Video games and motion picture adaptations have a hell of a rocky history and dodgy reputation, but things have been getting a tad better in recent years. Hopefully that positive trend will keep up whenever Amazon Studios gets around to making its Mass Effect series, now that it's reportedly closing in on a deal. Let's just hope Amazon doesn't try making it about Shepard.
In an interview with Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke about The Wheel of Time, Deadline reported that the company is 'nearing a deal' to develop a Mass Effect series in collaboration with Electronic Arts. It was a weird tidbit of info to drop, since it doesn't come form a quote from Salke, nor does it have any other context or explanation, and the article just never mentions Mass Effect again.
Mass Effect has a bit of a history with the big (and small) screen, with Legendary Pictures having bought movie rights to the space opera RPG series way back in 2010. The hypothetical movie that should have been the fruit of that deal has languished in pre-development hell ever since, even though tentative rumblings about it have been heard from time to time.
Insider reports mostly state that the studio has trouble figuring out how to adapt Commander Shepard's story from the trilogy to a movie - we have a very, very simple and yet flawless answer to this conundrum, and hopefully Amazon is listening:
We can't take complete credit though - this is something that Mass Effect spin-off media has figured out at the very beginning. The game series is supported by spin-off titles, books and even an anime movie called Paragon Lost. All of these additional pieces of media have one thing in common, and that is a distinct lack of Commander Shepard - sure, the protagonist of the trilogy gets namedropped, and one time we sort of see their unrecognizable corpse (spoiler?) but the whole point is that no media encroaches upon our Shepard.
The protagonist of Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 is highly customizable, with their gender, appearance and decisions made during the story - thus their personality - up to the player. Everyone's Shepards - because come on, we've all played through these games many times - are intimate and personal. Some of the best, most memorable moments of the Mass Effect trilogy are the quiet ones in between the characters we've come to know and love, and our character that we shaped.
Ultimately, playing Commander Shepard in an adaptation is an impossible task - usually when dealing with adaptations, it's a foregone conclusion that you can't make everyone happy, but even attempting to squeeze Shepard and their branching, variable, customizable RPG epic into a rigid, linear motion picture format is a surefire way to make nobody happy.
If Amazon Studios is courting Mass Effect and wants to make the most of the IP, they need to leave the trilogy, and Shepard, alone. Luckily, that shouldn't be a problem - the universe of Mass Effect has been fleshed out over the course of four hundred-hour long RPGs, books, comics and spin-offs, with BioWare constructing thousands of years of history and lore.
Mass Effect is filled to the brim with events of great historical importance and story relevance that haven't been directly explored by any media, and would prove to be fantastic bases for a series. What's more, their characters are 'static'. Just off the top of our head, we could absolutely picture a series set during the First Contact War between humanity and the Turians, including - or possibly starring - The Illusive Man. Even so, there are dozens of other possible stories that Amazon could adapt in the Mass Effect universe, or even come up with something original.
If Amazon Studios really does go forward with this, we just hope they don't try adapting Shepard.