Why Ace Attorney remains the perfect video game movie adaptation


The first time this is spoken at the beginning of Takashi Miike ace lawyer looks like a pure adrenaline rush for fans of the video game series the film is based on. Rookie defense attorney Phoenix Wright (Hiroki Narimiya), seeking a quick foothold in what is only his second case, immediately goes on the offensive, convinced that the evidence he is about to present will reveal a glaring and crucial contradiction in a testimonial testimony.

It’s the brilliance with which the phrase is delivered that makes it so exhilarating: the sudden increase in volume that rattles even Wright’s own client; the shameless extra-ness of the iconic finger point; the volcanic aggression with which Wright then slams his desk and throws a holographic screen at the unsuspecting police detective in the witness box.

It’s all so delightfully pointless, so wonderfully alien – like Phoenix Wright, if you will. And by being those things, it’s the ultimate statement of intent, heralding the film’s desire to launch headlong into the unbridled theatrics of video games. What makes the moment even more faithful to the source material is that we barely have time to record this seemingly triumphant peak before plunging deep into a valley. Wright goes from believing he has dealt a devastating blow to the prosecution case to being on the back foot and on the verge of crushing defeat in what feels like the span of a millisecond. Soon he’s collapsed helplessly on his desk, desperately searching for something – anything – that could somehow save him and his client.

Phoenix Wright pleads on camera in the live-action adaptation of Ace Attorney.

Image: Toho-Towa

That feeling of emotional boost is exactly what fans of the Ace Attorney games would expect and demand from a film adaptation – these are, after all, games about impossible twists and turns, the violent swings of fortune that take you from high places. euphoria to depressing lows, certain victory to certain defeat and vice versa, with the snap of a finger or the blow of a hammer. The film sways at an unrelenting pace that may seem utterly unsettling to Ace Attorney newcomers, but feels warmly familiar to those who have already set foot in the game’s courtroom, with its sense of urgency still increasing that accompanies being constantly on the precipice of humiliations.

At the tonal level, ace lawyer nails the case, leaning into the games’ anarchic entropy rather than tempering it, without fear of alienating entire demographics that might be put off by stylistic excesses or upside-down narratives. Miike marches past the chaos: the world of his film is, like the world of games, one in which people pull megaphones out of nowhere, pet parrots are put on the witness stand, the ghosts of dead lawyers eclipse their living counterparts, and everyone possesses a radiant hairstyle from another galaxy. There’s a perfect balance here between the source material and the director’s creative impulses that very few adaptations manage to strike. Miike rises to meet the energy of the games, punctuating the film’s aesthetic with sparkling stylistic flourishes: split screens, cart zooms and a hellish sequence straight out of Nobuo Nakagawa. Jigoku.

A parrot is put on the witness stand in the live-action adaptation of Ace Attorney

Image: Toho-Towa

Ghost Lawyer Shines Bright in Ace Attorney Live-Action Adaptation

Image: Toho-Towa

People walk through a fiery hell online in the live-action adaptation of Ace Attorney.

Image: Toho-Towa

The problem with a feature film adaptation of the games becomes less about tone, then, and more about the sheer scope of the beast, the overwhelming volume of the visual novel’s narrative. This mass of pure story is crucial to the gameplay experience, in that it allows the player to decompress after straining to an aneurysm through the brutal duels and cross-examinations in the courtroom. . There’s plenty of quiet investigative time in the games, which makes for a nice change of pace as you gather evidence and dig deeper into the characters’ inner lives, perhaps more suited to a longer TV format than the big one. screen (although the anime series based on the games was far from well received).

By necessity, Miike’s film aggressively reduces the sprawl of the first game in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Lawyer, picking the best bits from three of its five episodes and condensing them into something much lighter, more manageable, and more focused in its effort to submit you to the absurd. There are victims in this process: Deprived of its original connective tissue, the layout can sometimes seem a little superficial, the structure a little sloppy. There are also details about the characters who are sacrificed, most notably in the case of Maya Fey (Mirei Kiritani), Wright’s assistant spirit medium: a nuclear set of endearing quirks and quirks in the games, her overflowing personality is practically non-existent in the film. , reduced to a mere shell endowed with psychic abilities. Wright’s childhood friend and courtroom rival Miles Edgeworth (Takumi Saitoh) also feels tragically stripped of many of the nuances and wrinkles that make him such a compelling figure in the games, flatter and less morally complex.

A split-screen image of the two lead attorneys in the live-action adaptation of Ace Attorney.

Image: Toho-Towa

Still, the broad strokes are drawn well enough to make the drama feel personal, and it’s testament to how perfectly Miike captures the essence of the game’s courtroom sequences that these omissions feel more like nitpicks than market breakers. What the film intimately understands is that one of the great pleasures of gaming is simply playing as a guy who’s kinda terrible at his job. There’s something particularly enjoyable about stepping into the shoes of Phoenix Wright – a novice who never really improves at what he does over time – as he flails around helplessly, presenting objects random from his pockets to the judge and jury looking for a moment of silly epiphany that somehow always ends up coming to him.

Never completely in control of any situation, Wright perpetually straddles the line between accidental genius and criminal incompetence, unfailingly depending on some sort of minor miracle to save him from seemingly impossible situations – be it salvation in the form of a psychic message from his dead mentor, his idiot detective friend arriving at the eleventh hour with game-changing evidence, or someone screaming for the trial to be extended for some ridiculous reason or another. He’s a beholder of fate, a kite in a storm, and Miike portrays that passivity by spinning his camera around Wright in claustrophobic close-ups as he claws at the piles of court documents in front of him, perfectly replicating the trawling game experience. through a maze of opaque information during cross-examination. Just look, too, at how Wright constantly shifts in and out of focus as he spasms in discomfort, while his opponents, paragons of prosecutors’ composure, occupy steady, sturdy compositions.

A prosecutor is framed in the middle of a shot in the live-action adaptation of Ace Attorney.

Image: Toho-Towa

The eager audience in the courtroom is at the forefront of these compositions, an amusing feature of the games that Miike takes palpable pleasure in amplifying with his signature hyperbolic sequence. Mike’s world ace lawyer is a world in which a trial is less about whittling down information to find truth and justice and more about the gladiatorial spectacle of watching two contestants fight each other. To be a lawyer in this world is to participate in a blood sport for the public to scream and scream, clamoring for more action with every twist. The film’s reaction shots are huge to the point of hilarity, filled with visual comedy as the entire crowd reacts in unison to the unfolding events: leaning in to hear crucial information, staring in confusion at ever-increasing witnesses. weirder and swing into seismic disbelief at a silly statement.

The crowd in the live-action adaptation of Ace Attorney responds by leaning in for a crucial moment, behind the scowling face of Miles Edgworth.

Image: Toho-Towa

There’s a wonderful physicality to the film that seems very true to the world of games, in which the characters exist perpetually on the verge of nervous breakdown, quivering with latent anxiety before erupting into spectacular paroxysms. It’s a world that can only be embodied with intense commitment, and Miike’s performers more than deliver, throwing themselves recklessly into the madness of the script. Watch Narimiya as Wright and Akiyoshi Nakao as Wright’s friend, Larry Butz in particular, as they contort their faces and toss their bodies in Chaplinesque fashion and savor every move as they wage all-out war on the very concept of subtlety, feels exactly like the kind of thing movies were invented for in the first place.

A prosecutor reaches out to touch a giant holographic screen in the live-action adaptation of Ace Attorney.

Image: Toho-Towa

The visual choice of having the characters catapulting giant holographic screens at each other is also a magical touch, evoking the almost visceral feeling of triumph you get from the game when the evidence you present deals a devastating blow to the argument. of the accusation. If anything, Miike’s film feels less like a legal drama and more like a hybrid between a slimy Howard Hawks comedy, with its mayhem and ricocheting thrills, and a boxing movie, with its wild athleticism – less some good men and more His daughter Friday meets Rocky.

The joy that emanates from the cast of Miike as they scream and gesticulate furiously through scene after scene of attritional courtroom combat is palpable, and it matches the joy that emanates from Miike himself then. that he puts it all together. It is this spirit, the shameless joy of it all, that makes Miike ace lawyer feel so special. It’s a rare and precious thing to watch a movie and feel like its creators are having as much fun as you are. Being entertaining from the first frame to the last would be enough, but ace lawyer fills us with an even deeper sense of collective ecstasy that only a special film, the gold standard for films of this genre, could possibly achieve.

ace lawyer is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play and YouTube.


Add comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *