Could Phoenix Wright Be The First Truly Great Game Movie?

Could Phoenix Wright Be The First Truly Great Game Movie?

Capcom’s had so-so luck with movies. That is, depending on your opinion of the Street Fighter movie, the Chun-Li picture, and the Resident Evil flicks. With the upcoming Phoenix Wright, n&eatcute;e Gyakuten Saiban, motion picture, that luck might be changing.

The movie’s most recent trailers look fantastic.

Maybe, I’m the eternal optimist, but I feel like I’m continuously writing “this game movie might be good” articles. Sadly, those movies end up being rotten, and so could this, too. The Phoenix Wright movie, however, has a handful of things going for it.

One being that the actors, such as Hiroki Narimiya, actually look like the characters. They’re not doing cosplays or impersonations, but rather, they look like live-action versions of their Gyakuten Saiban counterparts. This isn’t always important, but the trailer doesn’t feel like the filmmakers are trying too hard–either to be realistic or simply be a cinematic version of the game. Make no mistake, this movie is Phoenix Wright.

The games centre around dark things, such as murder, but are often brightly light and even goofy. This trailer looks dark. This trailer makes the movie appear as though it retains its sense of humour, yet, at the same time, it’s sinister. Judging a 2 hour film by a short trailer is difficult, but hopefully, the final product pulls off this tricky balancing act.

The movie doesn’t sound dumb–a big plus for a game movie as most game movies sound utterly inspid. It is set during this decade. With a dramatic increase in crime, the legal system has been changed so that court cases must be tried in three days. There are neat flourishes, such as how evidence is presented, via holograms. Apparently, it’s even possible to chuck the holograms at each other.

Feature films and books are able to be both silly and serious at the same time, brutally funny and brutally violent–ditto for video games. Yet, when video games (and, in the past, comic books) are turned into movies, filmmakers tend to lean more to the silly side, resulting in stupid movies that never feel like there’s much at stake. It’s as though the filmmakers think that just because players have extra lives or can restart games, that they don’t care about dying. Everything becomes trivial.

Another thing that Phoenix Wright has going for it is that Takashi Miike is directing it. Miike has made a lot of great pictures. He’s also made a lot of crap–I mean a lot. And he apparently views directing as a regular job; he is a gun-for-hire. Even as a gun-for-hire, he’s turned out some brilliant, edgy pictures. If the Miike who directed Ichi the Killer shows up, Phoenix Wright could be a very interesting movie. If the Miike who directed Yatterman shows up, then, well, yeah.

Earlier this year, Miike described the movie as a “very light comedy.” And this trailer looks nothing like a “very light comedy”.

A key thing for Phoenix Wright is that Japan is making this movie. While the lead character’s name has been localised to “Phoenix Wright”, he is “Ryuichi Naruhodo” in Japanese, and the games always feel like they’re Japan’s take on not only the U.S. court system, but also American lawyer dramas. If the movie was made in Hollywood and completely white-washed like Akira, much of that cross-cultural interplay would be lost, and we’d be left with another kooky Hollywood legal movie.

The Japanese film industry ran out of steam during the 1980s. TV, video games, and anime are the main drivers in Japan, and there are only a few feature films released each year. Next year, one of those will be based on an incredibly popular series of video games. Somehow, it seems fitting.

Court room dramas often make good cinema. Even if this is a “very light comedy”, the trailer’s sinister edge gives me hope, and it should give you hope, too. And so should the judge’s beard.

Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome–game related and beyond.
(Top photo: 東宝/Capcom)


  • I have my doubts. One big wrench for me is the soundtrack, which in the trailers sounds just flat-out generic awful. I hear no distinctive themes, nor even messed up distortions of the old standards. This just sounds boring and a mistake, as the music for many (hence the album sales and concerts) have been a BIG part of what makes the franchise great. I really hope that the trailers aren’t indicative, and that the movie itself will be a musical triumph evocative of the high points of the game series. More info on this would be welcomed, asap!! 🙂

    It looks like the plot will follow the first game, what with Von Karma, the secret file and all that. Nice to see Lotta Hart, the Blue Badger and the producer of Steel Samurai in the clip, too!:-) Given the Feys and much else including the Wright-Edgeworth dynamic, an origin story seems fair enough and the first game did that very well. I’m looking forward to it and crossing my fingers, but I’m realistic as to the odds…

    • +1

      The music and sound effects is something you cannot ignore from the series.

      I heard no screeching/metal slapping noises that would normally accompany his cries of Igiari! Nor the soundtrack of the build up to and nailing for the suspect.

      Wish the director from Scott Pilgrim (Edgar Wright) was given this movie 🙁

  • As someone who knows absolutely nothing about Phoenix Wright and never played the games I’m thinking this ain’t gonna do to well with people who aren’t familiar with it. I can see where it might have it’s humorous moments but the thing I really took from the trailer is that it looks like a cheap plot where it’ll be bleedingly obvious who is bad and the only thing in between them and justice is the ineptitude of the good guys (ya know, pure straight-to-dvd Disney kids film style). Of course I could be waaaay off about this but like I said I’ve got no idea about anything Phoenix Wright and the trailer isn’t making me want to change that.

  • Did Ashcraft right the ridiculous headline? This will be disposable cheesy fluff, with plenty of fan service. That doesn’t make it great.

  • what i like about it is that they have the balls to not try and make it “more like a movie”
    EVERY game movie always messes with the plot somehow, yet this appears to be following the story of the first game exactly, i could recognise characters from all of the cases!

    i hope that it’s good, as a massive PW fan, i’m sure i’ll enjoy it!

    • This, this, a thousand times this. They usually take the game, then write a movie that has a similar theme and take the name from the game. Hell, they couldn’t even get something as basic as Doom right (Mars, Teleporters, Deamons from Hell)

      The fact that this is not only looking like it’s got the plot stright from the game, but with characters that actually look like who they’re supposed to be…this is going to be an actual ‘game movie’

  • They’d better make use of the original soundtrack! I don’t want some crappy rock music like the one in the trailer

  • While I do think this movie will be pretty cool, I completely disagree with this statement: “They’re not doing cosplays or impersonations, but rather, they look like live-action versions of their Gyakuten Saiban counterparts.”

    In my opinion, actors in cosplay is exactly what the characters look like. I sort of prefer a more ‘real-life’ interpretation of character designs in movies (within reason), but that’s just my preference.

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