There’s this video game phenomenon that’s been around for a while called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It’s not anything that I’ve ever played but my oldest daughter really gets into it. I didn’t realize that they did a live-action movie but, like most things I’m unaware of, I eventually find the strangest things and then I do a review.
So here’s my take on the 2012 movie, Ace Attorney.
In the future, the courts have gotten so crowded that they instituted a new system where the two lawyers face off directly against each other for three days before the judge renders a decision. The Bench Trial System is very stressful and rookie lawyer Phoenix Wright faces his first case, the murder of his boss Mia Fey. The accused is Mia’s younger sister Maya, who comes from a long line of psychics and mediums and who has flashes of insight and can channel spirits. On the other side of the courtroom is Wright’s childhood friend and rival, Miles Edgeworth, who is a successful, but not well-liked prosecutor. The case hinges on the testimony of Redd White, a man who claims to have seen the crime from his hotel room across the way, but as Wright pokes holes in the testimony, it is revealed that not only could he not have seen the murder as he described it, he was actually the one responsible. This victory both garners Wright acclaim, but it makes Maya his close friend and partner. However, next Miles finds himself in trouble, accused of a cold-blooded murder where all the evidence points to him. Phoenix Wright leaps in to take the case, even though Miles is very hesitant, but no one else will even try, given the weight of the evidence. Reluctantly, Miles agrees and Phoenix squares off against Manfred Von Karma, a prosecutor who has never lost a single case in his 40 year career. Can Phoenix Wright, who has only one a single case in his life, take on the legend and keep Miles Edgeworth from a lifetime in prison? And how does this all connect to the death of Miles’ father and a legendary case called DL-6?
The movie was directed by Takashi Miike, who some might know for his other oddball films like Ichi the Killer, One Missed Call and Zebraman. Because this movie comes from a series of video games, the characters, especially the hairstyles, are very stylized, which is pretty distracting for those not in the know, but it’s not a major issue. In fact, there was some controversy when the movie came out that it didn’t incorporate more of the sillier elements from the games. It did include the schlocky names from the game, characters like Detective Dick Gumshoe and Lotta Hart. There was a lot of high-tech gimmickry, particularly the court display system, which puts out big holographic screens on which the evidence is displayed for the audience and the defense and prosecution can bat back and forth. According to my daughter, who is a huge fan of the franchise, it isn’t exactly like the games but it’s close enough to be really enjoyable.
Now I admit I haven’t played any of the games and you’d think a courtroom drama would be pretty dry, but this is Takashi Miike here and he doesn’t make dry movies. There’s tons of action and over-acting involved here, colorful sets, people yelling and screaming and running around, it’s worth a watch just for the spectacle. The cases are surprisingly deep, even if the characters are absurd and pretty transparent. There are twists abound though, which keeps it interesting and you really pull for Phoenix Wright, even though you know he’s going to win in the end.
Give it a shot, it’s more fun than I thought it would be and now I’m kind of itching to play the games!