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Age of Cinematic Universes: Metroid

Written by Mark Russell

After pitching ideas for shared film universes based around Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda, it makes sense to try having a go with yet another beloved franchise: Metroid. Okay, the classic sci-fi series should sound simple to do, but it also presents a degree of challenge. The protagonist, Samus Aran, remains one of the most popular and prominent heroines, but similarities between other well-known films and characters could make it difficult to convince audiences unfamiliar with the games to embrace such a universe.

Straight away, Metroid can easily be compared to Alien and Aliens. The games’ design took a lot of from the two films – claustrophobic alien environments, a gun-toting heroine fighting scary extraterrestrials, and a distinct similarity to H.R. Giger’s art style from Alien. And when you think about it, Aliens is essentially what a Metroid film would be, and definitely influences the story beats of the original 1986 game – Ripley goes to a hostile alien world, fights deadly parasitic aliens, and then a final confrontation with the mother of the aliens. In Samus’ case, she goes to the planet Zebes, fights the Metroid and the Space Pirates, before a final confrontation with Mother Brain and escapes the planet before the lair explodes, just like Ripley and co. do in Aliens.

Samus and Ripley are also quite similar, both tough, vigilant, individualistic, and both a figure of authority and rebellion. Both even have a motherly side, though in Samus’ case, it was towards the last Metroid in existence. Samus’ reputation as a no-nonsense yet virtuous badass has led to her having quite the loyal fanbase, yet even the franchise itself has had a hard time trying to nail down her character traits. The controversial Metroid Other M depicted Samus on-and-off as a mopey rebel who exhibits an unhealthy obsession with her former commanding officer Adam Malkovich, who is frankly depicted as an uncaring douchebag who Samus spends the whole game idolising even when he shoots her and forbids her from using her power suit in a volcano. An entire article could be dedicated to slagging off the dreadful story and sexist characterization of Samus, but this is not the focus of the article.

On the other hand, having a protagonist with zero flaws would make for a very boring story. If Samus had to carry some baggage, it should be balancing a need for justice against the space dragon Ridley, a high-ranking member of the Space Pirates, who murdered her parents. In Other M, Samus experiences a PTSD moment when Ridley makes a surprise appearance, but considering this is about the fifth to sixth time she has encountered her nemesis, her reaction does not make much sense. Some suggest he is a clone, made after Samus killed the original Ridley, but it is never actually stated. For the purpose of this pitch, let’s say Samus encounters Ridley for the first time since he killed her parents, and there is that clash of childhood fear and the adult need to grow up and fry his ass.

What would make the film a more personal journey for Samus is the repetition of history. The Space Pirates invade Zebes, planet of the bird-like Chozo, who adopted her following her parents’ deaths. Her second home becomes the new lair of the Space Pirates, led by Mother Brain, a once benevolent AI who betrayed the Chozo to lead the pirates and pursue a Darwinist need to perfect the universe. Being a person she once trusted, hunting down Mother Brain would add an extra level of gravitas to the plot.

So, with that in mind, here is the basic rundown of how the first film would unfold – The film would open on a prologue/flashback depicting the ravaging of Samus’ colony and the death of her parents by Ridley, paving the way for how she has grown into an icy, hardened, yet kind bounty hunter. Her mission is her life, working to improve the lives of others, and has become a bit of an urban legend across the galaxy for her heroics. However, she tries to avoid her past, which proves to be impossible since the entire plot would revolve around revisiting old ghosts. The Galactic Federation, who she once worked for, call upon her to free Zebes from the Space Pirates and destroy the Metroid.

The Metroid are parasite-like aliens that can suck a person’s lifeforce out of them, and were actually created by the Chozo to exterminate a deadly parasite called the X. Samus comes to learn on her journey to free her second home that her adopted family and the Galactic Federation aren’t as good as she thought. Now, another challenge is would Samus be the only character to venture onto the planet or would she have someone to talk too. Following a silent character through an eerie, mysterious alien underworld would definitely be an interesting experience, but would mass audiences accept it without getting bored. Just look at how beloved 2001: A Space Odyssey and that works wonders with silent drama. Perhaps a few other bounty hunters or members of Samus’ former military outfit could be sent along to back Samus up (not that she needs it). During the venture, Samus would revisit her past via flashbacks or just dialogue/mise-en-scene.

During the film, the character(s) would get into fights with the Space Pirates, with the gigantic Kraid being the first major contender. Ridley should show up a couple of times before the final arc, which would wrap up half of Samus’ character arc, though the dragon is implied to survive, before the final dramatic battle against Mother Brain, revealing the folly and fate of the Chozo. To add in an extra dose of action, Samus decides to nuke the planet and has only a matter of minutes to escape.

A number of set pieces could be used to show off the various abilities of Samus’ power suit like her iconic “screw attack”, or just make Zebes’ setting so crazy and complex that Samus has to utilise her suit’s powers all the time rather than just walk down eerie corridors waiting for something to jump out. The trick is to at least try to separate it from the obvious inspirations of Alien without making it look like a carbon copy.

If further films were considered, it would make sense to follow the chronology of each game, with the exclusion of Other M, and reinterpret any necessary plot points into the first film’s plot. The Metroid Prime trilogy would make quite an effective bunch of movies with slight alterations. Like the first Prime game, a post-credits teaser could introduce Dark Samus as the new major antagonist of the films. Also, characters like Rundas could be established in the first Prime film before his corruption into evil. If the series had to come to an end, I would make the last movie a fusion of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, Samus battling against the Galactic Federation and the revived Space Pirates to protect the last Metroid as her perspective on things change with a dramatic return to Zebes for a reunion with Mother Brain and the cybernetically augmented Meta-Ridley.

Metroid remains one of the great classics of Nintendo’s pantheon, even if the company and its creators don’t seem to give a damn about it in recent years. With the popularity of sci-fi franchises like Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy, I believe Metroid could work as a small but profitable film series, as long as the writing worked and Samus’ character was depicted correctly without using her entirely as eye candy or secretly being an abused woman completely depending on the orders of a condescending asshole she views as a father figure.

Samus is the first major female video game character to stand out, surprise players with her gender reveal, and further development into a popular figure of feminism. The number of heroines in films are again on the rise with Katniss, Rey, Jyn Erso, etc. It would make sense for Samus to join their ranks.

Would you like to see a Metroid film series or just a stand alone film? Which actresses would make a good Samus Aran? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.

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Mark Russell

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