Community Spotlight:

Metroid: Enemies Within

The Metroid short
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We are delighted to be interviewing the creative team behind Metroid: Enemies Within, a ten minute live action short based on the events after Metroid Prime Hunters from the creative teams at Massive State and Moxie Lady Productions. The team is made up of Christian Cardona (Writer, Director, and Producer), Kent King (Producer) and Rebecca Marshall as Samus Aran, who we will be taking part in this interview. The team also includes James Young, Fight Choreographer and Stunt Coordinator).

SS: Hey guys, thanks for agreeing to this interview! First of all, please introduce yourselves to our readers!

CC: My name is Christian Cardona, I’m the writer, director, and producer for Metroid: Enemies Within. I’m a third generation film maker from Mexico (link to my grandfather, and father.), and an Emmy-nominated visual effects supervisor.

SS: Metroid: Enemies Within looks like an exciting project! What encouraged you to want to create a movie based on the Metroid franchise?

CC: Well, one of my favorite things to do, is watch video game cinematics. I think they are incredibly well done, incredibly entertaining and inspirational. So, one night as I was doing this, I came to a thread or playlist that featured all Metroid cinematics and commercials, and it reminded me how amazing and cool this franchise is. I played a ton of the original Metroid, Metroid 2 on the Game Boy, (I fear I have just dated myself), and Super Metroid, then I kinda of took a break and got back into the series with Metroid Prime, and played some multiplayer on Hunters.

I thought to myself, “how come they haven’t made a live action version yet?” If done right, I thought it could be amazing. Then the wheels started turning, and two years later, here we are. (Two years ago is when I first thought of the idea, but it was really ten months ago when started really developing it.

SS: Metroid has spawned eleven games in its twenty-seven year history. Metroid: Enemies Within takes places after the events of Metroid Prime Hunters. What was the reason you decided to settle on a plot set post-Hunters as opposed to say, the origins of Samus Aran or after the events of Metroid Fusion?

CC: One of the major influences on what story I wanted to focus on came from thought of who would Samus fight; who, or what, was going to be her antagonist. So, I knew I couldn’t do Mother brain or Ridley, since those characters would have to be full on CG, and in my personal opinion, only a handful of VFX companies in the world could pull off photo real versions of these characters. So, I started evaluating all the games, and I found myself stuck on Metroid Hunters.

The idea of other bounty hunters intrigued me, and out of all of them, Sylux seemed to make the most sense. Partially because of the rumors that he might be a human, that he has stolen galactic federation armor, and his ship or what people think is his ship is seen flying away at the end of the game. It became a great spring board to develop a story between these two characters. Logistically it made the most sense as well, since Sylux is a bi-ped and I can fabricate a realistic suit of armor for the budget that we had in mind. I find sometimes by having limitations, you are forced to up with creative solutions, and it focuses you and I feel that is what has happened with this project.

SS: Since this project was announced, I have read some comments about users being concerned about the project following the canon and lore of the series. Is this something you plan to be paying close attention to in Metroid: Enemies Within? Or will you be taking your own creative approach?

CC: I will be playing close attention to the lore, but there will be a little mix of several ideas from different games. The idea is, what if Sylux was human? What if he did work for the federation at one point? These are the questions I started to ask myself. Who is this guy, and why is he doing what he is doing? In doing so, you try to find the correlations to these questions inside the Metroid universe.

SS: Tell us a little bit about the sort of research that was done, and how that has influenced the project. What sort of discoveries did you make about Metroid, Samus and the series in general?

CC: Well, I realized that so much of Metroid was about the game play, that there wasn’t much focus on the characters, or at least the back stories of the characters, and while I was doing my research on Metroid Wiki I found it challenging to settle on a story, the games are not all in chronological order, and there are inconsistencies from one game to the next. Other M was really the first game that goes deep into Samus as a character, but I felt it was off. It has been stated that Samus was really inspired by Ripley in that Alien franchise, and I personally always felt that made sense. I see Samus as a Ripley, or a Sarah Conner, someone who is bad ass and doesn’t take shit from anyone.

SS: Can you share any scrapped ideas and concepts that you had during the project’s development?

CC: I will share one: I was going to have a scene at the beginning where we arrive on an unconscious Samus, she had just used the Omega Canon on Gorea, and the blast rendered her unconscious, she is found by a certain you-know-who, and I’ll leave it at that.

SS: The Metroid franchise is also known for its memorable and unique music, something a lot of fans deeply care about. For a production like Metroid: Enemies Within, I imagine it is something that you will be thinking about carefully. What will be your approach regarding the score? Can fans expect to hear some memorable themes from previous games?

CC: As far as score, we will be taking an original approach to that. I do understand how important and how iconic the score is in this franchise, so the goal is to have the same tone but have something fresh and new.

SS: Rebecca Marshall will be taking on the role of Samus Aran in Metroid: Enemies Within. What can you tell us about the audition process and why you eventually decided on Rebecca for the role?

CC: Well, I’ve worked with Rebecca before on Y: The Last Man Rising, and I really trust and respect her as an actress. It wasn’t until I learned she was playing this kick ass villain in a movie called Raze where she fights Zoe Bell that I realized she would be an amazing Samus. She showed me clips of her fighting, and all the training she did for the roll and then she told me she used to play Metroid and I was sold. She also has the physical size to pull this off, she is 5″8, so she will match up well physically with the other performers.

SS: Rebecca, you have expressed how you want to perform your own stunts in this movie. How do you feel about taking on the role of Samus, and how does it compare to your previous work?

RM: Saying “these are big shoes to fill” is an understatement for playing Samus. First off, I was honored that Christian and Kent even thought of me for the role of Samus, but then I felt such a responsibility to the fans to bring her to life. With the fan base that it has, I will do the best I can to give the fans what they want. I feel very strongly for this character and to have the opportunity to do this is amazing.

Doing stunts is a challenge in its own. After shooting “RAZE” and working with some of the best fight choreographers in the business, I had so much more respect for what they did. I also enjoyed it immensely. Having said that, doing my own stunts is probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in my career. I worked with James Young on “Raze” and the fact that I get to work with him twice in this lifetime is a privilege. We have also brought on Heidi Moneymaker who is one of the best stuntwomen in the business and Nick Benseman, a great stuntman who also worked on “RAZE”, so I think our team for stunts and fights is pretty solid.

Through my acting career, I have gotten the opportunity to play a wide range of characters, but there is has always been something that draws me to playing an action hero. And unfortunately in this business, it’s very hard to find those types of female roles. I have never had a role anything like Samus. It’s a challenge and I will give a hundred and ten percent to pull it off for the fans and because I hold this project near and dear to my heart. The experience will be an incredible one for us and hopefully for everyone watching if we can get the support to make it happen.

SS: What can you tell us about Sylux, and the chemistry between him and Samus in Metroid: Enemies Within?

CC: There is a little bit of history there. Sylux does not like Samus, primarily because she works for the Federation, she knows he is dangerous but hasn’t fully appreciated what he is capable of. All of that is about to change. I don’t want to give too much away.

SS: In the games, Samus has been a mostly silent protagonist. While there has been on screen dialogue in some games, it wasn’t until Metroid: Other M that Samus expressed herself vocally. Will Samus be getting a script? Or will she be a fairly mute character?

CC: She does have a script, it’s not an inner monologue, she does interact with the other characters, but I will say it’s a film that will feature a ton of action.

SS: You are looking for $90,000 to create this project. Some people may think that is a huge sum of money for a ten minute short. Can you give us a breakdown of what those costs will be used for, and what you plan to do if the project is funded and exceeds its total?

CC:  I go into pretty good detail into this, I can provide a very detailed plan for this, what I will add is that we are toying with the idea of adding an extra scene if we go over a certain amount. But that has not been decided.

SS: Christian has expressed his appreciation for Metroid and as a fan, has a clear idea of how he wants this short to be executed. For members of the creative team who may not be as familiar with Metroid, how difficult was it to share Christian’s vision?

KK: It wasn’t hard and I think the different ways we came together to do this fan film works well for this project. Christian loves Metroid. He grew up playing it, and continued playing it over the years. He’s attached to the game and represents those kinds of fans. I thought Metroid was cool and had played the earliest versions as a kid, but I don’t have the same kind of history with it that Christian does. It wasn’t too hard to share the vision though. When we started talking about it, there were so many aspects of Metroid and the possibilities that got me excited creatively. Samus is bad ass! I would love to see her on screen.

As a producer and actress, Samus is the type of female character that I am passionate abut bringing forth and seeing represented. I’m also an action and sci-fi nut. Working in this genre is always fun for me. I love having discussions with Christian about story, design, and the overall tone of the film. And of course, we talked a lot about how to do an adaptation while respecting and honoring the canon. I had to refer to Christian on the details of this, but it’s something we both cared about.

Sharing the vision wasn’t the tough part. Imagining how to do it well within our parameters was the tricky part. To be honest, when Christian first brought up doing Metroid, I think I may have laughed out loud. It was sort of like “you want to do what? How?!?” I like challenges which is good because this was a bit daunting initially. To me, it’s all about execution and this would have to be done well to be worth it. Tackling something of this scope, that’s beloved, to the level it would need to be were huge concerns. We talked about everything needing to feel real from the sets, to costumes, performances, fight scenes, VFX.. everything. Every project takes on a life of its own, and this one’s been no different. We started to explore putting it together, and as concerns got addressed and exciting new additions joined our team, I became confident we could do it well.

With the vision and resources aligned, I got passionate about moving forward with this film. It’s really nice because our team is made up of people who grew up loving the game like Christian, uber die-hard Metroid fans, and newer fans like me who aren’t necessarily big gamers but like different elements of the story. We’ll consider our movie a success if it provides enough thrills and entertainment for the whole spectrum.

I truly hope we get to make it. I just want to see Samus on screen in her suit kicking butt! The last thing I’ll say on this is that I can’t wait to see the version Christian has in his head. He’s so much more than just a VFX guy. He’s truly a talented director. It’s in his bones. He’s going to do some exciting things in this film. As a producer, I just want to provide him with enough support to be able execute his vision because I know it will be incredible!

SS: There have been a number of movies based on video games over the years, and some would say that the majority of those have been unsuccessful. What makes Metroid: Enemies Within a movie that will be any different?

CC: Well, Metroid is unique, I think the universe that has been created really translates well to a movie. To a certain degree the game was inspired by a movie, Alien. So, I think that makes it different from most other games, and our goal is to make it look and feel as real as possible. That is not to say that other video game movies didn’t have that same goal or was unsuccessful in doing so, I can only speak on what our intention is and if we get the opportunity to do this then it already is a success.

SS: The creative team have worked on a number of highly successful projects over the years. How does Enemies Within compare to your other work and what will you be taking from your previous experiences moving forward into this project?

CC: Well. by far, Metroid has the most passionate fan base I’ve encountered as a director, but I’m not surprised. I’m a fan, and I know what I do and don’t want to see. But it does put me in a unique situation because I have to think about the logistics of actually shooting, and sometimes that brings up sacrifices that have to be made, even thought as a fan I might not want to. So that has been a new experience for me. The set will be the largest I’ve ever built for one of my projects, and it will be nice to stay in one location for the entire shoot, that will be a breath of fresh air. My last project had seven locations in six days, and these locations were not close. I will not miss that.

SS: Finally, tell us why people should be backing this project!

CC: Well, if you would like to see one of the most badass characters (Samus) kicking the crap out of another Bounty Hunter, inside a pretty cool space ship, well, this is your chance. And the hope is that we do this well enough and enough fans really enjoy it, that it might prompt Nintendo to make a bigger, badder, better version of the whole thing.

SS: Thanks for your time guys! We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to us. Before we close this interview, are there any other comments you would like to make?

CC: Yeah, we’ve gotten a ton of questions about our storyboards, and do they represent exactly what we will be doing? And the answer is they are just there to convey the general action, blocking, pacing, and tone. it allows us to see logistically see what needs to be done. It doesn’t represent what the suit will look like, or what the dialogue will be, or even Samus needing to swipe access cards, or how she gets her suit on. Those things will be handled with some more creativity, as well as using technology that makes more sense.

One last thing: when we make this film, I want to encourage everyone to watch it all the way to the end credits. We have a little surprise planned.

We would like to thank the team of Metroid: Enemies Within for taking the time to speak with us. You can also follow the progress of the project over at the Metroid: Enemies Within Facebook page.

© 2012 Darren Kerwin
Interviewed  September 2013