Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dreamweaver: The Legend of Zelda

Video game movies often get a bad rap and rightly so. Many are adaptations of what I call “propel plot” games, games that have an opening story but little else in way of plot. These games just use a story as an excuse for the action, not the other way around. Some good examples of this type of game/movie are Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil. However, I believe it is possible to make a good, if not great, video game movie if the right game is chosen. That is what I am proposing in this entry: a movie based off one of the best series of games ever, The Legend of Zelda.

Nintendo has held tightly on its game adaptations ever since the Mario Brothers movie. But before then, it ruled the 80s and 90s, with many Saturday morning cartoons based on its characters and the movie The Wizard, which was essentially an hour and a half commercial for Super Mario Brothers 3. Now Nintendo does have Pokemon on its systems, and there are movies and shows based on that franchise, but I would categorized that phenomenon as a cross-media success, not a video game one. Meanwhile, game movies such as Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark get made. These movies suffer because they are in two genres that rarely get rave reviews or big box offices, video game movies and horror. For a video game adaptation to succeed, it needs to be in a genre that’s recently come into its own: fantasy.

That’s where The Legend of Zelda franchise comes in. Each game in the series is a different iteration on the same tale: a great evil, embodied by the foe Ganon/Ganondorf comes over a medieval like society (Hyrule) and it is up to a young hero named Link to save the land and the lovely Princess Zelda. The newer games have Zelda taking an active part in the saving of her land, downplaying the damsel in distress aspect (see the Mario Brothers game and movie). Although it may seem like a simple plot, these games have presented interesting twists. Although the names stay the same, it is implied that each character is actually a descendant or reincarnation of the previous owners of the name. Sometimes the world in which the hero inhabits in completely covered in water, sometimes it has vast deserts and mountain ranges. Sometimes the Master Sword is the item Link needs the most and is the catalyst for most of the game, sometimes it is gotten within the first few hours of game play. The Triforce that was so important in the first few games? Barely mentioned in the newer games. Bottom line is the simple plot is actually just an excuse to tell a larger tale. Think of the Lord of the Rings movies: the plot was basically the ring has to be destroyed before evil can reclaim it. Not the most intellectual of plots, but played out over three movies, the greatness laid in the storytelling.

Talking off LOTR, I think Peter Jackson and his special effects company Weta would be perfect for a Zelda movie. Jackson is currently going through a viscious fight with New Line Studios over making The Hobbit, and what better way to show the studio that he is the go-to guy for fantasy then to make this movie? Jackson’s home country of New Zealand is a perfect backdrop for Hyrule (well, the one that isn’t underwater). Jackson has also shown the ability to adapt original pieces of work and put a different yet faithful spin on things. Peter Jackson is not adverse to adapting video games either, as he was recently involved in making a Halo, a shooter game (Halo is another one of the games that I would classify as a “propel plot”, though it does it very well).

In terms of casting, this is a tricky assignment. Most video game adaptations suffer from either having too many recognizable faces in it (see Bloodrayne, though that movie had many problems) or not enough (Silent Hill). It would be easy to cast Orlando Bloom as Link, but that would be a mistake. I think the role of Link should go to someone with a lower profile. I don’t have anyone in mind, but it would have to be someone relatively young and not too exposed. I do have some ideas on who to cast for the main villain, Ganon or Ganondorf (his name changes depending on the story being told). Both Ron Perlman (Hellboy) and Clancy Brown (Carnivale) have the physique and growling voice to play the King of Thieves and chief instigator. Both should be older than the person playing Link and Zelda. For the princess, who I think should be the more active version than the more helpless one, either Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls) or Bryce Dallas Howard (Lady in the Water) are my current picks. Mind you, Princess Zelda is blonde so both would have to dye their hair or wear a wig (Howard will actually be blonde in the upcoming Spider-Man 3). Zelda should look dainty and breakable to make it even more shocking when she transforms herself into butt-kicking mode.

In addition to the fantasy world that The Legend of Zelda games inhabit, there are also some sci-fi elements. Link has traveled to the future, visited parallel and alternate dimensions, and even fought an evil version of himself. There is a romantic subplot throughout each game concerning Zelda and Link, which I would recommend not playing up to much, but still acknowledging. There is comedy to be had in the other people who live in Hyrule, as characters of all shapes and sizes exist. As long as the movie strikes a balance between these points and not make it too campy or sappy, the feel of the games would come across.

There is a potential problem though in the translation of the game to the silver screen: Link often goes to numerous dungeons to collect items needed for his quest and defeats numerous monsters. This is the interesting and fun part of the games, but it would probably not be as exciting on the big screen. Perhaps the movie could have one of these mini-adventures near the end of the first act or start of the second then have a quick montage showing the rest of Link’s similar adventures. Since in the game franchise these dungeons often have puzzles that need to be solved, the section of the movie detailing this endeavors could be similar to the end of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, where Jones had to cross many barriers to get the Holy Grail.

In my directing mind’s eye, I see the climax of the film as Link and Ganondorf facing off over the fate of Hyrule. Link is dressed in his trademark green tunic and is welding a big impressive sword, The Master Sword. Ganondorf is cloaked in shadows, with his eyes glowing menacingly. They battle. Both wear each other down, but out of nowhere Ganondorf strikes Link and Link dies. Ganondorf turns away from the battle, eyeing what the land that he thinks is now his. All of a sudden, a sword comes from behind and defeats Ganondorf. We see Link, a fairy (which we learn earlier in the film can revive the dead) flying away from him, as the owner of the sword. Zelda, who was previously captured by Ganondorf after trying to defeat him herself, is now freed and tells Link that the evil over Hyrule is now dissipating. Roll credits. Over the credits, play some scenes of Link returning home.

I do hope that one day a Zelda movie is made and made right. It shouldn’t be campy like Super Mario Brothers was and it should not try to equate big stars with legitimacy. It should be made in the model of LOTR and Harry Potter, not Eragon or Kingdom of Heaven. The beauty of The Legend of Zelda franchise is that there isn’t one set story, so it allows the filmmakers room to interpret. However, they should not forget what stories have been told and draw upon them for inspiration.

Just leave out that annoying talking fairy from Ocarina of Time…


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hit the nail on the head in every detail, IHMO...

And, yes, lack of Navi would be a godsend. Although I wouldn't object to some random Hyrulian in the backround of a somewhat noisy scene being heard to say "Hey, listen!", and then getting backhanded. To the average viewer, little more than noise in the background. To those that have played OoT, justice served.

3:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home