Mass Effect is one of the most beloved (and controversial) video game series of all time, so it only makes sense that a movie adaptation of the world was announced in 2010 – though it seems now that a TV show is more likely. Mass Effect is a science-fiction action/adventure role-playing game, created by Preston Watamaniuk, Drew Karpyshyn, and Casey Hudson, and developed by BioWare, that sees players exploring the Milky Way Galaxy starting in the year 2183. The main series ran for three installments released in 2007, 2010, and 2012, and was famous for a feature that allowed player decisions to influence the narrative and relationships across all three of the main games. A sequel game that was not so warmly received, Mass Effect: Andromeda, was released in 2017, while the main series games were remastered and re-released as the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition in May 2021.
In the projected future of the Mass Effect games, humanity discovers ancient alien ruins on Mars that lead to the development of technologies that allow for easy exploration and settlement of solar systems across the galaxy. The discovery also includes previously unknown chemical elements which cause telekinetic powers in humans. The invention of space flight and exploration leads humanity to discover other advanced alien races and a whole interstellar government and economy, which it is quick to join. The first Mass Effect story begins with Commander Shepard of the human Systems Alliance navy, who has been selected to join the Spectres – elite extra-governmental agents who operate outside the law – and discovers a plot by a rogue agent to bring back an ancient and genocidal race of machines to destroy all life in the galaxy. The three games deal with this overarching storyline but also with the interpersonal relationships of Shepard and her/his (players may choose the gender of their avatar) crew members, and other threats to galactic peace.
With a strong built-in fandom, a beloved established storyline, completed production design, and recognizable aesthetics, it’s not surprising that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. acquired the rights to a film adaptation. Even though many video game adaptations have been lambasted, Hollywood certainly has a proclivity for adapting existing material. But it was a long decade with little to no news about the Mass Effect movie adaptation. In the meantime, an anime series called Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, which acted as a prequel to the third installment, was produced and released in 2012, and several fan films have also been made. So, is the official film adaptation of Mass Effect still happening?
Mass Effect Adaptation: Is It Still Happening? Movie or TV Show?
The film adaptation of Mass Effect was originally announced in May 2010, with Casey Hudson, one of the game’s producers, set to executive produce alongside BioWare founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, per Variety. While Mark Protosevich (Thor, I Am Legend) reportedly wrote an initial script, it was announced in 2012 that Morgan Davis Foehl (Blackhat) was taking over scripting duties.
News about the Mass Effect movie had been thin on the ground since then, until Henry Cavill posted a photo to Instagram in early 2021 which appeared to tease that he was working on, reading for, or researching the adaptation. The image is a selfie of Cavill going through hair and makeup for his fantasy Netflix series The Witcher, and features some blurry script pages. Internet sleuths worked on the image and discovered some words which can only be related to Mass Effect, including “Cerberus,” “Reaper,” “Geth,” and “Tali’Zorah.” The first is a shadowy human organization, the next two are sentient machine races, and the final is a character of the alien species Quarian, all from the Mass Effect universe.
However, a June 2021 revelation cast Cavill’s potential tease in a questionable light, making it seem that the adaptation might be further away than fans had hoped and as if perhaps Geralt himself won’t really be stepping up as Commander Shepard. In the wake of the release of Mass Effect: Legendary, Mac Walters, the game’s project director, spoke about the possibility of an adaptation. Walters suggested that the movie had failed to be produced because the format was too restrictive for Mass Effect‘s sprawling narrative scope and would fail to do justice to the original concept. He noted that after a change in leadership at Legendary the studio wanted to move more towards television and that led producers to decide to start over. While he noted that after that point “it never picked up again” he was keen to assure fans that when it came to an adaptation of Mass Effect coming to screens it was “not a matter of if, but when.”
Mass Effect Movie & TV Show Cast And Characters
While there have been no official announcements of feature cast or even the characters the story will focus on, there are some hints as to what might be natural to include. The Mass Effect trilogy features several key characters – Commander Shepard being one, as well as his various human and alien teammates, such as Dr. Liara T’Soni, an Asari scientist; Kaidan Alenko, a telekinetic soldier; Garrus Vakarian, a Turian security officer; Jacob Taylor, a human soldier; and EDI (Enhanced Defense Intelligence), an AI intended to help Shepard protect the galaxy.
Mass Effect was also famous, however, for including cast members whose in-game appearance was based on their voice actor’s real-life look. Miranda Lawson, who first appears in the second installment, was voiced by Australian actress Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale) and also carried her appearance in-game. The Illusive Man, head of the aforementioned Cerberus organization, was voiced by Martin Sheen. EDI was voiced by sci-fi fan-favorite actress Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica, Ascension). Other actors who voiced prominent characters in the series include Seth Green, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jennifer Hale, Adam Baldwin, and Claudia Black, who have all appeared in prominent sci-fi stories including The Expanse, Stargate, Firefly, and Star Wars. It would make sense for the producers to at least attempt to bring some of these cast members on board for the Mass Effect movie or TV show if schedules and budgets allow.
While it has historically been uncommon for a voice actor to reprise their role in a live-action adaptation, casting announcements for HBO’s The Last of Us adaptation have shown a willingness to buck that trend. Merle Dandridge will be returning to play her role from the original game, Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies. Meanwhile, Jefferey Pierce, who played Tommy Miller in the first game will appear as a brand new character. If these casting decisions pay off for the HBO series, it becomes increasingly likely that Mass Effect could cast a selection of their original voice actors.
Mass Effect TV Show Adaptation Story Details
No official story synopsis or information has yet been released for the Mass Effect movie/TV show adaptation. Mass Effect 2 is the most popular game in the series, for its storylines and character development, though it serves as a connecting plot between the other two installments, and Mass Effect 3 obviously contains the most significant story climax. With Legendary pivoting to focus on a Mass Effect TV show that will take advantage of the episodic nature of the original games, it seems more likely that the adaptation will be able to take the opportunity to explore each of these stories in turn, and could even spawn a Mass Effect: Andromeda spinoff if successful.
With work on the adaptation appearing to be starting over from scratch it will likely be some time before fans of the gaming franchise will get to see the adaptation brought to life. However, video game adaptations are experiencing a sort of renaissance with a new influx of movies and tv shows from Uncharted and The Last of Us to Minecraft and Assassin’s Creed. With Legendary still keen to make the adaptation happen, the potential success of these ventures could help ensure that a production company is able to give Mass Effect the adaptation it deserves.
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