My current life direction aside, I'm an ideas guy, not a filmmaker. It's far easier for me to put my ideas on paper and let the reader's imagination do the work of casting, building sets, and everything else that would go into bringing my ideas to life on the big screen. I'm a writer, but I sometimes dream of having the time, passion, connections, and clout to be a writer/director/producer. That being said, here are a few movies that I hope my counterpart in an alternate universe had a hand in making:
STRAIGHT THROUGH THE HEART
At the core, it's your basic love story: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, and their relationship is put to the test when their parents find out and disapprove. What's different here is why they disapprove: In this average, everyday, slice-of-life world that otherwise looks just like our own, heterosexual relationships are an aberration. Mom and Mom think their son should find a nice boy, like everyone else. Dad and Dad have been sending their hopeless daughter on a series of failed dates with perfectly good women. The idea of a girl and a boy falling in love is either laughable--the stuff of sitcoms reaching for a cheap chuckle—or morally reprehensible, against the lines of gender division that have held society together for as long as anyone can remember.
It's not so much social commentary as it is a reflection of reality through a funhouse mirror. It's up to the viewer to interpret the film as empowering, uncomfortable, or whatever else it might be. The movie doesn't play sides; the protagonists, their parents, and the society around them all have compelling motivations for their beliefs and actions. There are no villains and no heroes; the children and their parents are all likable people who are struggling to reconcile their strong conflicting convictions with their love for each other. Ultimately, the film is an examination of how we adapt to the unexpected, what we're willing to sacrifice for the people we love, and our ability to separate what's right from what's fair. It's the start of a conversation, not the end of an argument.
Some years back, I remember hearing something about filmmaker John Woo pursuing the rights to make a Metroid movie. Since then, I've wondered how one might pull off a Metroid movie that stays faithful to the games while telling a story worthy of the cinematic medium. I'd like to think that Other M is the bad Metroid movie adaptation we never got, what with the irrelevant new characters, mishandled existing characters, uninspiring performances, incoherent story, and nonsensical action sequences that characterize practically every video game movie. My take on the series would be risky, but I think it'd revolutionize the genre if it worked.
The movie opens with alien text typing across the screen, as though we're looking at a computer display, blinking block cursor and all. The text quickly morphs into English, for the sake of audience members who can't read Space Pirate: "EMERGENCY ORDER. ALL PERSONNEL ON HIGH ALERT. DEFEND MOTHER BRAIN AND THE METROID BREEDING PROJECT AT ALL COSTS. SAMUS ARAN HAS ARRIVED." The iconic prologue music from Super Metroid starts playing as the camera pulls back from the computer terminal and pans around to show an alien laboratory. Tall insectoids can be seen in the distance, scrambling into action. The camera begins moving down a hallway lined with large test tubes made of frosted glass. Blurry blobs float about inside them. With an unmistakable screech, something rams the glass—we catch a fleeting glimpse of a Metroid.
As if to evade the captive creature, the camera pulls up out of the way and through the ceiling, through walls, through the heart of planet Zebes. We see strange flora and fauna through the volcanic depths of Norfair, the twisting tunnels of Kraid's lair, and the watery chambers of Maridia; we see an ancient Chozo statue somewhere in Brinstar; and then the camera ascends through a rocky tunnel, past a trio of small monkey creatures hopping from wall to wall, to the planet's surface and out into space. The camera pans back down to frame the curve of the planet in the title shot as the word "METROID" fades into view.
Metroid is all about exploration, secrets, action, and atmosphere. For a movie adaptation to be successful, those points need to be the central focus. From the moment Samus' gunship touches down on the planet surface and Samus steps out, our heroine is alone. She doesn't talk to anyone, not even herself (well, not for another two or three sequels, anyhow). That persistent sense of isolation makes the beauty of these alien landscapes more powerful, as they are almost there for Samus' (and the audience's) sole enjoyment, and increases the creep-out factor exponentially. As the film that so clearly inspired Metroid so elegantly put it, "In space, no one can hear you scream." Samus' character development is told through body language, and clues about the history and lore of the universe are scattered about for the observant viewer. Unique camera angles work to bring the viewer into the scene: viewing the world through Samus' helmet, a la Metroid Prime; following Samus with a traditional 2D platformer camera view; observing scenes from the perspective of a Zoomer crawling along the ceiling, a Space Pirate charging down the hallway, as well as a traditional action-movie camera. The action scenes are explosive at times, but Samus' use of everything at her disposal is what makes them so compelling; they're captivating because she's quick and clever, not just because stuff blows up real good.
It's an action movie, but it's an art piece. The story and dialogue are deliberately minimal, because they're not what the game is about. Later games? Sure. But let's not get too far away from why people fell in love with Metroid to begin with.
[EDIT: Looks like the fan community has this covered; check out this fan film.]
There's been talk of a Mass Effect movie, but I suspect it'll be missing something if it ever comes to fruition. Putting the characters and locations and technologies on the big screen is only part of the experience; player choice is an integral part of the gameplay, and I think you can still give that to an audience. Remember Clue? Mass Effect could take it one step farther: not only are there multiple endings to the film, but there are multiple films. There's a male and a female protagonist. There's a Paragon path and a Renegade path. As with the games, the bulk of the story plays out the same way, but there are pivotal moments that shape what's to come. With so much of the movie being rendered by computers, it's feasible to swap out one protagonist for another in the scenes that are unaffected by choice; it's more like filming one-and-a-half movies than four.
Keeping things under wraps would still be a challenge. Choosing a protagonist other than Commander Shepard, perhaps setting the movie after the events of Mass Effect 3, would help reduce suspicion about casting a male and female lead. Carefully constructing the teaser trailers would help preserve the surprise. Then, opening day, every theater gets a different version of the film. Now you've got viewers talking about their different experiences (as they've done with the games), not to mention an incentive for them to throw their money at the movie a couple more times...and/or buy the comprehensive home video release later that year.
STAR TREK: INSURRECTION
"Wait..." I hear you saying. "This one already exists." Yes, you're correct. But imagine the film with the omnipotent Q as the villain instead of grumpy face-stretching aliens. Make a bigger point of acknowledging Deep Space Nine, including a cameo or two from the regulars aside from Worf. Derive conflict from within the characters, not from external danger that pales in comparison with what the heroes faced in their previous adventure against the Borg. The Insurrection we have is fine for an episode of the TV series, but it takes twice as long to accomplish the same amount as a TV episode and still leaves questions unanswered.
Strengthen Insurrection, and you potentially create a ripple effect that inspires Nemesis to be more attentive to its characters and the broader universe they inhabit. Do better with Nemesis, and you dramatically improve public opinion about Star Trek just as Enterprise is finding its footing. Get more people excited about the Star Trek that is, and you curb the urge to reboot the whole thing before the end of the decade.