Perhaps one of the most loved video game franchises of this last generation, the cinematic nature of the Mass Effect series (the first game even had an option to turn on or off a film grain effect) has long lent itself to rumors concerning a movie adaptation. And, in fact, a movie has been in development for several years now, the project spearheaded by megaproducer Avi Arad, one of the men who got early Marvel superhero movies like X-Men and Spider-Man off the ground. While Arad’s record is a little hit-and-miss (though we’ll call it more hit than miss), he undoubtedly has an affinity for the kind of characters and stories both superhero and video game characters generally lend themselves to.
Although he’s no longer working on the project, screenwriter Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend, the forthcoming Spike Lee Oldboy remake) was initially attached to Arad’s Mass Effect and got as far as drafting a screenplay. In a recent interview with IGN at the New York Comic Con, Protosevich weighed in on the difficulties of translating video game properties to the big screen, as well as the direction his Mass Effect script took.
Protosevich says he’s been approached about writing other video game adaptations, but turned most of them down due to a lack of “cinematic potential.” He keyed on a difference between “visually alluring,” moments in games and the lack of elements outside gameplay mechanics to drive a plot forward. “When you really stop and look at the story, the characters, it’s not really there in a lot of games.” So what made him interested in Mass Effect? “To me it was a very smart game,” said Protosevich, referencing specifically the richness of the world and the depth of many of the characters in the game. He didn’t go into detail, but Protosevich went on to say that his screenplay tried to capture the story beats of the first game in the trilogy. “All I can say is it’s tough…especially that game, because there’s just so much material.”
Morgan Davis Foehl, formerly an industry editor whose first produced screenplay, Cyber (directed by Michael Mann and starring Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis), is due out next year, has now taken over work on Mass Effect. Protosevich wished the production well, saying, “I still think that’s maybe one of a handful of games that will truly be a great movie.”
Arad is currently at work finishing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and is in pre-production on Popeye, which is expected to release in 2015. With two more Amazing Spider-Man sequels already guaranteed to occupy Arad for part of the next couple years, it’s unclear when – or if – Mass Effect will be headed to production.
The full interview with Protosevich can be found here.