Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why The Legend of Zelda Will Never Be a Movie

My teenage years were very much defined by my repeat quests through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, learning every nook and cranny of Hyrule. It was not until Hollywood began turning its face to games for movie ideas that I ever considered how The Legend of Zelda might do as a movie. Certainly with a Lord of the Rings type budget and tone, it had potential to be the next great epic fantasy film. But as the thought grew in my mind and I even began composing my ideal cast list, a gnawing feeling stuck with me: The Legend of Zelda is un-filmable.

I will grant that JRR Tolkien said the same thing about his grand Lord of the Rings series, but I wonder if even Tolkien could have foreseen how far special effects and cinematography have come. Probably not. But the issues that would be faced in looking at a Legend of Zelda movie would not be in the realm of special effects, but in story and characters. In over 20 years of Zelda, the hero Link has never spoken a single word. If that doesn't make for difficult casting, I don't know what does. 

Being that the Legend of Zelda has been made and remade many times over the course of the last twenty-something years, choosing what storyline would be most condusive to a movie would be a major challenge for any writer who understood the devotion of the fans. Recognizing that choosing a game on which to base the movie would be entirely futile, combining elements of the various stories could be either degree of ingenious or disastrous. Ingenious because incorporating references, characters, or locations of the different games could be delightful, but at the same time the zealots that have been following Zelda for all these years may just have a cow. While I'm by no means suggesting that every single fan needs to be appeased, creating an entirely original story without regard for the previously published material would be disastrous.

There is also the difficulty that Link travels back and forth through time and affects history on multiple occasions, meaning that even choosing a starting point for a new story would create loopholes that the religiously dedicated fans would deem heresy. While it is true that each game has managed to come up with another story that doesn’t shred the intersecting timelines, a movie would out of necessity require some origin story. Due to the nature of Zelda, just the origin would not be enough for audiences who are not well-versed in the Legend of Zelda canon. For the sake of clarity and faithfulness to the essence of the stories, a good bit of explanation would be needed, which then presents the whole issue again of which timeline to follow.

Clearly, presenting a flowing storyline would be a challenge enough without the previously mentioned difficulty of casting someone in what would have to be a non-speaking role in order to remain faithful to the
games. I can hear the critics now saying that Link would not have to remain silent, but I would like to posit that he would indeed have to. When reading a book, the interpretation of the character is largely left to the reader to imagine the character’s voice inflections, their cadence, the tone of their voice and the expression in their eyes. These interpretations are based on lines of dialogue or descriptions of their thoughts, but with Link we have no such advantage. Hence the interpretations of Link’s character are open to be all over the board. Link as a silent protagonist may be a youth of quiet desperation and longing, a young man of deep conviction and philosophy, a stuck-up entitled orphan with a messiah complex, a loner with a silent but vicious nature, a drifter with a quest he is resistant to claim, and so on. Link could reasonably be any one of these things. We simply do not know, and apparently we were never meant to because Link is the player's avatar-- the gamer's shell. Before the idea that this movie could never be made took root in my mind, I had the entire cast picked out for each character with the exception of Link-- the most imporant character. Ganon would have been played by Liam Neeson or Gerard Butler, Zelda by Emma Watson; see my postnote for the full list. But could any actor really handle Link? Silent, expressive, but at least somewhat touchable, human, and likable as a hero?

As much as I hate to admit it, I find it exceedingly hard to believe that any kind of Legend of Zelda movie could be made and made well. And perhaps that is better than settling for another Prince of Persia style interpretation of a beloved story. Better to let it live in its confined game-glory than ruin it by trying to bring it to the silver screen. But if anyone ever dares undertake this quest, dares to risk the wrath of the fans who are arguably more vicious than Ganon himself, dares to make the impossible story possible, and does all this well, I will be the first in line for a ticket.

Full suggested cast list:
Zelda- Emma Watson
Ganondorf- Liam Neeson, Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes
Saria - Saoirse Ronan
Young Link-- Asa Butterfield
Malon- Emma Stone
Impa- Tilda Swinton, Mila Jokovich
Ruto- Katie McGrath
Nabooru (Gerudo Leader)- Aishwarya Rai, Noomi Rapace
Darunia- Ray Winstone
Raaru- Anthony Hopkins

No comments:

Post a Comment