This week, Nintendo announced that they, alongside financing help from Sony, are working on a live-action film based on one of the company’s marquee franchises, The Legend of Zelda. Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa has gone on record saying that the company was pleased with how well the Super Mario Bros. film performed, and its immense success was no doubt a key factor in moving forward with bringing another beloved IP to the big screen. Mario notched an impressive billion dollars at the global box office, which considering how his last outing went on the big screen came as a bit of a welcomed surprise. Whether The Legend of Zelda has the same amount of box-office draw will have to be seen, though for me the concerns lay more in how the film is going to be produced, and a couple early decisions by the company have already made me scratch my head.
Questionable Creative Team
In the X thread that linked the press release, Miyamoto stated that he will be working alongside Avi Arad to produce the film. Arad is most well-known to be the producer of all of the Spider-Man movies since the original Sam Raimi trilogy of the early 2000s. Even though this includes both critically acclaimed Spider-Verse films, it also includes the less-than-stellar (to put it nicely) Venom titles. Beyond that, Arad has actually lent his producing hand to another video game property that was recently turned into a summer blockbuster: Uncharted. Make of that what you will, but a cursory look into the film’s reception from critics and fans of the franchise alike should give you a good idea on the quality of the movie.
With that said, a lot goes into producing, and much of the job is less on the creative front and more on production logistics, so some leeway should be given to Avi Arad. His experience with producing big-budget titles should also be looked at as a positive, though the omnipresence of superhero blockbusters may be a little concerning when thinking about the tone of most Zelda games. But again, that’s something that’s more on the shoulders of the director and writers. So who has Nintendo put at the helm to bring this live-action story of one of the most iconic franchises of all time to the movie theatres? Why Wes Ball, of course!
If you said “who?” out loud, you’re not alone. Wes Ball, the director of The Maze Runner trilogy. Films that are adaptations of a dystopian science fiction young adult novel series by James Dashner, and somehow made enough money to warrant an entire trilogy. Ball hasn’t directed anything else since the third film released in 2018, and his directorial outings prior to those films are fairly thin. However, he is directing the upcoming Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes film, whose teaser trailer admittedly looks quite impressive. It’s clear that, at the very least, Ball has some experience directing large-scale action/adventure movies, though once again I question the creative attachment as far as tone is considered.
Zelda isn’t a franchise known for its high-flying action (though it has its grand moments), but rather — much like many of Nintendo’s properties — its sense of adventure that is made memorable through heartfelt and quirky characters. These qualities, especially concerning characters, can be implemented through good writing, so which scribe has Nintendo brought on to pen this tale? Well, though nothing is official as of writing, it’s currently reported that it may be the writer of Jurassic World. I’ll just leave it at that.
It feels like yesterday that Miyamoto said excitedly, “he’s so cool” when announcing that Chris Pratt would be playing our moustachioed hero in the Mario movie. The internet was quick to meme the entire cast, though the end result was surprisingly passable as far as performances go. Still, animation and voice acting is one thing, casting for live-action is another. Fans have already taken to X to make mock casting choices, some in good faith and others to simply extend the Chris Pratt meme, having him playing multiple roles from Link to Gannon. Others are worried that Tom Holland, Hollywood’s current sweetheart, would don the green cap; a concern that isn’t all too groundless.
Personally, the issue is exactly that. If Nintendo and Miyamoto once again take the lead in casting, then I fear that they’ll simply go for the “popular” actors who are “in,” and who would guarantee some box-office traffic, rather than look at performances and role compatibility. I’m not suggesting that Miyamoto and Co. don’t have some artistic integrity, but they did cast Chris Pratt as Mario. Thankfully it (mostly) worked out, at least as far as I’m concerned, but once again there’s a difference between voice-acting and live-action. It would be great to see a bunch of talented unknowns in the shoes of these iconic characters, but that is never going to happen. Nintendo want to make another billion dollars, and putting a bunch of Hollywood A-listers in their movie is one of the easier ways to do that, regardless of whether or not they’re actually right for the part.
I hope I’m proven wrong and that this movie turns out great, but as it stands, I’m more concerned about this live-action Zelda movie than I am excited.