(originally posted February 13th 2015)
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a live-action Legend of Zelda series was in the works, and that Netflix of all people would be the one to make it. Neither Netflix nor Nintendo have said anything about the matter (I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be false or gets canned before anything even happens) but it does make me wonder: could a TV show based on one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises work?
Most people would probably instantly declare ‘no’ before citing all the failed film adaptations that have plagued our screens. Nintendo have steered clear of having their properties being turn into films for years, but only because the Super Mario Bros movie failed so spectacularly. Let’s not forget, though, that there is a big difference between a film and a TV show.
Films nowadays need to be big, grand, epic, other buzzwords. You need to cram action, drama, plot and character into at least an hour and a half – sometimes two hours. With a TV show, you have a bit more leniency, depending on how many episodes you’ve got and how long those episodes are. You can now afford to have longer quiet moments, more chances for your characters to just relax, maybe even have a whole episode dedicated to it.
However, length isn’t the only issue that these kinds of adaptations face. There have been many videogame movies that are only loosely tied to the original source. Sometimes, they barely resemble or connect to the game at all, almost as if all the major parties involved have never even played the game. Should this series get officially green-lit, it would need a team that possess a lot of knowledge about LoZ, especially since it encompasses an entire series of videogames, otherwise it could end up being just some poor man’s Lord of the Rings.
Tone is another important factor, though it is also subjective. The Legend of Zelda tone spectrum is quite wide. On one end, you have something like Wind Waker; some dark undertones but visually cartoony and rather light-hearted with very exaggerated characters. On the other end is Majora’s Mask, which is much darker, harsher, intimidating; I mean, look at that moon. That thing is made of nightmares.
So, the question here is ‘what tone should a TV series take?’ Personally, I’d prefer something in the middle; nothing too light-hearted but not overly grim either. It’s apparently been stated that Netflix wants the show to be a more family-friendly Game of Thrones, which I’d be fine with. I’m all for high stakes and serious drama but I want some breathing room and silly jokes to keep me relaxed too. I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t want to see LoZ be filled with constant bloodbaths, boob shots and sex scenes (have I mentioned I’ve never watched Game of Thrones?)
What kind of story would a TV show tell too? Something grand or slightly smaller in scale? Should it be about Link travelling the breadth of the land to thwart Ganondorf with a wide variety of characters and locations or be more contained and personal, focusing on a smaller cast? Both have their strong points so, for some, the quality of the show may rest on their personal preferences for when it comes to the type of story the show is telling.
Possibly the biggest concern, however, is with Link himself. Link is usually depicted as being a blank slate; in most games you can name him whatever you want and since he doesn’t speak, it’s difficult to pinpoint a specific personality. That’s not to say he has zero character; I think games such as Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword are great at presenting him with different degrees of emotion. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing Link remain mute, having him interact with other characters and the world around him in complete silence. There aren’t many TV shows with a silent protagonist so it’d be great to see that transferred over.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that that direction will be taken; Link will probably be given an actual voice which is very dangerous territory. Link has been silent for over 25 years; for many fans, it’ll be incredibly jarring to suddenly have him talk and they’ll most likely be upset with whatever kind of personality he’s given. What’s worse is that Link has spoken before; the first time being in the short lived Legend of Zelda cartoon, where Link was portrayed as being a snarky asshole who was constantly trying to put the moves on Zelda. The only other time was in the CD-i games and… well, less said about them the better.
It would seem like this is a project that’s doomed to fail and while I don’t wish to adopt such a pessimistic viewpoint, I will admit it will not be a pleasant experience. Not the show but the feedback. Fanboys and girls can be a fickle bunch and will find any excuse to hate something that they consider to be ‘hurting’ their beloved franchise. No matter what decisions the people involved will make, they’re bound to receive some flak for it.
However, I still think that a TV show could be done. It would just require a lot of thought and talent. It would need a crew who had a lot of experience with the games, people who can capture the spirit and style of those games and, of course, people who can write. It’d be fantastic if it got made and managed to be genuinely good because it could pave the way for other adaptations. It would prove that they could be done right and be more than ‘not as bad as we thought it’d be.’ As of right now, it’s still relatively unclear but if the show does get off the ground, I’d give it a watch just to see how good, or bad, it turns out to be.