Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past

Growing up during the classic era of Nintendo, I have a lot of fond memories of some really terrific video games, most of which hold up really well to this day. Nothing being released today can ever be as exciting as playing Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES, or my all-time favorite: The Legend of Zelda – A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo (or SNES). I also have regrets over not catching on to certain popular titles when they were fresh and new, such as the Mega Man series. All these long years later, I still have never played Mega Man 2, largely considered to be one of the very best NES games.  But still another memory lingers, that of game-based movies… a lot of really bad game-based movies. Like most any kid in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, video games ate up a large part of my time, as did movies. So, it is my nostalgia for both which begs the question: Why is it so hard for the combined strengths of these two forms of entertainment to produce something beautiful?

When you’re talking about inventing a whole new subgenre of film, the natural instinct is to go right for a title which would be near and dear to the hearts of millions. It only made sense that the title which kickstarted the Nintendo Entertainment System and gave video games in general a second life would be the first choice. After all, the objective is to put as many butts into theater seats as possible, and what better way to do it than with something everyone loves? Something good, something pure… And so it was that the “Super Mario Bros.” movie was unleashed in 1993.

I was like pretty much every other kid my age at the time in that I was psyched about this movie. Then I saw some still photos in Nintendo Power magazine and my heart sank. This was beginning to look nothing like what I’d come to expect from the games. The completed film, as it stands, is even worse. There’s a reason why theaters have never shown a “Super Mario Bros. 2” movie. No one would have gone to see it, having been fooled the first time. So, the video game subgenre of film stumbled out of the gate, and has been struggling ever since. Most of the time, the movies are like “Super Mario Bros.” in that they don’t come particularly close to resembling what gamers would recognize and what is presented isn’t very entertaining to anyone else, either.

About the closest anyone’s come to succeeding in this subgenre are with “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and “Resident Evil.” Yet even these movies are one-man… or, more accurately, one-woman shows. The two “Tomb Raider” movies are both largely carried on the back of Angelina Jolie, who herself does a great job as the title character. The “Resident Evil” series, standing currently at five movies with a sixth and (allegedly) final one in pre-production, is by far the most sustained, but that doesn’t automatically make it good. Honestly, it shouldn’t be that hard to make a series of zombie films interesting, but it’s almost like the “Resident Evil” films try TOO hard. Once again, it’s up to the series’ lead, in this case Milla Jovovich, to carry all the weight, but as a character invented by the movies, with supporting actors portraying characters who have names and some characteristics in common with their more recognizable (and more beloved) video game counterparts. A case could also be made for the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie, as it got a lot of the look and feel of the games down pretty well. The story and the acting may have left a little to be desired, but at least the fight scenes were well choreographed. The less said about the 1997 sequel, the better.

With this genre of film having entered into its third decade of existence, it’s incredible that some of the most popular video game franchises of all-time still have yet to be mined. Based on the popularity of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” there had been some talk about making a live-action “Legend of Zelda” TV series for Netflix, although it seems that idea has been cast aside for now. “Castlevania” could still be a thing. Dracula’s always going to be ‘in,’ no matter how many terrible movies are made with him as the villain. Same with action films with heavy gunplay, which is why “Contra,” one of the very best video games of its kind, could and probably should one day have its day in the sun as a major motion picture. Popularity of “Guardians of the Galaxy” could show that a “Star Fox” movie could be possible, and don’t tell me no one’s thought about bringing “Mega Man” to the big screen. (There have already been a few fan-made films.) He could work in almost any form, anime included. Still, the consequences for screwing up any of the aforementioned titles could well be disastrous, especially in the case of “The Legend of Zelda.” People are still talking more than twenty years later about how terrible the “Super Mario Bros.” movie was. Can you imagine if a “Legend of Zelda” movie got everything totally wrong and then bombed at the box office as a result? Hollywood would never hear the end of it!

The truth is that, until someone with the time and the creativity figures out the right way to blend the two medias together, we as an audience may never see a truly great video game-to-film adaptation. Aside from being faithful to the source material, these movies also need to be the kinds of action films that are like video games you can’t play, but are so mesmerizing that you don’t mind sitting back and watching someone else play them. That in itself could be enough to bring up those old memories of playing these games when you were a kid. If Hollywood can figure out how to do that, then and only then can they have a winning formula on their hands.


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