First things first, and this is indeed a repeat, you have to let go of the expectation that this movie is going to be an exact adaptation of the video game. Don’t get me wrong: every case is mentioned somewhere and most of the characters are there. Aesthetically, everything looks pretty darn close to the video game. As a movie, it is easy to follow, even if you haven’t played the first game yet. But some characters are changed around in great detail and the connections between the cases are different, but that does not deter it from being a great film.
There were some areas of “Ace Attorney” where detail was played close attention to. For example, in the opening scenes when Phoenix was performing in his first ever court case, the true criminal threw his toupee at his face. Such a small detail left a big laugh because we all remember that silly moment in the game. Moments like that and anything regarding the Steel Samurai were ever so amusing.
The type of detail that was most peculiar was the changing in character of Redd White. If you remember from the game, Redd White of Blue Corp. was a flashy, “sophisticated” man with jewelry that could shined so bright it could blind you. This over-the-top conceited man was nowhere present in the movie. Instead, he was replaced with a different Redd White; a dark Severus Snape-looking reporter who the only outrageous thing he did was pull out a giant microphone and spout his extravagant vocabulary. But that was only once and it was short lived. The only connection I could see for the character change was for storyline. In the game, Redd White was just a character that Mia Fey was investigating, but for the purposes of what his company did. He had no connection to the DL-6 incident at all. But in the movie, Mia Fey was investigating the DL-6 incident and since she was close to solving it, someone wanted her dead. Redd White was the one that killed her…but he wasn’t the mastermind behind it. For someone to be a pawn in a grander scheme of a bigger plan, he had to be a somewhat closed character. Making Redd White a Snape-wannabe reporter rather than an arrogant rich-man made perfect sense. With that, the change to Redd White was necessary for the sake of flow and structure.
Let’s talk special effects. What was most interesting and downright hilarious was how much fun director Miike had with the confetti idea. The movie opens with Larry on trial for being a suspect of murder, as you remember from the very first case of the game. When he is found not guilty, the cleaning lady who happens to be cleaning the courthouse while a trial is taking place takes out a bag of confetti and throws the confetti in handfuls at Larry’s face. “Ace Attorney” takes a detail in the game and amplifies it to the point of silliness, showing how unrealistic some of it can be. In a way, the director is poking a bit of fun at this aspect of the game because, let’s face it, would confetti really fall in a real court case if someone was found not guilty? This idea shows up again at the end of the movie. When Edgeworth is found not guilty for both crimes, the whole courthouse rains in confetti. When Edgeworth, Phoenix, Maya, and Larry are sitting together in the courthouse after everyone left, you could see in the background people with big brooms sweeping up the confetti. A small detail, yes. But though subtle, it got one huge laugh.
This type of effect and how the director portrayed it set the tone for the movie, showing that it was a silly movie that the cast and crew had a lot of fun making. Although the touch with the confetti was amusing, the movie had its hand in some pretty cool-looking special effects, particularly with the evidence and its portrayal on video screens. But first, imagine the movie playing out like how it would be in an actual courthouse. When Phoenix yells “Take That!” and presents evidence to someone, he would then have to walk over to them and hand them the piece of evidence that is contradictory. The prosecutor would have to do the same and it would just be nothing but yelling, but walking back and forth. Boring! Director Miike made it interesting by presenting the evidence in a…bigger fashion. From what you could tell from the trailer, these screens play an essential part in picturing the connections between the evidence and the truth. It helps visualize what the characters are seeing and experiencing when handling these pieces. Although it isn’t realistic that these video screens would appear in an actual court case, it still helps to set ourselves as the lawyers rather than the player on the other side of the screen. Since we are playing a video game, there are certain things that we as players see that the characters in the game do not. We see the evidence in an organized manner that could easily be reviewed at the touch of a stylus. But with our characters in the movie, they do not have that luxury. To make up for it, these screens are in place. Think of them as the selection you make for when you want to look at a piece of evidence in a full 360 degree rotation. But what about new evidence that is accepted into the court during the trial? How is that analyzed and shown for everyone to see? Fear not! That is taken care of and you would just have to watch the movie to find out how.
Obviously, director Miike took great attention to detail in the making of this film in a visual sense. But something was missing…something that is but a minor detail, albeit an important one to me personally. It was the music. Whenever the music switched from Phoenix trying really hard to the point of desperation to his “ah ha!” moment and the fast pace music would start, my heart would skip a beat and my palms would start sweating. That simple music switch from theme to turnabout and the feelings associated with it in the Phoenix Wright games translated into other games he was in, specifically in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Both his theme and his turnabout theme made it into this fighting game with a few tweaks to make it match the sound of the others. It was a brilliant move to switch the music on over because whenever I hit that turnabout mode and the music changes, just like it did in the Phoenix Wright games, my heart was pumped and ready to take down my opponent.
…So where was that in the movie? Where was the music change when Phoenix had his “ah ha!” moments? I do not have a theory as to why the director failed to put this in the movie, so any theories would be helpful in my understanding.
At the end of the day, Director Takashi Miike did a fantastic job in portraying the loveable Phoenix Wright and his friends and enemies to make for a long-lasting movie. With a job well done in the first movie, there is no denying that fans of the franchise will look to Miike for a sequel. Keep an eye out on Only Single Player for any news!