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The Story Behind John Woo's Ill-Fated METROID Movie

Movie Metroid by Joey Paur

Back in 2004 director John Woo was developing a live-action adaptation of Metroid. The film production ended up falling apart. We now have some information on the ill-fated film project and where it was headed thanks to the film's producer Brad Foxhoven. During that time Nintendo was developing three Metroid-related video game projects, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for GameCube, Metroid Prime: Hunters for Nintendo DS, and the Fuse Games spin-off Metroid Prime Pinball. There was a strong revival of the game coming and according to 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.

He explains to IGN that Tiger Hill Entertainment ended up spending three years on the development process for the film coming up with a story that would appeal to both new and existing fans of the game franchise.

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.

They had to work around a lot of restrictions that Nintendo slapped on the property, there was stuff they could and couldn't do with the world of Metroid. The reason Nintendo was so tight on these restrictions was because they were still discouraged by the Super Mario Bros. movie failure 20 years prior. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel writer David Greenwalt was hired to help develop a story, and they made it as far as a story treatment for the film. 

Early versions of the script focused the origin story of Samus Aran. "Tiger wanted to explore who Samus was before she became the lone bounty hunter featured in the games.... the movie version of Samus was to be an exceptionally talented, but also flawed character who was looking for redemption."

We wanted to see her struggle, to be humbled, and to be forced to rise up against crazy odds. And of course we wanted to see the cool weapons in all of their glory.

That's a story I think we could have all gotten behind. Everything started to fall apart when trying to build a backstory for Samus. They kept hitting walls, both creatively and on the licensing front.

Things started to go south when we tried to dig into the character a bit more. As you know, any film needs a deeper story arc than what is told in the game, where we learn about the characters and their world. What are they doing when they are NOT fighting? What is their daily existence and relationships? What are Samus's aspirations, history, and fears? Nintendo appreciated the questions, but had never thought about them before, and ultimately didn't have a lot of answers. In the end, they felt uncomfortable with our team being the ones to propose those answers.

That's where the film production came to a halt, and that was in 2007. It's really kind of sad that the movie never happened because Nintendo didn't really know who the character they developed was, and they didn't want someone else developing it for them. Foxhoven hopes that one day they will give a Metroid movie another try saying,

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.

Metroid could really be a great movie, and if it happens one day, hopefully they put together a talented team of people to do it! I'm very curious to see what John Woo would have done with it!

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