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. I think its possible but would work better as a 3 movie trilogy to better get into the depth of the narrative.

    • Are you talking three movies per game or a movie trilogy for the game trilogy? The former would be risky, but if they pulled it off then they would have nine movies (and every company loves a good long franchise.)

      • 9 or more movies is the only way to go. ME2 would be the toughest to adapt to just 3 movies, but it could be done if they are smart about it. The Mordin Solis mission doesn’t actually have to have any fighting…or not much fighting. Maybe just a small fight when they go to disburse the cure. In the game, it IS a game so there was a lot of fighting to get to the clinic, but that could actually be done in abut 2 minutes if they keep it to one brief exchange with a roving Blue Suns patrol.

        The first 3 movies need to have the following format.

        ME1.1 Prologue: Discussion to put Shepard’s name forward as the 2st Human Spectre.
        Eden Prime, Recruit Garrus and Wrex on the Citadel, save Tali, and then Shepard is made the first human Spectre.

        ME1.2 Starts with recruiting Liara, Feros, Noveria, maybe add in Bring Down the Sky.

        ME1.3 Virmire to Ilos to the Citadel

        All of these movies need to be 3 hours long to do them justice.

        The problem with trying to do these as movies, or even fast paced movies it that Mass Effect falls into the same SciFi catagory as Star Trek. It’s Talkie Tech SciFi, which means lots of dialogue…lot’s of technical dialogue. I really wonder if this wouldn’t be better as a big budget HBO miniseries.

      • I’m only talking about the first game. Not the entire game series. Have to cut it off somewhere.

  2. I think Mass Effect is just like the Watchmen comic book.

    Better suited to a TV serial rather than a movie.

    • Or perhaps better left just as a game. :-/ Hopefully they do pull it off when if If they do make it.

    • I’d love a mini series epic a la Game of Thrones. Make the three games into three seasons with 30 episodes total. Preferably on HBO, of course.

  3. vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

  4. If we’re adapting the games, then I think TV is the only way to really pull it off. There’s just too much to the games to make it work in a two hour movie.

    If we’re doing movies, I think the way to go is telling a different story from the games. Shepard’s origin, Geth v. Quarians, Genophage, First Contact War, Rachni Wars, or something along those lines could definitely lend themselves to the big screen.

  5. What’s the difference between doing a book into a movie and using the same story, and doing the same with a game?

    It seems people complain if the story is different from the book (or comic), but they also complain if it’s the same from the game.

    The only thing I can think of is that video games are already a very visual medium and have moving characters and story (as opposed to just still images or words on a page).

    • One thing is that games are interactive, so you can connect with your player in a different way than a movie. Also some games just don’t have enough story to stretch to two hours and others (like Mass Effect) might even have too much to condense. With books there is still a changing process that has to happen, but there just have been more successful attempts. In the end, you just have to make a good movie, I think.

      That’s my two cents.

      • Yeah that makes sense.

        There are just a lot of people who say “don’t give me the same story as the game, I’ve already played the game”. OK, people have already read the book but you don’t hear them asking for a different story with the movie.

        • I think it’s because the games are already so cinematic. You could probably just edit all of the cutscenes together and get a pretty good movie out of it.

          • +1

  6. Thing is, I’ve been talking about the benefits of using original stories set in the game world rather than copying a game plot for years and people at a gaming website argued against me by saying they’d rather cast actors as the game’s main characters, which would only generate complaints from them for not looking or sounding like they do in the games.

    • Dazz I don’t argee with you much your right on target with this one.

    • Hell, I’ve always been real anal about game to movie adaptations cause they always pissed me off since the characters we grew up loving got chanced for the movie (in appearance and etc…) therefore the character doesn’t feel the same anymore to me its not even the same character I knew anymore I’m dead set on details if I make a movie based off a game then it has to be EXACTLY like the game every single detail without leaving anything out that way the fans would get the same exact feel that they did when they played the game

  7. Crafting a story from a game where you have the option of choices that alter how the main character interacts with others throughout the course of the story makes it a challenge to option into a film. A question that needs to be asked is why make a movie about the game. If the game themselves are like movies then it may be a complete waste of resources. Mass Effect would not be a good movie because the fans will complain no matter how good it is. The character stories were allowed to be made personal and since there is no true story path it becomes an insult to the franchise and fans to make it appear as though there is one that the developers had in mind all along. This is of course if they decide to option a game into a movie. I believe that instead they should find a way to tell the character’s from a different point in life or find a way to pay respect to both the franchise and the fans by giving a unique perspective that has the opportunity of attracting people to the story.

  8. I think that there is great promise for a movie or series of movies set in the Mass Effect universe, however I would prefer to see a new story rather than a compressed attempt to retell one of the games.

  9. I think the major issue with VG movies has been trying to directly adapt a plot when the plots of games are fluid.

    I think the proper tact is to take the themes, characters, settings, and other non-interactive aspects of VGs and use this as base for an original story, or one that doesn’t force aspects of the game that do not belong in the story being told just because “it was in the game”.

    That said, I have to admit I can’t imagine a more difficult format to adapt from… or to.

  10. Nice to see Ubisoft founding a movie studio with all that taxpayer money from Canada and France! Why are taxpayer’s still subsidizing Ubisoft’s salaries?

  11. Make it a trilogy, focus it on Shepherd and his/her arc of allowing others in their worlds (starts with him falling through space alone ala the start of Mass Effect 2, ends with him falling through space after a new ending where he blows up the Citadel to win, only to be picked up by Joker and co). Should be as much a character study as it is an action trilogy.

    Just, trim the fat of the side quests, keep the focus on the primary story and rework the part of the Collectors from a psychological persuasion side (and change the goddam Terminator thing at the end of the second game). Oh, and I’ll whisper this, but indoctrinate Shepherd from the beginning on movie one, (but make it so that Cerberus did it to him).

    You see, you need to change just enough of the story. Otherwise all you are doing is giving the main core (the ones who have played it) a game they have already played (without letting them actually play it). Change just enough, fix what was wrong with the trilogy, keep the ego of Casey Hudson out of it and you may just make this work.

  12. How about instead of trying to retell the story the games already told. They tell a orginal movie that is cannon to the video games!? The first contact war is just begging to be made!

  13. I love mass effect but think it’s way too complex to fit in a single flim just like a true adaption of ww z should be a miniseries on tv so should mass effect .

  14. In my opinion, there should be no adaptation of Mass Effect. Mass Effect is suppose to be about player choice free from someone telling you what to do. Making it into a movie means there will be an “official” version of the story.

    Do not want.

    • Exactly. If there is one game franchise that should not be made into a movie franchise, its Mass Effect. The entire series is built around player choice. Gender, origin story, personality, love story…its all up to the player to decide how that unfolds. By making a movie which follows one story path, they would be ignoring everything that made the game special. Not to mention seriously alienating the fan base. This movie should not be made.

  15. If it cant fit in one game it can fit in a movie, streamline that b*tch.

  16. Oh, come on! It’s not THAT hard. Just copy the same formula The Avengers used:

    1–Shepard, Ashley (to save time, it’s established almost right away that she and Shepard have a history – easier that way), and Kaidan are ALREADY a team when the film opens, and Shepherd is ALREADY a Spectre, and is on his first mission, in which he must coordinate with Saren. Saren betrays them and leaves them for dead.

    2–Shepherd gets the go ahead from the Council to hunt Saren down. But after speaking with David Anderson, he realizes it’s going to take a team. A GREAT team. Cue various scenes of him recruiting Garrus, Wrex, Liara, etc.

    3–They get word of an important colony that’s under attack by Saren and the Geth. When they get there, they encounter Husks. Everyone’s dead. Morale plummets. The team has issues. There is infighting. Saren takes advantage and kicks their collective asses. Kaidan is killed, forced to sacrifice himself when Shepard gives the order. Shepherd must up his game and pull everyone together. After they realize that they have to put their differences aside to save the galaxy, they figure out Saren’s endgame. (It’s not Stark Tower, it’s the Citadel!) Cue epic music with equally epic scenes of the TEAM getting READY.

    4–The Big Battle. It’s hard fought, but the Team is victorious. (Instead of closing a portal, they destroy the big ass spaceship that seems to be alive.) Saren dies at Shepard’s hand, realizing that he was only being used by the Reapers.

    5–THE END. Rebuilding begins, relations between the races are mended somewhat, David Anderson (who played a similar roll as Nick Fury) is voted onto the Council, etc. The TEAM, after sharing a short but sweet goodbye, go their separate ways. Shepard sales off into the galaxy with what’s left of his crew.

    In a scene after the credits roll, we get a shot of the Illusive Man getting info from Miranda about the REAPERS. There’s a “holy s***” moment when we see that there are hundreds more where Sovereign came from. “I think it’s time Commander Shepard and I had a heart to heart.” FADE TO BLACK. Run time – 2hrs45min.

    You’re Welcome.

    • I was thinking the same thing. Once you take out all the side quests it’s not much more than a overly long Star Trek movie . Young Captain Kirk and crew face off against some alien menace while trying to deal with Federation politics.

      • Oh I forgot. You’ve even got the rogue officer. Lots of those in Star fleet. You’d think the federation wasn’t all that nice an outfit to work for.

  17. I would rather see the books, or one of the Origin stories made into a movie. I have already played the games a thousand times (literally). I LOVE the games, but its a story line I have watched play out a thousand times, in every possible way (that the games allow). Although I would pay to go see whatever movie is made, I would prefer a new story that I have not seen, also it would make writing the script SO MUCH easier!!

  18. The Mass Effect universe is ripe with stories and lore that are begging to be adapted into a movie. If you’re trying to adapt the game, you’re doing it wrong.

  19. Alright, so this is the deal. As much as I want a direct adaptation of Mass Effect I think the route to go is for a side story set in that universe. But even then you’d have to pick and choose what you’re going to adapt carefully. I’d be down with a Rachni Wars or Genophage or what have you, but I’m already a Mass Effect fan. However outside of gaming circles Mass Effect is an unknown. It’s pretty much imperative that Legendary use a conflict that includes humanity if they want the film to be successful. I say go with First Contact War, the Skyllian Blitz, or with Jon Grissom using the Charon Relay for the ‘first’ time.

    My 2 cents

  20. I believe the game should be put into a 3 movie series. Just like Lord of The Rings. Good things always take time, and there is a lot to cover in the Mass Effect world. Fans (myself included) wouldn’t want anything important missed from the series. I believe this saga has the potential to be one of the best in history to ever be released. It’s that good, the story is there, the characters are there, everything you need is there. We just need a director and cast who can get the job done. I don’t think the movie should deviate very far from the story at all either, that would just anger many die hard fans of the series. It has a great story. We just need people to direct it that can get the job done, and get it done right. If there is any game series out there that deserves a trilogy, it’s Mass Effect. I’d say it deserves it even more than Halo, and that’s going out on a limb. Don’t let this series end, let it continue in the minds imaginations and minds of everyone in movie form. I’ll have my fingers crossed.

    • A trilogy would be great, but a bunch of movies have been made with the idea of turning into a series, but didn’t do well enough to get the green light to have more made. They may have deserved it, but if enough money wasn’t made then it’s a no go, so it’s a risky plan. It’s not quite like LOTR where you can pretty much bet there’s an audience to make it worth doing a trilogy right off the bat. Video game movies have historically not made a lot of money. POP is the biggest video game movie of all time and it barely made $300 Million globally (on a $200 Million budget, so it barely made money after marketing etc.). If they wanted to make a trilogy, they’d probably have to make one movie that could either be a stand-alone or a part 1, and see how it goes.

  21. Commander Shepard=Karl Urban

  22. Trilogy. Follow the games main story plot as best as possible until the end of course. Please for the love of God have a better ending.

  23. I really hope they avoid doing an adaptation of any of the games… Making a film version would canonize a particular narrative (including a particular commander shepard), undermining the elements of choice and customization which are the trilogy’s greatest strengths. Doing a prequel, or something of that nature, would be perfectly fine, but don’t mess with our Mass Effect storyline- I played it MY way, and that’s the way I want it. If they DO make a film adaptation, I will not watch it.

  24. I’m really not interested in seeing a retelling of Shepard’s story; especially since Shepard is different for almost every fan of the game. I’d much rather see them do something set in the Mass Effect universe.

    People keep saying the First Contact war (and possibly the discovery on Mars?), that’d be great.

  25. 3 movies movie one collect team while trying to stop seren. Movie 2 normandiy gets destroyed by collectors curberuis how ever ya spell it saves Sheppard and half the crew destroy collectors or hand over to curberuis movie 3 reappears easy as just fill in the gaps director should play the game so he have a idea on how it should start and end

  26. Hello everybody, i haven´t seen anybody thinking of non-fans, people who hadn´t played ME trilogy, people, who doesn´t know that any ME exists !. The great story, characters with its own decisions, emotions, the universe and alien races, different worls…nobody should be “spared”. The same as LOTR, many fans of the book, but also much more fans of the movie.
    I think, with genious screenwriter, experienced director and good producer it should work.
    About ending…child is narrating during screenplay…every ending is played…shepard is falling to spread in the universe…but you have to make your own decision which one

    • I agree that the people who currently are not fans are more important than people who are fans. I personally am a huge fan of the franchise (well the 3rd game had quite a few flaws), as I’m sure pretty much anyone reading this article is.

      But we are a small demographic!

      If we hope to see this happen and actually succeed enough to go on and make more films…with a decent budget… we need to capture the hearts of the non-fans. This will NOT work if done EXACTLY like the games. It needs to be new and fresh and have a focus to capture new fans while pandering to the groupies (us).

      As many have said, Sheppard is a very different person to each gamer, and to try and capture 1 Sheppard will be foolish because it would just aggravate many people. Remember all the anger about Tom Bombadil? A simple reference to him would have been enough pandering for most of the LOTR fans.

      Read my post further down this thread.

  27. They should make it like a movie in game form, an interactive movie. Classed as a game and you watch the movie until certain points, then on the controller select what you want to happen, like heavy rain or beyond two souls maybe but live action. have it save your choices in a game save for a sequel. It would be hard and will properly limit your audience to people with a console or pc but I would buy it. it may even spark a new generation of movies. I’m sure Microsoft and Sony would love you to watch movies on their console or pc/laptop.

  28. I think the ME movie could be made if you really streamlined some things. I certainly think a well made cable series would be better, but that’s me. I’d like to see a new Science Fiction franchise come alive. However, the idea of a feature film in the ME universe doesn’t work for me… at first anyway. Amongst those who are familiar with it, and there are legion, we are still a small group compared to ST and SW fans. You’d need to introduce Commander Shepherd and the ME universe to a greater audience. The first game does a good job of introducing the major players in the galaxy and their motivations, this is important in establishing the franchise. Without the a-typical golden fleece adventure film and a likable hero, its just fiction for the game’s small (relatively speaking) audience.

    The real problem is how to introduce Commander Shepard, and who will bring him to life. Frankly I think the Dutch model he was based off him should play him. It is just that important. I understand as all of you do, and I have a custom Rick Shepard, how much we loved out customizations. I’m also loyal to Liara from beginning to end, but I think, given the appeal to a wider audience, that LC is going to have to be his love interest, and I emphasize his. Femshep isn’t going to work no matter how talented Jennifer Hale is, and she is.

    All the elements for a good movie are in the first game, from beginning to end. We have a bias based on our extended knowledge of the reapers based on follow on games, but to the movie going audience, the need to experience that Sovereign reveal moment that we all gasped at when we watched it. They need the Ilo experience, and they need to see Sovereign destroyed in the end. Wrapped up in a nice tight cinematic bow, and then, when the franchise is established, the creators will have the financial capital to explore.

    I don’t think the next two games should be adapted. The reapers being a ‘you never know when’ threat will make for a good backdrop in making future films. I wasn’t especially impressed with the Shepard death/resurrection bit anyway.

    • Rik said-
      “I wasn’t especially impressed with the Shepard death/resurrection bit anyway.”

      Neither were the X-men fans when they pulled that same bit with Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix in the movies… and that is a widely known resurrection from the late 70′s. Character rebirth just doesn’t usually go over well.

      However, ME introduced a really cool science/technology way to got about it… but overall kinda lame.

      The important part of it was to show how humans are better than EVERY other race.
      -We are better at military than Taurians (look up the First Contact War and compare N7 equipment to all the other ones).
      -We are better at science than the Salarians (look up Medi-Gel and The Lazarus Project).
      -We are stronger biotics than the Asari (look up Jack), etc, etc, etc.

      Most importantly, all aforementioned events/discoveries happened within 37 years (2148 CE-2185 CE). Asari had that tech for 2763 years (580 BCE-2183 CE) and the Salarians had it for only 60 years less… What did humans do 2763 years before this stuff? We built the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world… Yeah, we outdid them back then too!

      Humans are super cool in a human made video game.

      off topic, but something I always thought was egocentric, narcissistic and hilarious.

  29. Well what they should do is, Just make two parts of each movie. that way we still get a movie, and They can see how the first part went. because Look at the hobbit, they are Taking a novel and Making it three movies instead of one.

    And By my point they First write up the Entire Script for all three games, Make sure the Actors and producers are Fine with the wait and production and just go at it Like in the Lord of the Rings movies. After they Film One part, They take a break and then continue and Finish that Section of the trilogy and hence forth. It then allows us, the Fans of the Trilogy to Enjoy something not terrible. And probably gain a High profit value. Its a unknown Im sure, But The option is Ideal for Keeping the whole story integrity. Im not much of a script writer, but If i was making the movie that would be the approach I would take.