It was in 2004 that news first emerged regarding Nintendo’s plans for a screen adaptation of their celebrated Metroid series.
Tiger Hill had taken responsibility for the project, as Zide-Perry Productions let their license lapse. At such time, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Metroid Prime: Hunters and Metroid Prime Pinball were all underway, and Nintendo looked toward a movie to complete the set.
“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,” explained Brad Foxhoven, Tiger Hill’s former president and co-founder, to IGN.
“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.”
Having been planned for a 2006 release, production at Tiger Hill began to slip as Nintendo’s restrictions for the license and its characters reared their limitations. After the abysmal Super Mario Bros. adaptation, the company was taking the next collaboration incredibly seriously.
“Nintendo was definitely discouraged by it, but felt that with John [Woo] they would be in better hands,” Foxhoven continued. “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.”
Several writers were hired, which included Buffy, Angel and Grim screenwriter David Greenwalt.
“We liked David because he brought along a strong sensibility for a female protagonists. 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.
Early scripts were geared at being an origin story, exploring Samus Aran before she became a bounty hunter.
“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.”
Foxhoven explained further, “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’ 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.”
Nintendo instead turned to Team Ninja to craft a similar concept in game form, which lead to Metroid: Other M being developed for Wii.
Whilst Tiger Hill missed their chance, with the rights soon lapsing, Foxhoven remains hopeful that a film studio will one day have a chance at bringing Metroid to the big screen.
“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.”