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Movie Review: Ace Attorney

Posted by Nintendo Life Staff

Phoenix's début on the big screen makes a good case

While the video game and movie industries have arguably managed to advance and make some great strides over the last few years, the same can't be said for their offspring. Whether it be the sexy archaeological adventures of Lara Croft, or the hard-hitting, guns-a-blazing ways of Agent 47, most video game movies fail to capture the feeling of what made their respective games so good, opting instead to distil them into 90 minute sessions filled with enough guns and innuendo to leave a 12-year-old smiling from ear to ear.

And then there's Phoenix Wright. A man who would rather point a finger than a gun, this mild-mannered defense attorney has finally made his way from his humble beginnings on handheld screens to the big one. And despite a few questionable casting decisions, Ace Attorney ends up being one of the (if not the) best video game movies ever made.

Ace Attorney, or Gyakuten Saiban as it's known in Japan, closely follows the storyline of Pheonix Wright: Ace Attorney, specifically the first, second, and fourth cases. After barely coming out on top in his first courtroom appearance, Phoenix Wright finds his mentor, Mia Fey, murdered. With Mia's little sister, Maya, formally accused of murder, it's up to Phoenix to face off against legendary prosecutors Miles Edgeworth and Manfred Von Karma, all while unravelling a mystery that ties them together.

What sets this movie apart from other video game adaptations is how closely it sticks to the source material. From costumes and hair styles to the eerily silent Blue Badger, everything is taken straight from the game with very few (if any) changes. The set designs look identical to their in-game counterparts, and the music returns — fully orchestrated — but with a more subdued tone that fits the film. Granted, the movie is not afraid to take some liberties here and there. Director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) manages to bring his trademark sense of black humour and the surreal to the table, creating a world that feels like a natural extension to the video games we know and love. Miike adds some flair to the world of law, where rabid fans buy tickets to courtroom trials, and lawyers butt heads in 'pre-game' interviews.

More importantly, the lengthy sections of text and still images that the games are known for get the treatment they deserve. Rather than have a witness talk about past events, we see it all unfold through flashbacks. When a contradiction is spotted, rather than pulling out a piece of evidence, holographic projections are thrown around the room to varying degrees of hilarity, and important information is relayed via TV screens. Without spoiling too much, this level of insight is key to explaining character backgrounds and motivations, and a handful of characters are shown in a whole new light, leaving their 2D counterparts feeling rather flat by comparison.

If there's one area where the movie falters however, it's the cast. While Phoenix, Edgeworth, Mia, and Von Karma are spot on, a handful of supporting characters leave a little to be desired. Detective Gumshoe and the courtroom judge (who still remains nameless) come off as level-headed and calm, compared to their confused counterparts. On the other hand, Maya, a 17-year-old spirit medium (in training) loses much of her childhood innocence in the transition to the big screen, replacing her with a woman in her 20's whose performance feels rather forced.

And despite all of this, Ace Attorney is still in our view the best video game movie out there. Granted, the bar is set rather low, but it's an thrilling comedy/mystery that feels like a high-budget fan-made film, and can be enjoyed by seasoned veterans and newcomers alike.

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User Comments (43)



CanisWolfred said:

Man, Phoenix's Hairstyle looks even more epic in real life.

And I'm glad to hear this movie turned out well. Might have to give it a look-see once I get around to playing the games.



Late said:

Was surprised when I noticed that this movie was shown in Finland while reading Finnish Nintendo forums. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to see it as I noticed it too late and it was shown in Helsinki and I live nowhere near it.



Boo_Buster said:

Obviously it's not a game based movie, but the live-action Mushi-Shi film was solid enough. I might have to check this out when it arrives on DVD or BD



Auracle said:

Impressive. It just goes to shows that video games can make great movies (if they are in the right hands).



CanisWolfred said:

^Since this isn't a movie review site, I can't imagine Nintendo Life's Scoring Policy applying here. Sounds like a B to me, though.



Tsuchinoko said:

I still laugh at the notion of Narimiya Hiroki playing Naruhodo Ryuichi (Phoenix Wright). He doesn't exactly have that kind of image here as an actor.



zipmon said:

Great review mate!! This looks so fun and like a video game movie done right! =D



Terra said:

Funny you post this now as I was literally about to start watching a subbed version xD



Handy_Man said:

I always wanted to see this movie since it came out earlier this year in Febuary!

Also, where can you find at least a subbed version of it? Does anyone know?



Terra said:

Not sure if I'm allowed to directly link you on here but if you google "Ace Attorney Subbed", the first link that comes up has a subbed version streaming



Varia01 said:

Uh-oh another future movie failure... wait best video movie game? Naahh.. (Though I haven't watched any of them) If there is any video game movie people should be looking forward to, it is WRECK-IT-RALPH, OH YEAH!



sinalefa said:

So this one is made in Japan and it is good, and things like Super Mario Bros the Movie and the Legend of Chun Li are turkeys made in Hollywood?

I rest my case.



Chunky_Droid said:

I can't wait to see this, Phoenix Wright is going to be my first cosplay when I get the chance



KAHN said:

when you went to go see this movie, you either paid for your ticket inside(or you snuck in the back door) bought your popcorn and soda (or weed and booze) and watched the movie. that's what i did, anyways.



retro_player_22 said:

If this site also review movies based on games, about 95% of them will be about 2 stars or less out of five. The lowest would be Double Dragon and Super Mario Bros., the highest would be Silent Hill and Mortal Kombat.



russellohh said:

9 seconds after I read this article, I had the DVD bought and paid for. Ohhh yeah internet.



Luffymcduck said:

This was a really great movie, 9/10.I had so much fun watching it in the theatre. Everyone was laughing every time there was a funny reference to the games. If all game based movies we´re like this, you know, like it´s source material.



Kisame83 said:

I don't know how the new one is, but the first Silent Hill was a pretty decent film that captured the feel of Silent Hill. Not a direct adaptation, but more or less kept the spirit, feel, and even music.

I also kind of like the first (and ONLY first) Resident Evil, and Doom, on that B scifi/action level. Not good game adaptations, but decent "heavily armed ppl stuck with monsters" popcorn flicks.

For me, that's about it on the VG movie scale. So I'll check this out.



Apollo_Justice said:

I've sent numerous emails to the editor in chief about this, but why have you taken the author's name off the review, without his permission?

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