Link is moving from Hyrule to Hollywood. Coming off the $1.3 billion success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Nintendo announced Wednesday that it’s working on a live-action adaptation of The Legend of Zelda. The video game developer said that although it “will take time” until the movie hits theaters, it will be helmed by Maze Runner director Wes Ball and be cofinanced by Sony. The news sent gamers on a dream-casting spree and signaled the next big step in Nintendo’s quest to evolve from a video game company into a full-blown entertainment empire.
The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo’s oldest and most beloved franchises, where a silent, twinky hero named Link battles the forces of evil (usually a maladjusted guy named Gannon/dorf) with the help of princess Zelda. The company made the first game in the series in 1986 and has since released dozens more, including this year’s critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. The franchise is one of Nintendo’s heavy hitters, a series where each game is highly anticipated and commonly commercially successful. Tears of the Kingdom has sold 19.5 million copies since May.
Nintendo’s bet on a film adaptation of the series is part of its expansion into the greater entertainment world. Earlier this year, the company hit gold with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, which eventually surpassed Frozen as the second-highest-grossing animated movie of all time. Beautifully animated, packed with stars like Chris Pratt and Jack Black, and an incredibly appealing commercial for the developer’s games, the Mario movie proved that, alongside darker fare like The Last of Us, adaptations of video game franchises aren’t the worst idea in the world.
In October, Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser told WIRED that the Mario movie’s success was evidence of Nintendo’s ability to give its IP new life in other mediums. Moving forward with a Zelda movie proves the company wants to ensure Mario's success isn't a one-off.
The video game industry has been going big on film and TV projects for years, churning out projects that are either bad (Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Assassin's Creed, I could go on), very bad (BloodRayne, 1993’s Super Mario Bros., Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), or surprisingly great (The Last of Us, Sonic the Hedgehog, Detective Pikachu). Despite a long history of failures, studios seem to have cracked how to make good video game adaptations, and audiences have routinely turned out for them.
Nintendo, it seems, won’t be taking any chances. Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto said in a statement Wednesday that he’s been “working on the live-action film of The Legend of Zelda for many years now” alongside producer Avi Arad, who has worked on films such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Uncharted, and Morbius. Miyamoto said Nintendo is “heavily involved in the production,” and while crucial information, like which actor will play Link, remains unknown, it’s clear that Nintendo is investing heavily in feature films.
Can a live-action Zelda film compete with Mario’s popularity–or, more importantly, erase the black spot placed on the company’s name by the original live-action Mario movie? Maybe. If not, there’s already a great, Zelda-esque live-action film you can comfort yourself with right now: Ridley Scott’s 1985 film Legend, a glitter-bombed fever dream where Tom Cruise hangs out with fairies in a teeny little tunic, and Tim Curry plays the devil. Perfection.
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