JJ Abrams has officially cornered the market on all things “nerd.” The success of Lost spring-boarded him into all sorts of other projects that fans of television, film, and geek culture can appreciate. Mission Impossible, Star Trek, and now Star Wars have each called upon Abrams to rejuvenate stalling franchises. Many were shocked (and still are) that Abrams is jumping from one sci-fi powerhouse to another when Star Wars came knocking just months before the latest Star Trek was set to release. But how could he not? Every sci-fi fan has dreamed of adventures in space involving alien races, future technology, and intense action. But modern audiences are almost too familiar with the subject matter to the point that the anticipation almost always sets up the movie for failure. And while there have been several imitators over the years, Star Trek and Star Wars are the Superman and Batman of the sci-fi genre; no one will ever compare, but they may be able to succeed if they find a way to stand apart.
Enter MASS EFFECT. Mass Effect is a video game released in 2007 and was proceeded by two successful sequels. A movie was announced in 2010, but few announcements have been made since. The game focusses on the adventures of Commander Shepard, a protagonist whose gender and appearance is determined by the player at the beginning of the game. With the help of a ragtag group of soldiers and crew, both human and alien, and his ship, The Normandy, Shepard embarks on a mission to save the galaxy from a race of mechanical aliens calling themselves “the Reapers.” While the combat is somewhat familiar to fans of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (also made by BioWare), the reason this game endears itself to so many is because of the depth of the characters and relationships you form with your AI teammates. Like Star Wars and Star Trek, this is a true ensemble cast and its lasting appeal has more to do with the wide cast of memorable characters rather than the action, explosions, and fight scenes.
No casting announcements have been made to date, but given the importance of the characters to this franchise, I imagine this will be a point of emphasis for the producers. If I were to make this film, this is the direction I would go:
Williams is only 25, but she is an accomplished soldier that is constantly plagued by the mistakes of her grandfather and his checkered past as a soldier. She is a possible love interest for Shepard. I find it difficult to avoid casting Jennifer Lawrence in every early 20’s action role these days because it’s the easy way out. Going too young here might be a bad choice. My inclination is to go with 30’s to 40’s male Shepard, so Lost’s Evangeline Lilly could slide right into this roll at 34.
I could go in any direction here. Liara is of the Asari race and she is a scientist and advanced in bionics (think “The Force”). She is another romantic interest of Shepard whether Shepard is male or female as Asari are all female and can reproduce with both genders. Rose Byrne would be believable as a scientist and has proven quite capable of playing strong yet reserved characters.
Skilled in both tech and bionics, Alenko is a human male and a member of Shepard’s crew. Joe Manganiello of True Blood would fit the role nicely as he was built to be an action star that will put women in the seats.
One of the most popular characters in the franchise, Garrus could be completely CG or a combination of makeup effects and CG. A Turian, Garrus is a bit rash, but is a loyal member of Shepard’s crew. Liam Neeson‘s voice is perfect for the character as he is both tough and dignified.
Tali’Zorah nar Rayya
Tali is a female Quarian and skilled technician. She has to wear an environmental suit due to her weak immune system, but she is still useful in a fight. Hannah Simone of New Girl fame is my pick even though she is a relatively fresh face in the industry.
Wrex is a Krogan bounty hunter and mercenary. He is a little rough around the edges, as are most Krogans. Sean Bean can play grumpy and tough as Game of Thrones fans can attest.
Depending on your level of Mass Effect knowledge, you are either thinking “Damn, Brett. She looks just like her.” or “Damn Brett. That is completely lazy.” Yvonne Strahovski of Chuck and Dexter played the role of Shepard’s second-in-command in Mass Effect 2. Unlike most of the other Mass Effect game actors, Strahovski has a variety of live-action film experience and name recognition. Although, her inclusion may have to wait until the sequel with so many other strong female characters already included.
Jeff “Joker” Moreau
Seth Green voiced the Normandy pilot in all three games and would provide comic relief for a series that is mostly void of comedic characters.
Dr. Karin Chakwas
The resident medical doctor of the Normandy almost seems to be inspired by Helen Mirren. No-brainer.
Admiral Steven Hackett
Hackett is the one giving the orders to Shepard and crew, and a veteran actor the likes of Kiefer Sutherland would be perfect. He is a fine actor with a background in action films, so he would naturally slide into the role of an Admiral quite well.
The Illusive Man
A villain in Mass Effect 2 and 3, the Illusive Man is the leader of Cerberus, a pro-human terrorist group. Mark Ruffalo looks the part and is on the verge of stardom after his surprising take on Bruce Banner in the Avengers.
Saren is a “by any means necessary” type of villain who hates humanity and is focussed on enslaving organic life. Yet another character that would be CG, Saren would be played by Michael C Hall who does cold and devious regularly on Dexter.
The player has the option to play Shepard as male or female and can modify their appearance, giving me the freedom to cast virtually anyone in the role. Casting a woman as Shepard would be interesting, especially since Star Wars and Star Trek rely heavily on male characters in the lead roles. However, given the multitude of strong female characters already present in the Mass Effect mythos, a strong male lead would balance out the cast more. A younger Brad Pitt would work, but the 50 year-old is not ideal for what hopes to be a long-standing franchise. Channing Tatum fits the profile, but is still a little too comedic and obvious. Tom Hardy is equal parts action star and respected actor. With The Dark Knight Rises under his belt and a Mad Max remake on the way, Hardy has the star-power and fresh face needed to invent this franchise.
That will do it for this edition of Dream-Casting. I would be shocked if the studios go with any of these choices, but you never know.