guy, after seeing the saved video, would see that Shepard tried to help, without thought for his safety, but his brother sacrificed his life and tank so Shepard could live and continue the mission. A rescue mission. My thinking is that it would have been a rescue mission to save some scientists, but Cerberus set a Thresher Maw trap to keep them from succeeding.

      I would also have Shepard be the hero of all three of the given heroic choices. One would have given him the status to be promoted to officer. The second to get him noticed and recruited by N7, and finally, the last one gets him selected to be a Spectre candidate.

      Finally, other than Ashley or Kaiden getting killed, I wouldn’t let any core members die until the few in ME3 die. This would allow for the uplifting words by Garrus to mean something, and allow for a segue into the Citadel DLC. Shepard is disheartened. Lost a few close friends, and lost the Catalyst, so he is down and the crew is concerned and one tells Anderson. Being able to keep everyone alive on the suicide mission would make it hurt more when they start dieing

      I would let one or two of the N7 squad die, and maybe get some replacements. New characters not seen in the game or the DLC’s.

      The idea here is that you have to decide whether you are a fan of the Mass Effect story, or are you selfish and think that any story told, must mirror how you chose to play the game?

  23. Game of Thrones style TV series

  24. Hmm I never thought about it but reading suggestions, a serie would be awesome!! I mean, all the side missions saving hostages, diplomacy missions, spectre missions, those are what made ME so great and intriguing! but the problem would probably be getting people to follow it through, especially those that never heard of ME this underrated game. unlike a movie where they are forced to sit and watch to see the story unfold, the climax and resolution, with a serie people are easily distracted and will not follow. as a fan I can tell you I will watch it 110% but with those that are unfamiliar with ME, the idea of a serie might not be so intriguing