Bits & Bytes: No Thank You to Live Action Zelda

I’m not optimistic about this one…

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/12/2023 15:55 1 Comment     ShareThis

Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

Let’s get this out of the way early: yes, the live action The Legend of Zelda movie could be great. And really, it should be great, because there is so much potential baked into the Zelda franchise for storytelling mediums outside of video games. The trio of Link, Zelda, and Ganon is infinitely fascinating, and as the years have passed the dynamic between them all has transformed and evolved in numerous ways. Sometimes Zelda is a pirate, sometimes Link is a cartoon character, sometimes Ganon is a building-sized monstrosity with big toes—it could all be delightful on the silver screen.

Therein lies the problem, though: Hollywood. This is an age where narrative doesn’t have anything to do with telling stories, but rather telling the story that the media wants people to hear versus what the people actually are interested in. We saw this a wee bit with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, where Princess Peach is given a personality overhaul to please the sensibilities of Hollywood executives. Sure, Peach didn’t need to be the damsel in distress, but the opposite, portraying her as insanely overpowered compared to everyone around her, doesn’t work very well, either.

This is the fate that I fear awaits Zelda. Casting is going to be a nightmare. Modern Hollywood thinking almost guarantees that many of the characters won’t look the way they do in the games. Politics surrounding how to portray a character like Ganon will seep in. Zelda will not be rescued by Link. And on and on and on. It will be too much present day pandering in a film that would be best served caputring the timelessness of the franchise.

And no, this doesn’t mean I’m opposed to a strong, independent Zelda, or diverse casting, and so on. Indeed, Zelda has always been diverse in its portrayals of Hyrule and its denizens. The various races of beings; Impa often being one of the few elderly female heroes in gaming; Hylians of all shapes and sizes; and yes, Zelda as Tetra is one of my favorite portrayals of the character. What I am dreading is the Hollywood take on these things. It invariably will be caught up in the dogma of current day political soapboxing, and it is that which I fear will poison the production.

And honestly, who wouldn’t rather see Zelda animated, anyway? It allows for a far more faithful adaptation of the games, frees up casting concerns, and would allow for some sort of eventual crossover with the Mario universe, and whichever other Nintendo franchises that will show up down the road. Sorry to be a downer folks, and I hope I’m proven wrong, but I don’t have faith in live action Zelda.

One Response to “Bits & Bytes: No Thank You to Live Action Zelda”

  • 1570 points
    penduin says...

    There’s a lot of fascinating territory a film could explore regarding the living triforce – Link, Zelda, and Ganon all representing and/or manifesting courage, wisdom and power. (Think of the linked fates in Dark Crystal, or even Spiderman and the Venom symbiote.)

    A good-versus-evil story where evil is one facet of a three-sided intertwined whole could be a great fit for live action, and a welcome departure from the more expected spoon-fed cookie-cutter hero’s journey. (How would Kubrick have done it? The same scenes filled with imagery and references could feel very different depending on whether the viewer is thinking in terms of courage, or wisdom, or power.)

    …Naturally, I wouldn’t trust Hollywood executives to approach a video game movie that way, with subtlety or respect to the audience’s patience/intelligence. But, we never know! Live-action is such a bizarre choice for Zelda (for the reasons you outlined and more) that I wonder if there’s a script making the rounds which, somehow, would be best served by human performances, and at the same time fall in line with our beloved game series.

    Even if I’m way off-base and we get exactly what we hope we don’t get, I bet we’ll have some amazing moments. When I picked up the master sword in Tears of the Kingdom, a lifetime of picking up the master sword all the way back through Link to the Past flashed before my eyes. It’s always been cartoons of one style or another, and I look forward to that scene in a live-action film.

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