I think we’ve all been curious why there has never been a Metroid film as the science fiction Nintendo video game franchise is certainly worthy of adaption given that it was inspired by Ridley Scott’s original Alien and they seemed to be homaging the work of H.R. Giger in many of the aspects of the game design.
The game was first released by Nintendo in 1986 and led to multiple sequel installments.
METROID – Samus Aran travels through the caverns of the planet Zebes to stop the Space Pirates from exploiting the parasitic organisms known as Metroids for galactic domination. She confronts the cybernetic lifeform Mother Brain, as well as its guardians, Kraid and Ridley.
An impressive live-action commercial was produced for the 2010 Wii game Metroid: Other M.
You can understand why Nintendo has been hesitant to make live-action feature films based on their characters after their experience on the horrendous flop with Super Mario Brothers: The Movie in 1993 that took tremendous liberties with that IP. It had an impact on how the company dealt with Hollywood from then on as they’ve only had limited contact over the years the most notable with Legendary’s extremely successful Detective Pikachu based on the Pokemon games.
Development on a feature film version of Metroid goes back to 2003 with Zide-Perry Productions until the rights expired.
In April 2004, it was reported that legendary Hong Kong action director John Woo optioning the film rights to Nintendo’s Metroid with Tiger Hill.
Woo is best known in the west for his string of Hollywood films such as Face/Off, Broken Arrow, Mission: Impossible II, WWII drama Windtalkers, and Hard Target. His Hong Kong films include Hard Boiled, The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, A Better Tomorrow II, Bullet In The Head, Just Heroes, and Once A Thief.
John had released the Philip K. Dick adaptation Paycheck starring Ben Affleck and Uma Therman the previous year and seemingly had an itch for more science fiction.
He was going to produce with an option to direct the video game adaption they eventually hired screenwriters to tackle the film which included David Greenwalt (Grimm, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel). They originally were targeting to release the film in 2005-2006.
Producer Brad Foxhoven of Tiger Hill spoke with IGN back in 2012 giving some details of their experience working on the adaptation. Developing the project for three years alongside Nintendo closely before things eventually ended.
FOXHOVEN: “We believed there was a great opportunity for John Woo to bring his style of action into a Metroid film. Nintendo was quite supportive of the idea, as they were all fans of John’s previous films.
We knew that a lot of the Metroid mythology had many similarities to other well-known science fiction franchises, so we had to try and propose some fresh ideas that Nintendo would approve. We also knew that the characters were originally developed many years ago, when game systems were limited in their graphics and animation. These same designs needed to be updated, particularly when seen as a live-action representation.”
Brad also mentioned that Nintendo’s experience with Super Mario Brothers: The Movie led to them being a little less open to changing things for the live-action adaptation. Something that happens often in the world of feature film adaptations.
FOXHOVEN: “Nintendo was definitely discouraged by it, but felt that with John [Woo] they would be in better hands. The challenge for us was that it felt that the biggest lesson Nintendo learned from Mario was to hold onto their rights even tighter, limiting collaboration when it came to translating Metroid to the big screen. Our entire development time was spent exploring the Metroid world, and what we could – and couldn’t – do within it.”
Here is what Brad had to say about bringing on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel writer David Greenwalt. It’s interesting to see that they were committed to someone that had experience writing strong female leads. Various incarnations attempted to tell the origin story of Samus.
FOXHOVEN: “We liked David because he brought along a strong sensibility for a female protagonist. Obviously, this was a must, with Samus being the key figure in all of this. We made it as far as a treatment for a live-action film that John would possibly direct.”
Woo would eventually pivot to his epic two-parter Red Cliff and they would part way with Nintendo in 2007. Tiger Hill and Woo would partner on the video game Stranglehold starring Chow Yun-Fat that was released back in 2007.
FOXHOVEN: “I know for Nintendo, they walked away appreciating the process and how much further they needed to explore the franchise so that it has a chance for a feature film at some point. I still believe there is a chance. There are quite a few Hollywood executives in town who grew up playing Metroid, and who would be willing to take the time needed to bring Nintendo along in the process.”
This wouldn’t be the only time John Woo got involved with video game adaptations as later in 2004 it was reported he wanted to direct a Rainbow Six film for Paramount Pictures (based on the original novel by Tom Clancy) and a Spy Hunter film starring Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock, neither would materialize with John as their director.
We haven’t heard much about the project officially but Nintendo has recently returned to Hollywood with Detective Pikachu and they announced at the end of 2018 they would be working on an animated Super Mario Bros. film with Illumination (Minions and Despicable Me) and distributed by Universal Pictures. This could be a sign that Nintendo might eventually come around to a Metroid film down the road as the positive experiences grow.
There has been some interest from Captain Marvel actress Brie Larson to play the role of Samus and she dressed as the heroine for Halloween in 2018 posting a handful of pictures in the costume on her Instagram account.
I hope not. I want to make that movie. https://t.co/6ZneOLu2Wh
— Brie Larson (@brielarson) November 2, 2018
Larson recently teamed up with Nintendo to promote the video game Animal Crossing on her Instagram account and told People she was open to the idea of getting involved with an Animal Crossing feature film. Building up a relationship with Nintendo never hurts.
She has also teased interest in joining the Star Wars universe in the past as well.
Brie is expected to reprise the Carol Danvers role in Captain Marvel 2 that had been recently given a release date July 8th, 2022 which would mean that Marvel had planned on the film shooting next year. A director has yet to be announced.
Her Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts had some ideas for a Metroid film and mentioned them to IGN while he was promoting his own in-development video game feature film adaptation, Metal Gear Solid.
VOGT-ROBERTS: “It legitimately would be [Samus] alone. It would be a little bit of her talking to herself, but like, as soon as they introduce other talking characters in those games, to me, it loses everything. You put her alone, and it’s like – it’s almost got a little bit more to do with the silence of the movie, like Drive? Like the quietness. And having it be a really intense mood piece, but mixed with silence.”
Jordan directed a live-action trailer for Destiny 2 which has some striking use of visuals that you can see would fit nicely within a Metroid film, if he were to direct it.
I think Metroid is prime to get a film given the advanced visual effects technology that could bring the universe to life.
Would you like to see Nintendo make a live-action Metroid film and who do you think should play the role of Samus?