I arrived late to The Legend of Zelda fandom. When I was a little kid, I never had an NES; my parents never got me one for some reason. They could afford it; I probably got like 300 dollars’ worth of toys between my grandparents, aunt, and parents every Christmas/my birthday (December 28th). But no matter how much I asked, I never got an NES. So I’d play with my toys at home, then head over to friends’ houses to play their Nintendo. I played Mega Man II, Super Mario Bros., and Super Mario Bros. 3. I don’t think either of my friends had the original Legend of Zelda, and so I remained completely ignorant to the franchise’s existence. I also never had a Game Boy, so I didn’t know about Link’s Awakening, either.
When I received a Super Nintendo for Christmas just before my twelfth birthday, I immediately indulged in all the fun I had been missing. I devoured Super Mario World, Star Fox, Super Mario Kart, Mega Man X, Mega Man X2, Super Metroid, Mega Man X3, Donkey Kong Country, Diddy’s Kong Quest, the Super Star Wars trilogy, Pilotwings, and Earthworm Jim. I think I was vaguely aware of A Link to the Past’s existence, but I didn’t care. I was a sci-fi kid, not a fantasy kid. I hadn’t read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, hated Labyrinth, and just didn’t care for all that sword and sorcery stuff. Blasters and starships were my forte.
Then Ocarina of Time arrived.
Before the fall of 1998, I had enjoyed my Nintendo 64 immensely. Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, Pilotwings 64, Shadows of the Empire, Mario Kart 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and GoldenEye had kept me entertained for hours on end. In fact, I think if Ocarina hadn’t shown up, I’d be deep in the web of first-person shooters, and probably would have abandoned Nintendo after the 64 had run its course. But Ocarina made me realize just how awesome an RPG could be (sure, Ocarina was technically RPG-lite, but still).
So what made Ocarina capture my interest? Honestly, I have no idea. I was seventeen, working in the Electronics department of a Wal-Mart in Colorado. My boss had installed the Ocarina demo, and one night when I was bored, I tried it out. I think it was the ability to change Link’s name to my own that scored initial points with me. Then I became very impressed by Kokiri Forest. The entire game felt more free and wondrous than any game I had previously played. I immediately bought the game, finished it two months later, and promptly replayed it. I loved the game. It became my all-time favorite, and kept me in Nintendo’s pocket for years. I bought Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess; and loved them all. Of course, none of them matched Ocarina. I began to wonder why there wasn’t a film based on The Legend of Zelda. I had heard there had been a cartoon, and a couple of weird CD-i games. But why no movie?
Then the Dungeons & Dragons movie came out, and I had my answer.
Fantasy films are extremely hard to make. It’s very easy for them to end up looking stupid. The Lord of the Rings was lucky because it had a filmmaker who loved the source material so much. But for every Lord of the Rings, there’s an Eragon or Legend of the Seeker. Movies based on video games also have an extremely negative track record. I don’t think I need to remind you all of the disaster that was Super Mario Bros. Then there’s Doom, Double Dragon, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat (especially Annihilation), Wing Commander, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, BloodRayne, Dead or Alive, Hitman, Max Payne, Silent Hill. Tomb Raider, Resident Evil and Prince of Persia were decently successful, but they are definitely the exception to the rule.
So in this environment into which fantasy is still trying to find its footing and video game films generally do abysmally, is there any hope for a successful Legend of Zelda film?
I’ve pondered this question far more than I’d care to admit. Multiple scenarios poured through my head. What if they just adapt Wind Waker? That could work as a Miyazaki film, but the chances of that happening are slim to none. What about an adaptation of Ocarina itself? I’ve looked at all the different ways they could do that, and they all end disastrously. Even in the best case scenario, Ocarina would be the tale of a hero trying to save a princess and a kingdom. Great video game, because of all the side things you can do, not so much a great film idea. I eventually got to the point that I was ready to give up on the idea completely. Then it hit me. It was so obvious that I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me sooner. Don’t make Link the hero. He’s just the player surrogate, anyway.
Make Zelda the main protagonist.
Making Zelda the heroine opens an entire new dimension to what you can do with the film. It could be a Lord of the Rings style epic in which Zelda fights to avenge her parents who have been murdered by Ganondorf and save her kingdom. It could be a Harry Potter-ish series in which the child Zelda grows up as a refugee accompanying her mentor Impa as they create alliances with the Gorons, Zoras, Kokiri, Rito, rebel Gerudo and others throughout Hyrule; it could also show her evolution from a naïve young princess to a formidable warrior. It can end with a great battle between Ganon’s armies and the Free Hyrule Alliance, led by Zelda in her Sheik garb. And it would give an entire new generation of girls (and boys) a huge role model to look up to and be inspired by.
This is all a dream, of course. But I think it’s one worth pondering.