The Metroid Movie I Want Will Never Be Made
It needs to scare the pants off me.
We don’t get to talk video games here because it’s a movie website, but video games are actually my first love. There’s an article I want to write at a future date about the medium but for now I will just say, Metroid is one of the reasons I love video games so much.
Nintendo isn’t known for their stories. They often emphasize gameplay over anything else, but will occasionally break that routine and do something different. When Metroid began it was of humble origins but as the years went on the lore expanded and became pretty captivating in itself.
The allure for many is still in the amount of exploration and action there is in Metroid and games influenced by it. But Metroid, even in its infancy, was always a lot heavier on atmosphere than other Nintendo mainstays like Zelda and Mario. It was never as easily accessible as those franchises and this showed in the sales–it doesn’t compete with the success of video game’s mascot and that dude in the tunic.
As excited as I am to see the Mario movie that’s been in the works for a while now, the Metroid series is really the one these days that deserves to make the jump to the big screen. Video games can get by with terrible plots if the gameplay is solid, but cinema doesn’t have that extra aspect to it to hold onto. You can make a visually stunning movie but more often than not people see through it if there’s nothing behind the visuals. Style over substance is a term for a reason.
That’s why Metroid can succeed where other video game adaptations couldn’t. I’ve been a little easier on some of them, such as 2018’s Tomb Raider, or 2006’s Silent Hill (not the sequel, oh god no), but I do have faith in a Metroid adaptation if done correctly. And luckily I’m the guy to tell you how to do it because I’m so credentialed.
I’m not going to fantasy book the entire flick and give you a rundown of how exactly the plot should go because I’m not interested in that, nor do I have any idea of every specific element of the film. What I think of is basic guidelines to follow and a framework to work within. Metroid doesn’t have to be exactly what I picture in my head narratively, it just needs to hit a few key points.
Don’t Pander to the Fans
Include characters that are familiar to the fans, soundtrack it with familiar music and create environments that show the influence of the places we’ve explored in the games. Keep the basic set-up of a Metroid game. Whoever writes it and directs it should have the freedom to incorporate whatever elements they want from the series.
But don’t pander. There’s a certain level of fan service that is acceptable, but you don’t have to follow exact storylines and nobody should be scared to put a twist on what we know and love. It’s difficult to know how much fan service is too much, so you will always take a chance when adding it in… so instead of worrying about what the fans want, just write a good story. This seems like such an obvious concept but it’s partially where video games have failed.
Another place that video game adaptations have done terribly is when they try to remind us that they are a video game. Spoiler: that doesn’t translate. Games are a unique and beautiful art form, and where they are dominant is in the ways they encourage participation by design. So reminding of us of that isn’t helpful when we have no control.
Take for example the aforementioned Silent Hill, a film I think is underrated as a whole. There are flaws but for the most part it’s an interesting take on the beloved franchise. Any issue I had with it was minor up until it decided to include the nurses at the end. The nurses themselves are fine, but the way that the main character navigated the halls was ripped right from the game. It looked awkward and if it was a game it would have felt janky, and it broke my immersion briefly.
So for the love of Ridley, give us a story that manifests the characters we know and love, but don’t be beholden to video game dogma. It won’t serve the story to never take a chance. Don’t make a video game movie, make a movie.
Cast Emily Blunt
So I’m fantasy booking this a little bit because I want Emily Blunt in here. She’s one of the best actresses working today–and my personal favourite–but on top of that she has already proved that she’s diverse and can be believable in any role. You want to see her be a badass like Samus Aran, watch Edge of Tomorrow where she played “Full Metal Bitch.” You want to see her be an emotionally strong woman who doesn’t sacrifice her femininity to do so, watch A Quiet Place. Bonus points to that one because it’s important to a point I make later.
My point is, those two films are proof enough that she has what it takes to play gaming’s arguably best female character. She can be vulnerable but tough, and has already shown that she can handle the more physical demands that the role would entail. Plus, as evidenced by Into the Woods she can sing, so if you ever wanted a Metroid musical number there’s that (but please no).
Since a lot of the time will be spent either doing inner monologues or not saying much, you need an actress that can pull off both of those. You need an actress who can tell entire tales with just her facial expressions, and there’s nobody better than Emily Blunt for that.
Super Metroid Should Be Mined
I accept whatever part of the lore that they want to draw from but ignoring Super Metroid would be a mistake. It shouldn’t necessarily follow the plot word for word but it needs to borrow some of it. Take the beginning of the game, where Samus updates us about the current events of her life:
I first battled the Metroids on Planet Zebes. It was there that I foiled the plans of the Space Pirate Leader Mother Brain to use the creatures to attack Galactic Civilization…
I next fought the Metroids on their homeworld, SR388. I completely eradicated them except for a larva, which after hatching followed me like a confused child…
I personally delivered it to the Galactic Research Station at Ceres so scientists could study its energy producing qualities…
The scientists’ findings were astounding! They discovered that the powers of the Metroid might be harnessed for the good of civilization!
Satisfied that all was well, I left the station to seek a new bounty to hunt. But, I had hardly gone beyond the asteroid belt when I picked up a distress signal! Ceres station was under attack!”
The bolded part is what’s crucial to me. I don’t need her to go to Ceres station or anything like that, but I want either an introduction or flashbacks scattered throughout that describe her zero mission and specifically how she came to form a parental relationship with a Metroid.
Why do I need to see that? Because it leads to the most heart-wrenching scene in any of the games. A scene that didn’t need dialogue to make us sad; all it needed was the visuals and fitting music, something that movies do exceptionally well. Admittedly, the part afterward where you take back control also adds to it, but they can translate that to the big screen without the hands-on nature.
Look at this video to understand what I’m talking about.
It doesn’t have to be in a fight with Mother Brain, it can be anywhere. I just want it in there. It’s impactful.
Most Importantly, Be a Horror Movie With Some Action
In 2015 Rainfall Films uploaded this interpretation of Metroid, directed by Sam Balcomb. I have some slight issues with it–for one, Samus is not nearly tough enough. She seems a little too scared. A little bit of fear is required, but she seems like a lost child at times.
I’m not here to criticize it though. I mention it because it does a respectable job of being eerie. Some director could lead a film like this and I would enjoy it, but where I differ from this take is that I want it to be terrifying. As I said, this is eerie, but I want dread. Now that I think about it, maybe we should give it to Denis Villeneuve, who I recently declared as the best Canadian director of all-time. He handles dread really well in movies like Sicario–also starring Blunt–but he’s not a necessity. It was just a passing thought, but if he’s reading this then get on it Denis.
Metroid is already basically a horror game. You’re in almost complete isolation from other humans most of the time, on foreign worlds with danger all around you. You often go deep into the planet and have to navigate your way through strange terrain. The music can be calm and beautiful but a lot of the songs that stick in my head is the bombastically evil ones or the creepy tones.
The closest comparison I have is Alien, one of the best horror movies of all-time and one that excelled in harnessing the intensity of solitude. It was in space and nailed female empowerment. While displaying both confidence and competence, Samus needs to be placed in bizarre and unknown situations in order to shake her expertise. They need to go for it and not shy away from the more grotesque imagery that might threaten to upend Nintendo’s kid friendly philosophy. It doesn’t need to be insanely gory but I want H.R. Giger quality in creature design.
I want oppressive environments that are toxic and unpredictable. I want it shot darkly but intelligently; don’t flood the viewer with black so we can’t see, but use lighting as it should be, to entice a certain mood. When there’s a dimly lit corridor, I want us to be on edge as Samus carefully makes her way down it.
Don’t skimp on the violence. There’s a lot of shooting in the games so there should be a fair amount in the movie version as well. But don’t drown the tension with constant shoot-outs because they aren’t necessary. The games have solid mechanics in this regard but it’s always been the platforming and the areas you visit that were the real stars. The shooting was always just a bonus, so make it so in the cinematic telling as well.
This is where Nintendo won’t budge, and why I made the title of this article what I did. I want an R-rating, even though I’m well aware that this prevent many from seeing it. An R-rating is certainly not a death throe, as evidenced by the massive success of movies like Deadpool, but it can potentially cut back on what audience goes to see it. This is purely what I desire from the flick, I’m not thinking of it from a financial standpoint.
In Closing, Make the Metroid Movie Happen
At the end of the day I’d just be happy to get a feature length Metroid flick. It’s been a series I’ve loved for roughly 30 years and I want to see it represented correctly in another art form that I adore. I’ve only included some of the things I want to see because if somebody finally commits to making this happen I want to be surprised as well.
Ultimately this just comes down to how I would write the script and what I would put emphasis on. I don’t get upset when people take creative liberties because that’s what I want them to do. As long as they stay true to the foundations that make Metroid great than they can be as playful with the property as they want.
I hope I made a compelling case for the Metroid film that is festering in my head, and more importantly I hope some studio executive is reading this and steals my idea. Just give us a Metroid movie.