Who Should Play Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect Film?

Mass Effect 2 hasn't even been on retail shelves for two solid weeks but has managed to sell over 2 million copies as well as rack up a hefty amount of critical acclaim.

Sure, the sequel isn't perfect, but there's one point we can all agree upon - the Mass Effect premise, and its relative universe, is one of the best stories out there - and by "out there" we don't just mean within the video-game market.

There's no denying the Mass Effect franchise has serious long-term potential. Recently, our sister site Screen Rant covered the rising interest in a Mass Effect film adaptation. With industry critics throwing the notion of Mass Effect 2 as a viable game of the year contender, it's clear the franchise isn't simply going to slip into hibernation until BioWare is ready to release the third title. As a result, a film adaptation seems like a pretty viable possibility.

BioWare isn't likely to let Uwe Boll turn Mass Effect's rich source material into B-movie garbage - but that doesn't mean that we, as fans of the franchise, shouldn't encourage the developer to aim for the stars.

To that end, we'd like to present to you the top five individuals we believe should be considered for the role of Commander Shepard in the inevitable Mass Effect film. Keep in mind, our choices are not based solely on who could pull off the look (especially considering half the Commander Shepards in existence look nothing like the one BioWare slapped on the cover of the box), though that certainly was a factor. We also took into consideration individuals who could embody the difficult choices and heroic qualities that make Shepard a great protagonist - even if Shepard does dip into that "renegade" side once in awhile.

The Obvious Choice: Matthew Fox

BioWare might as well have brought Fox in when modeling the default-Shepard. Fox has accurately portrayed Jack Shepherd as he faced a number of morally ambiguous decisions (which should be familiar when playing Commander Shepard) - who to save, how much to sacrifice in order to achieve the greater good? Jack (like the Commander of the Normandy) can be a self-righteous jerk ready to give rousing speeches - even when no one is looking for one. In addition, Fox didn't look completely ridiculous in the Speed Racer "Racer X" suit - which provides a bit of hope that the N7 armor will be an even better fit. Though, some of us are still having a difficult time forgiving him for his contribution to Vantage Point - at least Commander Shepard isn't likely to be shouting "¡Tranquilo!"

The Renegade Choice: Dominic Purcell

Purcell may not be a mirror image of Commander Shepard, but he's certainly got enough physical attributes in common. He can can also provide broad acting chops, having played wrongfully accused death-row inmate, Lincoln Burrows, on Prison Break for four seasons. Casting Purcell who has certainly played his fair share of bad guys (most notably Ulrich in Mission Impossible II as well as Drake in Blade: Trinity) would likely allow the filmmakers to delve a bit deeper into Shepard's "renegade side" - upping the intensity in scenes where other actors might play it a bit nicer. That said, a few years back, Purcell gained a few personal "paragon" points when he was flagged down by a woman with a choking baby and subsequently performed CPR until paramedics arrived - saving the kid's life.

The Videogame Movie Veteran Choice: Karl Urban

Urban knows his way around a large scale CGI battlefield, as well as the dark corridors of a space station. He also starred in one of the worst video game franchise films of all time - Doom. Where some people might see his appearance in Doom as a bad thing - we think, especially considering Urban's more recent critical successes, that he'd be able to help filmmakers avoid the same type of mistakes this round - i.e. preventing the casting of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Garrus (or any other tough-guy male roles). Urban's previous performances have definitely positioned him as an actor that could carry the heroism of Shepard while simultaneously capturing the Commander's wry sense of humor. Though, returning to Urban's Bourne Supremacy shaved-head days would be essential for the battle-ready Shepard look.

The Studio Choice: Channing Tatum

Tatum definitely looks the part - though his acting chops are a bit one dimensional for the deeper approach to Commander Shepard that a lot of fans would be expecting. So why is Tatum on our list? Well, if the Hollywood powers-that-be do end up forcing a younger-heartthrob-type down our throats - at least we know what to expect from Tatum. It's pretty certain that Tatum would play Shepard within the same frame as Duke in last summer's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra film - minus all of that confusing botched relationship nonsense. Most importantly, after Tatum's recent Nicholas Sparks' adaptation Dear John (which undoubtedly sent all of our girlfriends stampeding for theatre doors) the actor may be just the gender-unifying force gamers have been waiting 20 years for - a man responsible for a video game adaptation that our significant others might actually go see. Imagine it, having a conversation about Mass Effect where your girlfriend didn't roll her eyes once! Not to mention that if Shepard visits Omega, Tatum will have any Afterlife-related dance scenes covered.

The Female Choice: Kate Winslet

Aside from a faint resemblance to the default female Shepard, Winslet isn't the obvious choice. Sure there are a number of actresses that we'd expect to lead a group of aliens in a suicide mission (Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale, among others) but none would possess the emotional complexity that Winslet could bring to a female Shepard. It wouldn't be a typical role for Winslet either (though she's no stranger to big-budget action scenes) but the actress has proven her ability to portray complicated characters that land somewhere between light and dark extremes (as in Little Children and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). If filmmakers were to bring Shepard to the big screen in female form, a dedication to the character's inner conflicts as well as the difficult decisions that arise on the battlefield would be essential. We have enough action heroins running across war zones in tank-halters, flimsy skirts, and heeled boots. Female Shepard should embody strength and resolve in addition to her beautiful face - we're confident Winslet has both.

Honorable mentions:

  • Jon Hamm
  • Christian Bale
  • Michael Fassbender
  • Colin Farrell
  • Gerard Butler
  • Russell Crowe
  • Clive Owen
  • Bruce Willis

Who might we have missed? Anyone in particular you'd like to see step into Commander Shepard's N7 armor?

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Mass Effect 2 (the game) is available on Xbox 360 and PC.

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