Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Not even Henry Cavill can make a Mass Effect movie following Shepard a good idea

It was back in 2008 when Avi Arad – film producer behind films like X-Men and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – first snagged the rights to make a movie about the first Mass Effect game. I won’t go into the specifics, I’ll leave that to GamesRadar, but a lot has happened since 2008. However, the latest news is revolving around Henry Cavill possibly being involved in a Mass Effect movie.

On Wednesday, editorial sleuths over at Gamespressure did some digging when Henry Cavill posted a mysterious photo on his Instagram. The photo had him reading some papers, with the text blurred out so no snooping could be done. The actor even posted the following alongside the image: “Secret project? Or just a handful of paper with random words on it…. Guess you’ll have to wait and see.”

Well, to put it bluntly, Gamespressure nipped that in the bud. Henry Cavill is reading a script that has been directly taken from the Wikipedia entry of Mass Effect 3. Meaning that… if this is a Mass Effect movie, the likelihood of it focusing on Mass Effect 3 is pretty high.

And that is a terrible, awful, please-god-don’t-let-it-be-true, idea, if you ask me.

Now don’t get me wrong, Avi Arad is a fabulous film producer and has made an incredible amount of movies – most of which I’ve enjoyed – and Henry Cavill being part of a Mass Effect movie sounds great too. It’s just… does that movie need to be Mass Effect 3?

Video game movies have always been very hit and miss. Some really add new interesting things to characters you already know a lot about, whereas some just feel as though they exist solely to get by on fan loyalty over a well-loved series. It’s hard to say whether this new Mass Effect movie will be the former or the latter, but if it’s going to focus on Mass Effect 3 then my hopes on this movie being a hit isn’t high. For a variety of reasons.

The world of Mass Effect is far more interesting than a re-telling of Shepard’s story

The first is that Mass Effect as a series is rich in lore, something which has allowed many spin-offs – whether it be another game like Mass Effect: Andromeda, or the series being stretched to fit a 5e tabletop game – to develop. The fact is that people adore Mass Effect’s universe, and they want to know more. But a movie about Shepard and the events of Mass Effect 3 is something that fans have already played. Even players who haven’t touched the series before will get the opportunity to do so when the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition releases in May this year. So, with that in mind, what does the Mass Effect movie add? A new sci-fi story for those who aren’t familiar with the games and who aren’t interested in them, yes, but for fans of the trilogy? It doesn’t quite hit the same notes.

But the lack of substances of a Mass Effect 3 movie – if that is indeed what this movie is – isn’t the main thing that bothers me the most. It’s the worry that this movie will lean into everything that makes Mass Effect feel like just another generic sci-fi film, and not what makes it interesting. Yes, we’ll have the rugged white, male protagonist whose love interest will most certainly be a woman, and yes we’ll be focusing on the grief and loss of Shepard that they face throughout… But I’m afraid that’s it. It’ll be a generic Shepard to fit a generic tale that doesn’t have the context and choice of the two previous games and, as a movie, it makes sense for it not to.

But a generic sci-fi tale with Henry Cavill (possibly) being Commander Shepard for a Mass Effect movie is, ultimately, a failure. Despite numerous protests from BioWare, Shepard isn’t as defined a character as say, Geralt of Rivia. Shepard means something different to everyone, some of us see Shepard as gay, some of us see them as bi, or straight, or Black, or Asian… There is no physical way for a Mass Effect movie to include us all. So, why focus on Shepard at all? Hell, let’s do one better – why focus on anything to do with shooty, shooty, pew, pew in the first place when there is so much more to the Mass Effect world that the games never get to explore.

Realistically, I get it. People love a good action movie, and just looking at how many explosions, suicide missions, and shooty shooty there is in Mass Effect, it’d be easier to adapt a story following that sort of thinking. But why does it have to be that way? Why can’t we look at the political intrigue and conflict between humans and Turians in The First Contact War? Or the discovery of human biotics and how that affects relations between a suspicious galaxy and a rapidly advancing human race? These are all interesting places and subjects for us to explore deeper, far more so than just being glued to a Commander Shepard that only a few can relate to.

Screw Shepard, we want a Mordin Solus musical and we want it now

In all honesty? Shepard is the least interesting thing about Mass Effect. Shepard doesn’t make up what is good about the series, and yes, it’s a fairly subjective thing to say. But it says more about our lack of imagination if our idea of a Mass Effect movie goes down the same road that players have already tread many times before.

Give me a political drama, a rom-com, a bloody musical – starring Mordin Solus, of course. Hell, if you want to satisfy my very gay brain, I’d love a movie just following Miranda Lawson.

Really, just give me absolutely anything but a sci-fi action movie where we follow a scruffy, white guy on his quest to save the galaxy. We’ve seen it before. Let Mass Effect and its world evolve past the same narrative of the games. It’ll be better for it.

Aimee Hart

[She/They] Aimee Hart specializes in queer fandom, video games and tabletop, having started her career writing for numerous websites like The Verge, Polygon, Input Magazine and more. Her goal now is to boost LGBTQ+ voices in the video games industry.