See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

citadel

Now we come to what I think is the most important part of this series. The following will include how I think they should translate the plot of a 30 hour+ game to a 2 hour (ish) film as well as some supplementary thoughts.

Without further ado:

The Plot

Opener

Mass Effect: The Movie should open with the same brief text displayed in the game.

In the year 2148, explorers on Mars discovered the remains of an ancient spacefaring civilization. In the decades that followed, these mysterious artifacts revealed startling new technologies, enabling travel to the furthest stars. The basis for this incredible technology was a force that controlled the very fabric of space and time.

They called it the greatest discovery in human history.

The civilizations of the galaxy call it…

MASS EFFECT

Instead of splicing this in with Shepard’s intro on board the Normandy, as the game does, I think they should basically drop the audience into the action with Saren and Anderson’s mission. Using up no more than 5-7 minutes, we should be introduced to a few key concepts:

  • The humans fought a war with the Turians, of which Saren is one.
  • Saren doesn’t like humans because his brother died in that war.
  • Saren is ruthless but sees himself as a hero doing what is necessary. Anderson is much more humane and doesn’t like his methods.
  • Anderson is a possible candidate to be the first human Specter.

The sequence should loosely follow the events of Mass Efffect: Revelation, the prequel novel. It should show that Anderson and Saren are working together, infiltrating some kind of lab. They split up, both setting charges. Saren shoots civilians, explaining cooly that they will set off an alarm and Anderson is shocked, angry. Either they meet and fight each other or some kind of security force, but their charges start to destroy the facility and they are separated again. Anderson evacuates some civilians and ultimately escapes, Saren stumbles into an office and sees/hears a recording of a scientist, half-mad, raving about a gigantic technologically advanced ship he calls Sovereign. As explosions rage around him, Saren is obviously in awe and we see a diagram or image of the ship as foreshadowing. This will set up both Sovereign and Saren’s disappearance and re-emergence, as well as his motivations, much better than the game itself does.

Outside, Anderson watches the place explode.

At this point, the shot of his face should do a cool transition to Keith David’s face, about 17 years older than it was before. They can use aging SFX or a lookalike for the younger Anderson, whatevs. Anyway, this will be a segue into the introduction to Shepard. We know it’s some years later and Anderson is all dressed up as a ship captain, talking to Udina and Hackett (maybe Lance Henriksen gets a cameo or maybe not, doesn’t matter) about some secret mission and who the best person for the job is. They briefly discuss Shepard’s past, hitting on both his personal origin and military history (just like the game). They  should leave out the grandiose BS about “he’s the only one who can save the galaxy”.

As they talk, we see Shepard in full N7 armor (face uncovered). I’d love it if they emulated the game here, sweeping the camera around to see his face after a purposeful stride around the ship, showing us a few faces that will pop up again while also giving us a sense of the layout. In the cockpit, he looks out as the Normandy passes Jupiter (maybe throw in an establishing shot for the ship here).

From here on, it should be pretty much just like the game except leave out Jenkins. Introduce both Chakwas and Pressly (optional in the game) if they’re in the movie. Once on Eden Prime, Nihlus (Turian Specter there to assess Shepard) goes off on his own leaving Kaidan and Shepard to poke around a bit. Soon they seem some weird spires and then Ashley is introduced just like the game. She provides intel about what’s going on, including that the weird robots they’re fighting are Geth. Exposition!

20091227111826!Geth_Codex_Image

A sidenote: The Geth are going to require some inspired animation to keep them from winding up as much like the droid soldiers they already look like (from fucking Star Wars as if I need to say). I think, if they go full CG, they should try and get the animators who did District 9. The Geth should have a distinctive way of moving and should also look photoreal as possible.

So the new trio go off in search of Nihlus and end up encountering those weird spires where Geth impale humans to turn them into biomechanical zombies. Meanwhile, we see Nihlus investigating a train station only to get capped by Saren, who he is surprised to see alive. Saren should look a bit older than the last time we saw him (not sure what this means for Turians but they’ll figure it out). He should also have a lot of cybernetic tissue, covering almost a half of his body and loosely recalling the Geth with a Turian twist. Saren is investigating a strange beacon, a Prothean relic Ashley tells Shepard about. We see Saren as he finishes up with it, telling the Geth to destroy the colony, and then seemingly leaving the scene. As Shepard et al approach, they have to fight off some Geth setting up a large explosive. They kill the Geth and Kaidan sets about disarming the bomb while Ashley is drawn to the Prothean beacon. It starts to react and Shepard pushes her out of the way, getting sucked up into it and seeing some fucked up visions as in the game.

All of the above should take no more than 25-30 mins and is basically the opening of the film.

Act 1

Although the opener is basically straight from the game with a few tweaks, the real work of adaptation will begin here. As in the game, Shepard should awake on the Normandy and talk about the visions from the beacon a bit. The Normandy is called back to the Citadel, docking with which should be a cool sequence. After this, Shepard talks about Saren and Eden Prime to the Council who won’t back him unless he gets some hard evidence. Ashley is reassigned to the Normandy for the time being and Shepard takes she and Kaidan with him to get some evidence.

The remainder of Act 1 should be the team playing detective. They get a lead to talk to Garrus who is investigating a Quarian (Tali) who claims to have evidence of a conspiracy involving Geth. In the game, Wrex kind of tags along because of a mercenary he’s trying to ice, but I think in the movie he should be Tali’s bodyguard. Garrus joins the humans as they track Tali to Chora’s Den, a seedy underworld club. Tali and Wrex are attacked and outnumbered, forcing Shepard and company to intervene and rescue them. Tali tells Shepard she will exchange her info for his military’s protection and even though he doesn’t have authorization, he gives it. Wrex, impressed with Shepard’s battle prowess, chooses to tag along although Tali has released him.

An alternative way to handle the above would be to have a particular merc after Tali on Saren’s behalf (Fist was his name in the game I think?). He attacks Tali, is attacked by Shepard’s group who are in turn ambushed by additional mercs, only for Wrex to show up and save the day while looking to kill Fist. This might be a lot more cool because I ❤ Wrex so.

Anyway, now there’s a much bigger group. Shepard takes Tali before the council and she plays a recording she intercepted while illegally hacking Specter files on the Geth. The recording is Saren having a conversation with an Asari Matriarch called Benezia. They talk about Geth and Sovereign and Eden Prime, basically providing the evidence Shep needs. The council finally offers their support, making him a Specter and giving him command of the Normandy with the directive to investigate what Saren is doing and use any means necessary to apprehend or stop him. They don’t really believe the stuff about Geth and Reapers so they will not support Shepard directly until there’s even MORE evidence. They provide the lead that Benezia’s daughter is researching Protheans on a planet called Therum and is something of an expert. It could also be revealed that Benezia has some kind of compound on a planet called Virmire. Or this info can come later.

Shepard decides to go to Therum. Garrus, Tali, and Wrex all decide to come along. There are various ways to handle this transition but I’d suggest this: Garrus has gotten a taste for cutting through red tape and quits C-SEC, asking Shepard to come along and being a Specter, Shepard can “deputize” just about anyone. Wrex sticks around because he’s a Krogan and he thinks helping Shepard will be lucrative and/or fun (it could be revealed later that he’s secretly seeking out a connection between Saren/Benezia and Krogans, more on this later). Tali, on the other hand, is remanded to Shepard’s custody following her breach of security (serious trouble) either by his request or in light of her specialized knowledge of the Geth (Quarians invented them!). If using the idea that Wrex is Tali’s bodyguard, this could be why he comes. I favor making Wrex more of an active character, though.

As the group leaves the Citadel to begin the hunt in earnest Act 1 ends. This should be around 45 minutes to an hour into the movie now.

Act 2

Shep and the gang head to Therum where it’s pretty hot. We should get a cool scene of the Normandy dropping the Mako at ridiculous speed. From there, an action sequence featuring the Mako as Joker lets the team know Geth are all over the place. Battling Geth colossi (a kind of four-legged tank) through canyons and lava pools, they find their way to the entrance to the Prothean ruins where Liara should be hanging out and studying her archaeology or whatever.

Inside the lab, they find Liara being held captive by a Krogan mercenary and some Geth buddies. Wrex should have some choice words, maybe revealing some of his unusual attitude (most Krogan are stark individualists, fatalistically accepting of both their violent nature and their inevitable extinction as a species… very few have vision). Anyway, there’s a fight!

After the fight, Liara is rescued and the team has to get up off that there planet. Before they go, there might be some info (either here or later) about Virmire and the connection to Krogan which Wrex will take interest in. On the Normandy, everybody will be sitting in the conference room and Liara will talk about the Protheans, Reapers, her research, and Benezia. She will also mind-meld with Shepard causing another bout of visions.

After this, there might be a quiet follow-up characterization bit for Liara and Shepard, cuz Shepard passes out and Liara feels guilty. Or something like that.

Anyway the team now decides they have to go to Virmire, where Benezia is at, and confront her. Shepard and Liara should chat about this a bit, Liara perhaps being reluctant because she barely knows her mother but knows enough to a) not cross her and b) not understand why she’d ally with Saren and the Geth. Some on the team might counsel a different course, but Wrex will want to go to Virmire. Shepard will talk to the Council first to give them an update, they will tell him to hook up with a team of Salarians who were already tasked with investigating the lab due to rumors of a Krogan cloning operation.

On Vermire, Shep and co hook up with the Salarians who confirm there’s a Krogan breeding Op and they are here to stop it. Wrex freaks out and the Salarian commander explains the logic, leaving Shepard to deal with Wrex. In the game, this is a key moment where the player can kill Wrex or convince him that breeding Krogan to be slave-warriors for Saren is no kind of way back for the species, etc. Wrex shouldn’t die in the movie and will fall in, if reluctantly. Everybody gets ready for the Op and we get their battle prep and ultimate plan to split up into 2 groups to assault the fortress/lab. The Salarians are to provide a diversion while Shepard’s group sneaks in the back way to gather intel and set up a bomb to blow the place sky high. The Salarians ask for one of Shepard’s group to go along with them to help coordinate between the two groups or something. Ashley volunteers.

The battle goes poorly for the Salarians. The game doesn’t show their part, but the movie should. Meanwhile Shep and crew (except for Ashley) have gotten into the lab and fought their way through Geth and Krogans to the heart of the complex where the main lab is located. Here, the team confronts Benezia who acts strangely and attacks the group with her Asari commandos and super powered biotics. After the battle, she acts remorseful and reveals that she has been Indoctrinated by Sovereign and so has Saren, that they are not fully in control of themselves even though Saren believes he is. Liara tries to drag Benezia out like Luke and Vadar but she is mortally wounded and wants to die for her crimes. Meanwhile, she tells them there’s another beacon in the next room. Benezia hints that she joined with Saren initially to try and understand the Geth and their myths, but was slowly influenced by Sovereign so that when she learned it was more than just a Geth ship, it was too late. She also tells them about the Conduit, but not what it is, and that the Citadel was created by Reapers so that the center of galactic civilization could easily be dispatched, gathered in one place like that.

Shepard accesses it and Sovereign appears, speaking directly for the first time and explaining what it is: a Reaper! This should be a bit less ridiculous than in the game, where Sovereign is seemingly all too happy to wax villainous about its master plan. That said, it should come off a bit like Agent Smith but without any emotion at all, that is: it is totally contemptuous of organic life and only answers questions because Shepard demands it. It is so confident that the Reapers will kill all sapient organic life in the Galaxy that whether or not any organics know its plans is irrelevant to it. Why the Reapers do this should be a mystery. The audience and Shep’s crew should also not know how many there are or if Sovereign is the only one.

After this disturbing conversation, Shep calls Joker for extraction of the team and surviving Salarians who have managed to get into the courtyard and begin setting up the explosive with Kaidan (a demo expert among other things, haha) and maybe one or two other members of the squad.

Shep and the rest of the team fend off an ambushing group of Geth led by Saren. Shepard confronts Saren, who explains he is trying to prove to the Reapers that organic life can be useful and cohabitative so that they won’t wipe everyone out. Shepard refers to Benezia’s remarks about Indoctrination and taunts Saren that he isn’t in control. Saren has a moment of reflection that suddenly passes, he shoots at the nuke and hits Ashley, mortally wounding her and damaging the detonation console. Saren then uses Geth to cover his escape. As the team battles them, Normandy shows up to even the odds and everybody begins to evacuate. Kaidan and Ashley tell Shepard that the detonator is toast and someone will have to stay behind, they both volunteer but Ashley is much more forceful. Shepard is forced to leave her behind and everyone else escpes from Virmire on the Normandy while Sovereign takes off from somewhere on the planet, presumably with Saren on board and fires parting shots at the Normandy.

Act 2 is over on a down note. The film should be at about the 1 hour 45 minute mark, maybe closer to 2 hours.

Act 3

Shepard is PO’d about Ashley dying. Kaidan and Liara both try to comfort him. Some more development of the romantic tension between Shep and Liara should come out here. Liara tries another mind-meld with Shep after he accessed the Virmire beacon. This time, she is able to pinpoint the Conduit, which both Benezia and Saren mentioned, on a planet called Ilos. Shep calls a meeting.

Some are in favor of going directly after Saren (Wrex and Garrus especially) while others want to alert the Council and see about building an army. The only problem is Ilos is in the Terminus Systems, a group of stars and planets outside of Council jurisdiction. At any rate, it is decided to go back to the Citadel and ask for help/present evidence.

On the Citadel, the Council says no. They don’t believe the Reapers are real but acknowledge the Geth threat and promise to tighten security and investigate Benezia’s claims about the Citadel. Shepard is very frustrated but they forbid him from going to Ilos as it may cause a war with Terminus. Shepard is put on lockdown but Anderson has a plan. Risking arrest and worse, Anderson hacks the docking security and unlocks the Normandy. Shepard and his crew escape in a big “fuck you” to the Council and determine to go to Ilos and hunt Saren down once and for all.

As they are about to enter the Mass Relay to Terminus and the Ilos system, Liara and Shep consummate their budding affection. When they get to Ilos, there’s got to be an ARMING UP scene to generate some forward momentum. Then, they drop to Ilos in the Mako and fight through Geth in a breakneck race to beat Saren to the Conduit. In the game, there’s a significant scene where Shep and friends find an ancient Prothean V.I. which tells them what the conduit is. Instead, I think the film should let them find out as we do.

At the top of a hill, they can see massive amounts of Geth moving toward a miniature Mass Relay. All of a sudden we realize that the Conduit is a gate to the Citadel (one of the squad can say so). In the moment of truth, Shepard decides to do a very unsubtle thing and pilots the Mako directly into the midst of the Geth and through the relay. Should make for a badass sequence.

Once through the relay, they crash in the Citadel plaza which had a “sculpture” of a Mass Relay which we should see earlier in the film for foreshadowing. The Mako is ruined so the squad gets out. It’s chaos as Geth and security forces battle while citizens flee and die all over the place. There are fires, explosions, general warzone shit. Someone points out Sovereign, which seems to have docked with the Presidium spire, the central structure of the Citadel and where the Council hang out. Everyone notices the vibration and subtle hum as the big “wings” of the Citadel begin to close like a giant flower closing its petals.

Riding an elevator up the spire, the group are forced to get up and run and gun in zero g up the very side of the spire. This is a great, cinematic sequence in the game and should be emulated here. Finally, they reach the Council audience chamber in the Presidium and confront Saren. He doesn’t make a move and is alone, and instead gloats a bit and talks about the masterstroke of the Conduit and how Sovereign is now going to turn the Citadel into a giant Mass Relay to bring the Reapers in. Shepard again tries to convince him he’s indoctrinated and Saren seems to snap out of it long enough to shoot himself. In the game, Sovereign takes Saren’s body over via the cybernetics but I don’t think a “final boss fight” is necessary. Instead, have the entire structure shaking and seeming like it’s coming apart. After Saren dies, Shepard uses the console to call the Normandy for an update. Joker says that the Citadel fleet, led by a massive Asari warship called Ascension, is getting pummeled by the Geth and Sovereign’s superior weaponry, even though its stationary. Then Anderson comes on the horn with Hackett, saying the human fleet is in position to either concentrate fire on Sovereign and leave the Ascension to its demise, including the Council which is on board, or they can concentrate on rescuing the Ascension from the Geth ships that are overwhelming it.

In the game, you can go either way with interesting results. To culminate the theme of interspecies cooperation, Shepard should decide in the movie to save the council even though it will result in heavy human losses. They comply and though a lot of human ships are destroyed, the remnants are able to distract Sovereign’s defensive measure, causing it to unhook from the spire but massively destabilizing the Presidium in the process.

This causes the squad to break for it, but Shepard is left behind as roof beams collapse. Meanwhile, Sovereign seems to be desperately trying to hold off the ships attacking it, allowing Normandy to slip in and deliver a payload which finally destroys it.

Back in the Presidium, Shepard’s crew cough and stumble around and look for him. Security forces begin to arrive and Anderson shows up, telling Kaidan that Sovereign is down and C-SEC with the help of human marines are mopping up the Geth. He asks for Shepard and Kaidan shakes his head. They are about to leave the scene as C-SEC and marines help Shep’s people leave. The music should be all epic but sad here, just like the game, and then WHOA, someone turns around at a noise and sees Shepard clamber over some debris, nursing his arm. Yay.

Fade on his smile and nod of acknowledgment, shared with Anderson.

Give it a second then bring us back in on a newly repaired Presidium in an establishing shot. Inside, Shepard is all healed up and wearing his dress uniform. He faces the council with Udina and Anderson nearby. The Council informs them that humans will be given a seat in recognition of their sacrifice and service to the Citadel society including billions of innocent people living on the station. The Council asks that Shepard nominate a representative and Udina looks all smug but Shepard gives it to Anderson who is very surprised and even protests a bit. Very well, says the Council and then they invite Shepard to stick around and do hero shit but he starts to walk out. They protest but he tells them it isn’t over, the Geth and Reapers are still out there. He’s all like “I’m going to stop them.” As he leaves the chamber, his crew who were present but standing back fall in behind him.

TITLE CARD: MASS EFFECT. Epic music.

And fin.


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