Roundtable: USG Reacts to Rumors of Netflix's Live-Action Legend of Zelda Series

Roundtable: USG Reacts to Rumors of Netflix's Live-Action Legend of Zelda Series

The Legend of Zelda as a live-action series? Competing with Game of Thrones? USG reacts to this... interesting... rumor.

If the Wall Street Journal is to be believed, Netflix is working on a live-action series based on The Legend of Zelda, the kicker being that it's meant to compete with Game of Thrones.This could either be amazing or the worst idea ever. Here are our initial thoughts.

Jeremy Parish Editor-in-Chief

I don't expect anything good from this, because never in history has the human race managed to convert a Nintendo video game property into a satisfying work in other media (besides comics! he said, having already preordered the Ishinomori Zelda reprints). But I do admit a bit of a nonsensical thrill at the prospect of the Split Timeline concept becoming a component of mainstream water cooler culture. Can you imagine? What a world, what a world.

The report that this is a direct-to-streaming thing does cast it in a better life than if, say, it were meant to be a 26-episode season project by Chuck Lorre or something. Netflix's original programming has been pretty solid so far, although everything I can think of has either been (1) an original work or (2) created under the thumb of the property's original creators. Zelda has a built-in legacy, a built-in fanbase, and built-in precedent for failure as a film creation.

On the plus side, we're immediately spared anything as disastrous as the Super Mario Bros. movie or the CDi Zelda cutscenes. But on the other hand, there's something charming about truly wretched movies and cartoons — "Excuuuuuse me, princess!" is wholly watchable solely for its train-wreck value. The real danger of a live-action adaptation by generally competent producers is in the creation of something unremarkably poor. Neither good nor terrible.

Not to get all apocalyptic here, but I'm reminded of the Book of Revelations: "So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth." No one wants Zelda to end up as backwash. It deserves better.

Jaz Rignall Editor-at-Large

All we know for sure at this point is that the show will be scrutinized to death on every kind of level you can think of. I mean, we know absolutely nothing right now - other than it'll be something along the lines of "Game of Thrones for a family audience" - and yet here we are, already voicing opinions as to what a Zelda TV show should and shouldn't be. Of course, that's our job, but it does make me wonder exactly what kind of a hiding Netflix could potentially be letting itself in for. If it's anything other than absolutely spectacular, it'll be vilified: people will treat it as though their childhood dreams are being brutally gutted before their very eyes, like some kind of red wedding.

I just hope the writers don't get too bogged down in the lore of the series, and instead use it as inspiration to make a really good fantasy adventure in its own right. I think that would make it more accessible to a general audience, while also giving some nods to the hardcore fans. That's assuming Nintendo lets them do something like that, of course.

Ultimately, the thing just feels like a minefield to me. Whichever team of people end up working on the project will have their work cut out trying to navigate it. Best of luck to them! I think they'll need it.

Mike Williams Associate Editor

I'm oddly intrigued by this news. Is it wrong to say I trust Netflix as a producers at this point? I trust a Netflix to create a live-action Legend of Zelda television series more than I trust someone to make a film. Of the original program Netflix has produced, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are flippin' fantastic. Arrested Development wasn't great, but at least they tried to work with what they had. Have you seen the trailer for Marvel's Daredevil? That looks great, too!

No, my large problem with a live-action Legend of Zelda isn't my faith in Netflix, it's my faith in the idea that the series will adapt well to live-action. The traditional Zelda costume feels like a no-go, especially with the "Game of Thrones for families" concept. I expect they'll probably ditch the familiar green cap and outfit for leather armor with dark green highlights and a hood. Netflix isn't necessarily producing a Zelda for us, it's doing so for a wider audience. As a comic and anime fan, I'm well-versed in waves of hype crashing against the stony shores of production reality.

Speaking of adaptation, whoever does the legwork on this has their work cut out for them. In the game's Link is us, but who will this Link be? What is his motivation? Who are Zelda, Ganondorf, Impa, and Tingle outside of the few lines they get in the games? That's not going to just transfer over easily. Someone will have to largely redefine every character. I don't envy them.

Best-case scenario, we'll get the kind of light fantasy that Hollywood stopped producing years ago. Remember Willow, Ladyhawke, Legend, Krull, The Neverending Story, and the Dark Crystal? It can be done, but who's going to adapt it? Who has the right mindset to create a fantasy series with a bit of levity? BBC's Merlin and certain parts of Once Upon a Time are the best concept I have for what I'd want to see out of a live-action Legend of Zelda. And if Netflix wants to let Zelda join Link on his adventure this time, that'd be pretty cool.

Now we know the bright side to the Wii U tanking so hard. This rumor wouldn't even be given the time of day if Nintendo wasn't looking to make a bit of extra money.

And don't forget that most important part: Who would you cast?

Kat Bailey Senior Editor

I'm skeptical, to say the least. I would even go so far as to say that I don't think that it can work. If Netflix is truly looking to compete with Game of Thrones, then Zelda should be the last place they look. Its light sense of adventure is almost the polar opposite of HBO's dark, blood-drenched brand of realistic fantasy.

For the sake of argument though, I'll try to imagine a world in which such a series does work. One point of reference might be the above-mentioned Shotaro Ishinomori manga based on A Link of the Past, which was published in Nintendo Power in the early 1990s. While the writing isn't exactly Oscar-worthy, the striking imagery would play well in an epic fantasy television series.

Beyond that, I would probably go out of my way to minimize Link's speaking roles as much as possible, making him more of a taciturn hero. On a sidenote, good costume design will be crucial to the success of any live-action series. It'll have to be evocative of the series without being cartoonish—a tall order given the anime-ish look of the series going back to its inception.

If Netflix is smart... well, they won't make this show. But if they insist, then trying to squeeze Game of Thrones' backstabbing and political drama into Zelda probably isn't the answer. I would say that it needs to be more like The Lord of the Rings or even Indiana Jones—an adventure series in which Link scales the highest mountains, dives into the deepest dungeons, and fights the most epic monsters. Such a show could be fun in a popcorn movie sort of way, though I imagine the budget would be massive.

We'll see how this works out. After all, it could all be a rumor, Nintendo and Netflix could agree to kill it before it ever sees the light of day. But no matter how hard I try, I really can't see this actually working as a live-action show.

Bob Mackey Senior Writer

When the news about a live-action Zelda series hit today, I had a simple response: "Why?"

Rest assured, I'm not worried about my childhood being ruined, or fearful this series could sully the sterling reputation of The Legend of Zelda. Odds are, I probably won't end up watching it, but not out of spite or anything—and I'm not going to get on anyone's case if they happen to dig it. (If this thing actually happens.) My main problem is that live-action strikes me as such a wrong choice for the vibrant and fantastical world of Hyrule, and confining the format to real people and places feels incredibly limiting. I'm sure they can cook up some impressive CGI, but even so, I'm not sure I even want to see Link as a real human being. For one, how can they find a man beautiful enough to play him? (Though I guess since NBC recently gave us sexy lady Peter Pan, anything's possible.)

Nickelodeon has definitely proven there's a market for kid-friendly action dramas that have great animation and don't talk down to their audience. Both Avatar and The Legend of Korra managed to create a compelling, serialized drama that apparently draws in an equal ratio of children and adults. Shows like this have definitely done their best to pull cartoons out of the kids-only ghetto, so the time seems absolutely perfect for an animated Legend of Zelda adaptation. Yes, I know the 1989 series turned Link into a horn-dog who stole his catchphrase from Steve Martin and constantly tried to put Princess Zelda in the Bone Zone, but the Dark Age of DiC animation ended over a decade ago and we as a society have finally healed. It's time to do The Legend of Zelda right.

If this this actually happens, I at least hope they chuck any notion of a "timeline" out the window and craft their own, independent story—I don't need a retelling of Ocarina of Time or anything like that. And if that whole "Game of Thrones for families" isn't just marketing-speak for dumb people, whoever's behind this series really doesn't understand what they're working with. I mean, where's the political intrigue in Hyrule? It's essentially a Kingdom of Suckers who keep falling victim to same Great Evil because they apparently refuse to keep around any historical records.

As it stands, I'm pretty ambivalent about this whole live-action Zelda business, and I'm sure I'm not alone. Until they announce an anime adaptation of The Wind Waker, I'll be subsisting on my regular diet of Haterade.

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