Here’s an article from Kotaku discussing how the Ace Attorney movie, made in Japan by director Takashi Miike, and how it’s the best video game adaptation ever made. While I generally agree with the article, some points I do want to bring up as being worth discussing more or I just have a differing opinion.
“To date, there have been numerous examples of video games being turned into motion pictures. Sadly, very few are any good, if at all. The issue at hand is fairly obvious: games and movies are two fundamentally different things. Transforming one into the other is simply a tall order.”
The author goes on to say that the two routes for creating a video game movie is to basically just take every element of the game and translate it to film, which will please fans of the franchise but bore anyone else, or the film makers will have to change elements of the source material to accommodate the film, such as in the Super Mario Bros. Movie and while this can make a better film (in theory) it pisses off the fanbase the film is trying to appeal to.
What Matt Hawkins, the author of this article, fails to point out is what makes games and film so radically different, because it’s been proven that for some games, you can string all the cutscenes together with some gameplay for context and create a feature length (animated) film adaptation of the game. This is proven not just by a fan who took all 3 Uncharted games and turned them into roughly 3 hour movies and by Nintendo’s Metroid: Other M which did the same thing after you beat the game to make a 2 hour Metroid movie (which Hawkins said would never happen).
Video games though, by their nature, are about doing, rather than watching. The ratio of doing and watching can be meddled with, but if you’re aren’t doing anything in a video game then it’s not really a game, or rather, it’s not interactive. One reason I believe directors have such a hard time translating a video game into a film is mainly because a good portion of it is action scenes. There isn’t much to work with in terms of plot or character development, at least not within a short film running time of 3 hours being the most anyone can probably stand.
Let’s take the Super Mario Bros. movie as an example. It created something from almost literally nothing. If it was a straight adaptation of the game, it wouldn’t be very interesting. I don’t know what moviegoers who saw it were expecting since it had their favorite Mario characters with a ton of references to the games and heck, that’s the reason I love it.
The reason I want to stress the difference between games and movies is because Hawkins says this:
“Even those who don’t feel quite as strongly on the matter are nevertheless curious about the prospect of a game movie being helmed by a household name, one who has an established track record. And the answer is known, courtesy of Ace Attorney by Takashi Miike. Again, it is without question the absolute best video game to film adaptation of all time….Some might argue that the core elements that comprise Ace Attorney make it an unfair example. True, lawyers have starred in countless movies beforehand, to great effect. Yet I firmly believe, based upon his track record, that if Takashi Miike were asked to direct a WarioWare movie, it would also stick close to the subject matter and still be pretty damn awesome.”
It’s more than the fact that Ace Attorney features lawyers, it’s the whole style of the game that makes it easy to translate into a film. The Ace Attorney series is classified as interactive visual novesl. If it was a lawyer “game”, it would be closer to what LA Noir has, with a multi-branching story where you can accuse people and, more importantly, where you can be wrong. Now please understand, you can lose in Ace Attorney, but instead of facing the consequences of the wrong choice like in LA Noir , you merely start over and try and figure out the right path. Thus, there is one canon story, which could literally be written down and sold as a book (it has).
So what I’m basically saying is that I doubt that if Takashi Miike would direct a WarioWare movie, that it would stick close to it’s subject matter and be awesome, because WarioWare is a boring game to just watch. It is a game about doing, while Ace Attorney is about the story and thus can be adapted to other storytelling genres (like a musical or comic book, wait…it already was).
There’s also this confusing manner:
“A lazy, uncreative director could have simply done a shot for shot recreation and called it a day, but not Miike. Sure he nailed all the locations, costumes, and crazy hairstyles (my God, the hair), but it’s the little things that seals the deal. Like that part in the game in which Wright hits a wall and has that “oh shit, I’m totally screwed” look on his face. Which is brilliantly recreated, and accomplishes the same goal of illustrating the severity of the situation, plus accentuating the pathos of our hero.”
I guess he’s saying that a lazy director could just place two actors across from each other and have them read the game dialogue and that would be bad…but the way Hawkins praises Miike seems to be for doing a better shot-for-shot remake? I don’t know, I just don’t see the difference between when he used the terms “recreation” and “recreated” to point out the contrasting qualities of a “lazy, uncreative director” and Miike (not that I doubt Miike’s skill mind you, I’ve actually never seen any of his films so I don’t know for sure).
“It’s also worth noting how Hollywood would never in a million years choose to make a movie based on a video game about lawyering of all things. They’re far more comfortable with something in which people are either punching or shooting each other. Which is why Hollywood mostly likes fighting games or first person shooters (or anything with zombies in them); they’re concepts that are easily understood and even easier to exploit.”
Because making an adaptation of a Japanese fan favorite game is not exploiting the Japanese movie-goer? Again, this paragraph just seems…wrong. I guess it stems from the fact that I doubt the first sentence. If we ignore Uwe Bolle’s movie for a minute (since he’s purposely makes bad movies), why are games like Halo and Uncharted considered for films with games like Resident Evil and Prince of Persia even getting made into films at all, but not Ace Attorney? Why no Mega Man or Sonic the Hedgehog movies (besides the Eddie Lebron movies which are awesome)? Is it because shooters, fighting games, and zombie games are more easily digestible to the pea-brained popcorn stuffing movie goers of America? Or is it because these games are popular? (Sorry, but I hate snooty elitist writing, even if it unintentional) Like Halo, Ace Attorney is popular in Japan. Popular enough to have a musical, a comic series, and a theme park attraction before it got a movie. Halo and Uncharted are popular in the US, which is probably why they were considered to have a film adaptation. Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time is heralded by some as one of the greatest games of all time, so naturally it got a movie. Resident Evil is probably one of Capcom’s most beloved franchises in west and it had a successful movie run (unlike Street Fighter) which is why it keeps getting more. Basically, to not even bring up the popularity of the Ace Attorney series and just reducing the argument to “Japan is just SO much more sophisticated than the brutish Americans” really does miss the point.Oh and more Ace Attorney games are being made but probably not coming to America.
“Movies in Hollywood are done by committee; they have many masters to appease, and many milestones to hit; making a movie is actually low on the list of priorities. Their primary concern is to create a property, with the film being the necessary evil that is the center of a perfect storm that’s comprised of action figures, fast food tie-in’s, and beach towels.”
Okay not for nothing, but Japan is a lot more commercialized than the States are.Ok,maybe not more, but at least we’re on equal footing. Ever been to Japan? Unless I was literally in the middle of some farm community or someplace sacred, I couldn’t turn my head without seeing something pop culture related being advertised. Not that I minded or anything (I bought a Pikachu flashlight for like 1 yen or something), but again, this passage wreaks of snootiness. In fact, let’s rewind and remember what we are talking about. This is a film that primarily promotes the Ace Attorney series. Doesn’t matter if it’s good or not, it can still be art but that doesn’t mean it’s not a commercial (I use My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic as a precedence).
If this was a film trying to say some great message, which is what art does by the way, communicate a message, then why not use original characters? Why not ditch the goofy costumes and the recreated set pieces and tell a real story with the director’s own meaning behind everything. Does the goofy costumes work to communicate some kind of message or are they there because otherwise fans would not like this Ace Attorney movie.
I also can’t imagine that American directors like Steven Spielberg or Christopher Nolan don’t have “making a movie” high on their priority list. You want to know why the Star Wars prequels are bad? Not because George Lucas said “who cares I’m going to make money anyways” but because he had enough money that he didn’t have any higher-ups to tell him that his dialogue sucked or do anything else to get in his way. He got to make his movie because he wanted to make his movie. For producers sure, I get that they want to make money rather than the movie, but mainly because it’s their job and I sincerely doubt that it is different in Japan.
“…it would appear that Capcom was fairly hands-off as it pertained to Ace Attorney, which is fairly interesting. But I believe it says less about them having confidence in their homeland’s motion picture industry and instead is just another sign of them not having their act together. Aside from home video releases, precious little is being done to cash in on the movie. The only other tie-ins that come to mind, the manga and gender bending musical, all existed beforehand. Whether this instance of restraint is a good or bad thing is entirely debatable.”
Again, it’s a commercial for their game. Think about how Nintendo cashed in on Pokemon the 1st Movie. It promoted their card game via free giveaways, and promoted their game the anime was based on. That’s probably the biggest cash-in right there.
“When all is said and done, it’s difficult making a successful video game movie. Ace Attorney is the first true, bona fide success story…”
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s difficult to make a successful (read: good) movie in the first place and we still haven’t exactly nailed down what is the purpose of a video game adaption. Looking at the new Spider-Man movie coming out, it obviously doesn’t follow the origin story or the comics exactly, it is a retelling, set in modern times, with new themes to make it relateable to a modern age (I assume that’s what they’re trying to do anyways). Or even the Batman films, trying to add a realistic spin on a comic book world literally filled with magic, and various gods and aliens. Should a video game adaptation just tell us the same story but in movie form? Or expand on the world established by the video game? When people were outraged over the proposed Uncharted movie delving in Nathan Drake’s past, I was actually really excited because film is really good at showing us deep character interactions. Even in games, those kind of moments are captured through cutscenes, which is film, and while the gameplay in Uncharted has some banter that expands on the characters, you really get to see Drake’s, Elena’s, Flynn’s, Raja’s, etc. character through the film aspects and from what I getting at from this article, is that this Ace Attorney movie is going to just be a retelling of the first game, which honestly, actually sounds kind of boring from a Ace Attorney-fan aspect, but exciting from a movie-goer aspect because I at least know that the Ace Attorney story is interesting.
All in all, I still can’t wait to see this movie. Again, because it still seems like a fun and interesting film, but whether or not I can argue that it’s art and deserves to be put on a pedestal is yet to be determined. I still have hopes for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph to actually being the greatest video game movie, as long as our definition of a video game movie is: involves video games. If it is actually “adapted from a video game”, I’d honestly say Metroid: Other M since it A) was at least written by the guy who made Metroid and technically takes zero liberties from the game it was based on (since it uses in game cut-scenes as a bulk of the film), and B) I actually love that game for telling a compelling story about an actual human character that pays homage to Ridley Scott’s Alien while still keeping true to the narrative form established in previous games (Fusion).
Of course, why not a movie about playing video games? If that was the case then it would have to be The Wizard…but only ’cause of LUCAS!