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pedrovay2003 avatar 3:24 PM on 09.04.2012  (server time)
pedrovay2003 Reviews: Ace Attorney - The Movie

Anyone who has seen the myriad of movies based on video game titles will know that, generally, things don't usually turn out the way they should. Things are drastically changed, storylines become muddled, and, in the case of something like Super Mario Bros., the movie turns out to be NOTHING like the series it was based on. (But I love Super Mario Bros., for the record.) The game-to-movie world always seems like its destined to churn out disappointment after disappointment, with nothing else to ever look forward to but the next Milla Jovovich Resident Evil film. There was NEVER a live-action movie based on a game that actually stuck to the storyline and characters, making only small changes and keeping the charm of the source material that everyone loved so much.

Until now.

Gyakuten Saiban, or Ace Attorney for us English-speaking folks, hit Japanese DVD and Blu-ray last week, and someone was quick to make English fan subtitles, so the rest of us could enjoy the show. The movie has hit the Internet already, available on tons of streaming websites. (I kind of feel like scum for watching it that way, but I plan on importing the movie if it's not given an official North American release.) I sat down and watched the movie, horrible fan-man English subtitles and all (seriously, you can just barely understand what's happening), and I had only one question when the credits were finished rolling: How could a borderline-text adventure video game be the absolute BEST game-to-movie adaptation I've ever seen?


Ace Attorney is about up-and-coming defense attorney Phoenix Wright and his journey from newbie to pro. As he takes on more cases, he develops valuable crime-solving and courtroom skills, which is actually a lot more exciting than it sounds. His life and career take a turn for the tragic when his mentor, Mia Fey, is brutally murdered, and her sister, Maya, is framed for the crime. Maya ends up working with Phoenix, whom she affectionately refers to as "Nick" in the games, and helps him clear her name and solve other unrelated crimes.

The movie takes nearly EVERYTHING loveable about the games and transfers them onto the big screen perfectly. Larry Butz, Phoenix's childhood best friend, in particular is portrayed beautifully in live-action, from the spiky hair to the aloof and sometimes clueless personality. Phoenix acts exactly how you'd expect him to: Often nervous (even knocking his own paperwork off the desk in court more than once), but always trying as hard as he can, usually in fantastic, over-the-top ways. Seeing someone actually act like Phoenix is one thing, but seeing someone do it so perfectly is on an entirely different level.

Not every character is a direct copy and paste of their game counterparts, however. Edgeworth is actually not concentrated on much in the movie, and the underlying plot of his habit of forging evidence is only briefly mentioned in passing. Maya and Dick Gumshoe aren't nearly as silly as they were in the games -- In fact, Maya is actually pretty serious in the movie, affected way more by her sister's murder and mother's disappearance than what the game shows us. Neither of these changes are drastic, and the characters themselves are still very good, but if you were a fan of the sillier side of the games, there may be a little disappointment here.

Manfred von Karma was perhaps the most changed character for the movie interpretation, but in a good way. The video game version of von Karma was tall, strong, and brutal whenever he spoke. He shouted, commanded, and basically scared everyone into doing whatever he wanted them to do. He was always supposed to be older, though, so it looked silly at times in the game (then again, it was supposed to be a silly game). In the movie, however, he's the exact opposite: short, quiet, and walking with a cane. The thing that makes him awesome in the movie, though, is that he's manipulative as hell. The way he talks, the way he looks at his opponents, and even the way he presents evidence twists everything, and everyone can't help but believe what he's saying. He's a conniving, underhanded old man, and the character works extremely well for the big screen representation.

There was one character that was changed more than I can even really explain, and that was Red White. In the game, Red White is a bright, sparkly, decked-out-in-pink business tycoon who runs Bluecorp, and is also Mia Fey's murderer. In the movie, he retains his murderous role, but he's nothing like the rich guy from the games -- He's a raggedy, droopy entrepreneur that makes your skin crawl whenever you see him. He fits the scenario perfectly, and his looks and attitude give you a weird feeling that you just can't help but love. It would have been interesting to have seen the game version of Red White, but I love what they did with him here.

The one part of the movie that I was worried about before I watched it was evidence presentation. How was a movie, of all things, going to be able to portray showing evidence, like you do in the game, without making it painfully boring? Well, how about having a holographic projector come out of the courtroom ceiling? Yup, nothing boring there! The ceiling folds back, a GIANT computer comes down, and holographic representations of the evidence can literally be thrown around the courtroom and into the faces of the prosecutor and defense attorney. Phoenix even does his signature double-handed desk slam move to make evidence pop out of the desk to show everyone in the courtroom. The movie took the most easily-overlooked aspects of the game and not only incorporated them into the movie, but made them ESSENTIAL. It was an actual thrill to see Phoenix and Edgeworth acting the way they did in the game, move for move, and having things happen around them because of it. Ace Attorney does such a good job of sticking to the source material, yet it brings the 2D world into the 3D era with care and finesse.

Gyakuten Saiban (Ace Attorney) makes a few changes that may displease long-time fans of the series, but it's so true to the original formula that you can't help but smile throughout the entire thing. Of all the movies based on games that I've ever seen, none even come close to showing the amount of love this one gives to the source material, and oh, what a source material it has. If you're even remotely a fan of the Ace Attorney game series, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. In fact, I loved it so much that for the first time, I'm thinking of spending $75 on a MOVIE just to import the Japanese version. The German version is already confirmed, and the movie has been shown in California once already, so official English subtitles actually do exist.

Capcom, if you're reading this, PLEASE bring the DVD and Blu-ray stateside!

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