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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Video game movies lose much in translation

    Mass Effect video game by BioWare
    Mass Effect video game by BioWare

    When the “”Mortal Kombat”” video game transitioned to the silver screen in 1995, it was met with skepticism and disappointment. And when “”Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”” made the same transition in 2010, it wasn’t well-received either. Both movies have a rating of only 36 percent on www.rottentomatoes.com, and earned video game movie adaptations the reputation of minimal plotlines, bad acting and poorly written dialogue.

    But despite the failure of these franchises, Legendary Pictures will attempt to break the box office with their adaptation of the wildly popular “”Mass Effect”” video game series. “”Mass Effect,”” developed by BioWare, is one of most successful franchises of the past five years, with popularity comparable to “”Halo.”” At the beginning of the game, a rogue alien named Saren assaults a human colony in search of an ancient artifact. Saren plans to enable a race of sentient machines called “”Reapers”” to destroy all life in the galaxy — which leads Lt. Cmdr. John Shepard and his team throughout the galaxy to thwart the alien’s plan.

    That’s a pretty skeletal summary. The role-playing game is acclaimed for its intricate plot and character building, so it might look like the perfect game to adapt. After taking a closer look at the big picture, though, it’s clear that the movie faces some serious challenges. For anyone who has played the game, it’s obvious that the story itself presents a problem. The game is broken up into episodic missions, each with its own rising action, climax and resolution, which seem better suited to a TV mini-series. Cutting almost anything from these missions would rob the movie of essential story points, but of course, the producers can’t include everything in only two hours.

    Next, there is a problem with casting, not so much with who should play what part but with which parts are going to be in the movie. In the game, a player can choose from six playable characters to bring on each mission aside from Shepard. In the movie, it will be up to the writers to decide who gets the screen time and who has to stay on the ship. Bringing everyone along would be a mistake as well, since there’s really no way to give everyone their fair share of dialogue without reducing all of them to background characters. In this way, some fans are sure to walk away disappointed when their favorite character gets snubbed. Even the main role of John Shepard is a problem, because his character can be customized in various ways. Not even his gender is certain, since players can also choose a female version of the character, nicknamed “”Femshep.”” Likewise, the player determines Shepard’s fighting style, which can range from straight-up soldier, to technological mastermind to psychic bruiser or any combination of the three. With so many options and only one to choose for the film, many fans may be unhappy if “”their”” Shepard isn’t tearing up the battlefield.

    Overall, “”Mass Effect”” has been hailed as one of the most cinematic games ever made, but it wasn’t made to be a movie. “”Mass Effect”” makes a good game because the player isn’t limited to two hours to comb through all of the hidden themes and compelling plot points that lay inside. And with so many decisions to make, the player gets to choose how the game unfolds. Without that freedom, delivering the story might be difficult.

    With all this in mind, and considering the history of movies based on games, the prospects look pretty grim for the “”Mass Effect”” movie. But we’ll never know until we see it on screen, so here’s hoping. If Legendary Pictures does a careful job of executing the movie, it’s sure to transfix millions of fans, both old and new.

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