Why did you cut out Feros and Noveria?
Movies need to be razor focused on telling a story, so anything that distracts from that or doesn’t add to the narrative needs to be dropped. And, as much as we love Noveria and Feros specifically… they don’t really add much to the first game’s story in the same way as Therum or Virmire.
Why did you choose the sole survivor backstory instead of the war hero or ruthless?
It’s important to have a thematic connection between your hero and your villain. In this case: both Shepard and Saren had an intense fear of losing people. While it was possible to do that as a war hero, that feeling would be most intense if Shepard has lost a squad in a past that haunted them.
The only way to have Shepard face the fear of loss was to see where that fear might lead to, in this case turning into the extreme that is Saren… who was willing to rationalize the enslavement of an entire galaxy over its annihilation.
Why did you make Nihlus captain of the Normandy?
Because it should be Anderson, but somehow an alien is in command of a human vessel… which underlines how little the Citadel Council thinks of humanity. It’s cinematic short hand for showing humanity still struggling with a galactic community who forces them to use training wheels at every turn. Therefore, when Shepard (a human) is given full command of the Normandy it’s a much bigger deal.
What are the crew’s character arcs?
The sequences above are more a look at the overall story than a breakdown of the characters, though much of Shepard’s journey is there. The trick with this film is that you have an ensemble cast and each one needs to get their moment to shine and grow. That can be tricky and it needs to be done carefully. Here are the proposed arcs:
Shepard: Shepard is averse to responsibility and authority based in a fear of making the wrong call and losing lives. So, of course, we give the character a massive position of responsibility and authority by the end of act one. Shepard learns to be a leader, mold the Normandy’s crew into a true team, and in the end makes a call that might mean their deaths in order to save the galaxy.
Ashley Williams: Ashley doesn’t like aliens, who she feels look down on humans and hold them back from being equals. What she doesn’t realize, however, is that humans aren’t the only ones who have social barriers to overcome. Over the course of the story, Ashley will find common ground with her alien ship mates and overcome her racism… leading to her sacrificing herself to save Wrex and Garrus.
Wrex and Garrus: A first, these two view each other through the lens of an age old cultural conflict. Krogans hate Turians for helping unleash the genophage on their race, while Turians think Krogans are mindless brutes who are out to conquer the galaxy. Each character, however, will realize they have many more similarities than differences. Think of them as our version of Legolas and Gimili from Lord of the Rings.
Liara: She’s devoted her entire life to the study of the Protheans and believes them to be a majestic race. In a way, they’re her parental figures in the film. The more she learns more about them, the more they become very real people who were not much better than any of us. She has to come to terms with losing her preconceptions and accepting the world for what it is.
Tali: Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of time to really get into Quarian culture. However, the fact she’s on her pilgrimage is really at the heart of her character and central to her arc of the film. For her people, a pilgrimage is a rite of passage that is essentially their version of a bar mitzvah. Tali will have a coming of age arc. She’s out to prove something not only to her people, but also herself. By the end, she will have proven her worth to everyone with her tech skills.
Kaiden: Kaiden is the product of early human biotics (the L2 program) that were ultimately considered faulty. As an L2, Kaiden has an inferiority complex and doesn’t have a good grasp of his biotic powers because he’s afraid to use them. He’s a solid soldier and an old friend of Shepard’s, which is why he got a posting on the Normandy… a posting he isn’t sure he deserves. Over the course of the story, Kaiden needs to step up and become more comfortable with himself. Ultimately, he becomes stronger and ends up saving Shepard in the finale with his biotic powers. His character arc will continue to progress in the sequels (assuming they happen), until he becomes the second human SPECTRE.
Why did you have Wrex be a bad guy to start?
The simple fact of the matter is the game has way more time to flesh everyone out, so with a movie you often have to efficiently set up conflict, drama, and character. Having Wrex be a mercenary working against our heroes at first means it’s all the more satisfying when they come together later because their rift was more vast to start.
Plus, how cool would it be to have Wrex fight Garrus?
Why did you take out Saren’s cure for the genophage, his Krogan army on Virmire, and Wrex almost betraying the team?
It was just too much to introduce that conflict so far into the film. Yes, some of those elements are established earlier, but the urgency of the story is surrounding the search for Saren, the Prothean beacons, and the Reapers. In a film you can only afford so many subplots, so it was for the best to establish it for later movies and focus on the main story being told.
Why did you take out the Salarian STG team and Captain Kirrahe?
This was a tough decision, but in the end it just wasn’t worth introducing so many new characters at the end of act two when the emphasis really needed to be on Shepard’s connection with the already established team. That and it gave Garrus and Wrex a chance to form a friendship through losing a battle together.
Speaking of Shepard’s team, why did you choose Ashley to die over Kaidan?
That one came down to two reasons. The first was her character arc established above, and the second is the combat specialty of the characters. Given that Ashley was the pure soldier, it made the most sense for her to lead the diversion team. With Kaidan being the biotic/tech, he was more qualified to sneak into the base with everyone else.
Will you be doing an article on Mass Effect 2?
Somewhere down the line, sure. But that game is made of many small missions instead of the 8 mission structure of the first game, so it’s going to be a much more complex adaptation. But if done correctly, the suicide mission should make for a fantastic third act.
A big thanks to flicker user Annakie, who grabbed most of the screenshots we used in this article. Check out her site Mass Effect Saves.