Edgey fanboys galore.
Last Thursday, I got the chance to watch Ace Attorney, Takeshi Miike's live-action movie adaptation of Phoenix Wright's first adventure on the DS, at the Montreal Fantasia film festival. I'm a fairly big fan of the series, although I still haven't gotten around to playing Miles Edgeworth's game. I've always had a thing for humorous point-and-click adventure games, and the goofy Phoenix Wright games scratched an itch that had been annoying me since LucasArts abandoned the genre.
I appreciate the plot, puzzles and characters of those games, but that's as far as I go. It should be no surprise that I was not, by a long shot, the biggest Ace Attorney fan in the audience. There were actually relatively few cosplayers but I'm not talking about that. No, I'm referring to the incredible cheering in the theater whenever a familiar character was spotted, when the Ace Attorney logo showed up, or the first time we see Phoenix Wright shout "OBJECTION!". The atmosphere in the room was absurd. And the cheering even doubled in volume whenever Edgeworth either a) showed up, b) was glowering or c) was acting cocky. It was constant.
I was surrounded by Edgeworth fanboys and fangirls.
The reason why I'm describing this experience is because it contributed so much to my enjoyment of the movie. That kind of wild enthusiasm is infectious and I perhaps would not have been grinning so widely and for so long had it not been for the crowd I was a part of.
Now I am not gearing up to say that the movie was bad or a letdown. It wasn't. Fans should definitely seek it out and watch it, preferably with a bunch of other fans if at all possible. The costumes alone are almost worth the price of admission: they are incredibly faithful to the games and anyone familiar with the series will get a kick out of seeing a live-action movie look so close to its cartoony inspiration. The judge in particular was spot-on and got the highest laughs-to-screen time ratio of all the characters.
Ultimately, though, I could not shake the feeling that while the fan service in the movie is beyond reproach, the filmmakers should perhaps have concerned themselves a little bit more about making a movie that stands on its own. It was necessary to take shortcuts to fit the plot of a damn long game into a 135 minutes movie, but that was done at the expense of coherency, pacing and character development. If I had attachment for the characters, it is more due to the fact that I was already familiar with them than to any attempt by the movie to make them endearing. Perhaps it goes without saying, but familiarity with the source material is a must in order to get the most enjoyment out of the movie. If you're planning to watch it with others who don't know the first thing about Phoenix Wright, do try to get them to play a case of two from the first game.
I also couldn't help but be disappointed with some of the choices made even though I understand they were necessary to keep the runtime under control. Maya and Gumshoe got very little screen time, the movie choosing instead to focus more on Phoenix (understandably), Miles (duh), Von Karma (obviously) and... Larry Butz (hmm). The filmmakers seemed to really like him for some reason, giving him relatively more importance in the movie than he has in the game. Given that the character is meant to be somewhat obnoxious, he gets old quick. He gets the role of comedic relief in a movie that is already goofy and funny enough to not need it. Meanwhile, Maya is barely a character and Gumshoe doesn't once get threatened to have his pay docked by Edgeworth.
All in all, I had a good enough time to recommend the movie to fans and I definitely think they are being catered to enough to warrant seeing it once. At the same time, so much of my enjoyment of the movie stemmed from the crowd I saw it with that I have no plans to ever watch it again. It was an experience that I won't be able to replicate and I would rather keep the good memories that it gave me than revisit the movie only to discover just how much it does not hold up.