A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece that tried to explored a few possible solutions to the challenge of adapting Mass Effect for film. I liked the idea, so I figured I’d try another property. On the chopping block today: Metroid.
Of the many successful properties Nintendo owns, Metroid is one of the few that I believe are most viable for a cinematic treatment. The series is a classic action-platformer that has found success both as a side-scrolling, 2D sprite masterpiece and as a 3D first-person shooter. Series heroine Samus Aran is a gaming icon and one of the mediums few recognizable strong female leads. The action in the series provides a plethora of action set piece opportunities, the franchise is set in space, hopping about various exotic planets with interesting alien enemies and creatures, and the Varia Suit is about as iconic as Master Chief’s Spartan armor.
I’ll be applying a similar method to Metroid as I did to Mass Effect. If you are unaware of or don’t remember the story of Metroid, there’s a very in-depth fan explanation that pretty much covers everything from every released game so far except Other M, which introduced some continuity issues that effect events and characterization (Part 1 and Part 2). Unlike my Mass Effect analysis, however, I will attempt to create a basic road map for a Metroid film franchise. Unlike Commander Shepard, Samus isn’t fleshed out as a character much at all during the course of most of her games, her backstory limited to printed manuals and a few short introductory lines at the start of a few games. Aside from Other M, only the Prime games and Fusion directly characterize Samus, and much of that is in short, unvoiced cinematics or text monolouge. Therefore, I’m going to try and frame my film breakdown in a manner similar to a franchise like Riddick, where each film is really just an excuse to flesh the character out more.
- Metroid Prime
- Super Metroid
Trimming the Fat (the pitch)
This movie sets the tone for the franchise, and it’s success will is the barometer by which we gauge moving forward with the other films. For whatever reason, Hollywood is afraid of female leads in action and sci-fi franchises. There are anomalies, of course, like the Aliens franchise, but generally speaking, this movie will be the hardest sell. Thankfully, Samus is known to be a sexy individual when she isn’t blasting Space Pirates in the face, so we can concede a little sex appeal to the studios here for the greater good.
The first film would cover the basics: Samus is orphaned by a Space Pirate raid on Zebes; she is found and taken in by the last of the Chozo, who eventually provide her with the Power Suit; as a bounty hunter, she is tasked by the Galactic Federation to investigate Space Pirate activity, so she tracks them to Zebes; Samus goes HAM and faces off with the Space Pirate leader…
Samus’ childhood shouldn’t get too much focus, but shouldn’t just be glossed over either. The attack on her home colony is the perfect time to establish her personal vendetta against Ridley and could be covered in the first 20-30 minutes or in smaller, maybe more cryptic flashbacks spaced throughout. The main focus, though, is the assault on the Space Pirate installation. Here, we can get a sense of the classic Metroid-style isolation and exploration that the games are know for. Also, with fewer characters to get in the way on the ground, a slightly more complex narrative can be woven from above. The Federation could play a bigger role in supporting Samus, meanwhile, Ridley and Kraid lead the Space Pirates forward into experimentation that would allude to the existence Phazon. Dots are getting connected without finishing the picture too much, and the extra plot stuff stays out of the way of Samus and her ass-kicking.
The final set piece: Samus versus Ridley and the escape.
The inspiration: Zero Mission, Metroid II
With Ridley and Kraid seemingly defeated, the Metroids are now the Federation’s top priority. Samus has been tipped off that the Space Pirates had already established another research installation around the vicinity of Talon IV. Having seen what the Metroids are capable of first-hand, Samus agrees to accompany an elite team of Federation marines to Talon IV to put an end to the Pirates plans once and for all. Needless to say, things don’t go as planned.
The films will need to deviate from the games cannon a little wildly at some point, either leaving stuff out or changing things entirely. Why not mix up the Prime Trilogy? The most important bit of character development for Samus during these games came in the form of Dark Samus, an ancient Phazon spore that had grown sentient over the millennia it was marooned on Talon IV. It gets code-named Metroid Prime by the Space Prates after fusing with Metroid DNA, and once it is defeated by Samus, it fuses with her Chozo/Human DNA to create a body of pure Phazon in the image of Samus herself, Power Suit and all. The gist of this narrative will be the ultimate failure of the marines to contain Metroid Prime or the Pirates and their Phazon-based creatures. This would sort of be the Aliens of the franchise: more of the essence of the original, but wrapped in a more action-heavy/action friendly shell.
The scale could be ratcheted up a bit as well. Perhaps the Pirates, under the orders of the leading Omega Pirate, start to take the fight to the Federation as they did in Prime 3 using Phazon based tech. The other bounty hunters from that game and/or the Hunters spin-off could make small spot cameos in concurrent battle scenes or in Federation com chatter or something. The total victory shouldn’t be won here, though. Dark Samus should escape, wounded, but still a clear threat.
The final set piece: Samus versus Metroid Prime/Dark Samus
The inspiration: Prime Trilogy
The finale of the trilogy, the Dark Samus arc will cross with Super Metroid. Unwilling to let a Phazon clone of herself go unchecked, Samus tracks the beast across the galaxy. First, to a space station meant to study Metroids and Phazon, now wrecked by an attack. There she finds a single Metroid egg that hatches in her presence. The newborn is promptly stolen by – surprise! – Meta Ridley, now Phazon flavored. Pursuing Ridley, Samus learns that her overexposure to Phazon radiation is killing her, so time is at a premium, for her life and the now war-torn galaxy. Back to Zebes we go, this time with back up in the form of the bounty hunters of Prime 3 or Hunters. With a war on all fronts being pressed by the Pirates, the Federation is entrusting the best mercenaries in the galaxy with cutting off the dragon’s head.
More action, survival-horror moodiness ensues and Samus finally clicks as a team player despite, once again, losing basically her whole team.
The final set piece: Samus versus Mother Brain
The baby Metroid would of course rescue Samus and provide her with the Hyper Bean weapon needed to put down Brain and Dark Samus for good. Without the AI integration of Mother Brain, the Space Pirates are left dead in the water. The war should come to a quick end. As for Samus’ Phazon poisoning, the death of Dark Samus could draw out the Phazon from her body, leaving her unconscious. When she awakens, she finds herself on a Federation vessel and overhears some science talk that suggests she isn’t half human anymore…
The inspiration: Super Metroid, Corruption, Fusion
This is just a high level pitch for a trimmed down Metroid franchise. There are holes a plenty and even room for more trimming. The goal, however, was to give the Samus character some breathing room to grow on screen while being the bad ass we know she is from the games. This requires interaction with characters outside of the herself, her ship, and a few elite Space Pirates here and there, which is why I included the Federation so much. What do you think? Sound off in the comments.