REVIEW: Ace Attorney (2012)

Phoenix Wright is a rookie lawyer against all odds. To find the truth to his latest case, he has to flip logic on its head.


By Raymond Arcega
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Ace Attorney

Original Title: 逆転裁判
Year: 2012
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Director: Miike Takashi

Miike Takashi is no unknown in the world of Japanese movies. Having directed many acclaimed films, including Audition and One Missed Call, Miike is a master of films both thrilling and bizarre. Hearing his name attached to the adaptation of the Ace Attorney video games will leave fans wondering how the finished product will end up.

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The video games are not of the horror genre, nor are they over-the-top violent thrillers. However, the notorious Miike finds a foothold and is able to dress the film with his familiar eerie atmosphere using the story’s supernatural elements.

Ace Attorney follows the journey of low-level lawyer Phoenix Wright (Narimiya Hiroki). Wright defends the weak in a future in which crime is frequent. So, in order to process as many trials as quickly as possible, defense attorneys are given three days to prove the innocence of their clients. If they can’t, the clients are deemed guilty and thrown behind bars.

One day, Wright’s boss and mentor Mia (Dan Rei) is murdered, with the blame pinned on her sister Maya (Kiritani Mirei). Wright soon proves Maya’s innocence in court, but he realizes Mia’s death is one part of a bigger puzzle, and soon finds himself in the middle of a web of conspiracy. This leads to the reunion with an old friend and ace prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth (Saito Takumi), and his mysterious, yet frightening mentor Von Karma (Ishibashi Ryo). To find the answer to the mystery, he has to flip logic as he knows it on its head.

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Simply put, Ace Attorney is proof that adaptations of video games can be done well. What it takes is the right director, the right cast, and a story that doesn’t stray from the original work. That being said, just about everything in this film feels like a direct lift from the beloved video games.

Miike is known for his extreme style. The notorious director goes all the way with preserving the look and design of the characters. The costumes, and more notably the hairstyles, all look more like (excellent) cosplays than natural looks. But, everything can get by with a seal of approval with the story set in the future, in which it’s wholly possible to have these extreme looks as part of the fashion norm.

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What also fits Miike’s style is the bizarre plot. It’s full of twists and turns that seem perfectly at home in a Miike film. But, as hinted before, everything was kept intact from the game. Fans of the game will be tickled with how the director puts his own twist on the way things are presented, however.

In the original game, the story was a visual novel, with key moments in which the player could present evidence and unravel the lies of the witnesses. Even that aspect is preserved, by which the evidence are displayed via holograms. Wright takes the holograms and tosses them at the faces of the witnesses, exclaiming his famous “Take That!” while doing so.

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Another glorious element of the games brought over into this adaptation was the music. Many of the original scores by original composer Sugimoro Masakazu were rearranged by longtime Miike collaborator Endo Koji. The rearranged pieces all kept their familiar melodies, but were outfitted so that they fit the movie appropriately.

If there was anything wrong with the film, it would have to be some of the cast selections. One is that the character of Dick Gumshoe (Daito Shunsuke) looked too “cool” when compared to his game counterpart – an older guy who seems to always be under a lot of stress. Also, while there are no complaints regarding acting ability, the physique of Ishibashi is drastically different than the game’s Von Karma – a towering villain who looks like he could kill a man with a simple gaze.

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But then again, everything is presented in Ace Attorney so that not only fans of the games could enjoy, but also non-fans could find things to appreciate. Fans of Miike will appreciate how bizarre the world and characters are, and even how eerie the story’s supernatural scenes are.

Regardless of how many small things are nitpicked at, fans can agree that Ace Attorney is, without a doubt, the best video game adaptation ever made.


Watch this film…

…to see that video game adaptations don’t all have to be bad movies.


About the Author

Raymond Arcega

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