Gran Turismo: A Flawed Yet Promising Step Forward in Video Game Films

Archie Madekwe sits in a race car in Gran Turismo.
Image: Archie Madekwe sits in a race car in Gran Turismo. (Source: Sony Pictures Releasing)

I recently watched the Gran Turismo movie and, to be honest, I wasn’t overly impressed. However, it got me thinking about the potential for more video game-related films that delve into the industry and its impact. Let me explain my perspective. In other creative mediums like film and literature, there are plenty of biographical films, documentaries, and TV shows that explore the lives of those involved with or impacted by these mediums. Think of movies like Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist, Tolkien, The Offer, and more. However, video games haven’t received the same treatment until recently. For a long time, a video game movie or TV show simply meant an adaptation of a popular game’s story or world. But things are changing.

The cast of Gran Turismo in an official poster for the film.
Image: The cast of Gran Turismo in an official poster for the film. (Source: Sony Pictures)

Gran Turismo, which I had the chance to see ahead of its wide release, is part of a growing trend. It follows in the footsteps of Apple TV’s Tetris and Double Fine’s PsychOdyssey, demonstrating that there’s an appetite and market for long-form, biographical films and TV shows about game development and the impact of video games on society. The video game industry has countless stories to offer, whether it’s the intriguing development of games like Anthem and Red Dead Redemption 2 or the fascinating biographies of renowned game developers such as Reggie Fils-Aimé, Ken and Roberta Williams, and Cliff Bleszinski. These stories, combined with the cultural impact of video games, are finally being recognized.

Stories Waiting to Be Unveiled

The video game industry boasts a rich history filled with intrigue, drama, and untold stories. When you delve into articles that expose the development of games like Anthem or Red Dead Redemption 2, or read books about influential game developers like Reggie Fils-Aimé, Ken and Roberta Williams, or Cliff Bleszinski, you realize how many compelling game development narratives have remained hidden from the general public. And that’s not even considering the cultural impact games have had. Films like Gran Turismo shed light on this aspect as well.

See also  Why Elden Ring is the Best Game of 2022

It has taken time for films, TV shows, and documentaries to start focusing on these stories. Perhaps it’s because the video game industry hasn’t always been taken as seriously as other creative fields, or maybe it’s simply a lack of awareness about the untapped potential. Nevertheless, we are witnessing a shift in mindset. YouTube channels like Noclip have successfully demonstrated the appeal of video game documentaries, and developers like Digital Eclipse have put in the effort to create remasters that serve as living museums or documentaries for the games they feature. This year, Double Fine’s PsychOdyssey, a 32-part documentary of remarkable quality, chronicled the development of Psychonauts 2 and captivated audiences. What’s even more remarkable is that it’s available for free on YouTube. Finally, Hollywood is starting to recognize this trend. Tetris, for example, transformed the intense rights battle surrounding the iconic puzzle game in the late 1980s into a political thriller. Gran Turismo, on the other hand, portrays the impact of a video game on a person’s life through a racing film.

As someone who has been acutely aware of the struggles faced by game developers and the profound cultural impact of video games on multiple generations, I’m delighted to see works like PsychOdyssey, Tetris, and Gran Turismo educating the public on these aspects. I eagerly anticipate the release of many more movies, TV shows, and documentaries in the same vein. However, there is still room for improvement in this evolving genre.

Overcoming Challenges

While I hope to see more films like Gran Turismo in the future, it’s clear that there are areas that need refinement. In Digital Trends’ 1.5-star review of Gran Turismo, it’s noted that the film “feels more like an advertisement than a piece of blockbuster entertainment.” I couldn’t agree more. Gran Turismo falls short in balancing the promotion of a PS5 game with the delivery of a compelling narrative. Although the film features commendable performances from David Harbour and Djimon Hounsou, it struggles to juggle the various character arcs at play.

See also  Unveiling the Ratatasks and Rewards in God of War Ragnarok

There are lengthy segments where characters introduced in the first act—such as the protagonist’s father, best friend, and girlfriend—are completely forgotten in favor of intense racing cinematography and occasional reminders of how important Gran Turismo is. Most significantly, the film lacks a compelling central theme beyond highlighting the game’s advertising potential (and some other Sony products along the way).

Orlando Bloom’s character frequently delivers monologues praising Gran Turismo and the GT Academy as the pinnacle of gaming, imbuing the film with an almost religious reverence for Japan and series creator Kazunori Yamauchi. This is where movies like Tetris and Gran Turismo stumble. While they serve as biographical accounts of captivating game-related stories, they also function as not-so-subtle advertisements for the companies behind the games they feature.

Of course, I don’t expect film creators to be completely unbiased—strong viewpoints are essential for creating compelling movies. However, when that bias leans towards promoting a product, the film feels less authentic. This issue is perhaps unavoidable during the early stages of this genre, as these types of movies only come to fruition when game companies that own the intellectual properties give the green light. Nonetheless, it is a pitfall that filmmakers in the video game industry must overcome if they wish to continue along this path. Fortunately, PsychOdyssey has proven that it’s possible to avoid this pitfall.

While PsychOdyssey was a crowdfunded reward that brought attention to Psychonauts 2, the documentary doesn’t always paint Double Fine, Tim Schafer, and Microsoft in the most favorable light, as most developer diaries tend to do. It shows the challenging moments, the mismanagement of development, and steps back to let the story speak for itself rather than being influenced by the companies involved.

See also  Like a Dragon: Ishin! Review: A Captivating Tale Overcomes Outdated Samurai Action

Although documentaries differ significantly from studio films like Gran Turismo, they demonstrate that there is still room for growth in this style of storytelling. The video game industry offers countless enthralling human interest stories, deserving of being brought to the screen just like the journeys of filmmakers, actors, or authors.

To conclude, while Gran Turismo may have its flaws, it represents a promising step forward in video game films. The industry is on the cusp of a revolution, with exciting narratives waiting to be explored. I look forward to witnessing the continued evolution of video game movies, TV shows, and documentaries in the future.

OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

Related Posts

Xbox Series S Review: A Remarkable Device with Some Trade-Offs

The Series S is Initially Impressive When unboxing both the Series S and the Series X, I was pleasantly surprised by the compactness of the former. It reminded…

How to Move Your PS4 Data to PS5

The PS5 is an incredible device with a plethora of exciting features, including the ability to transfer data from your PS4. Sony’s latest console is backward compatible with…

Warzone 2.0 Season 2: Exciting Updates, Ashika Island, and Resurgence Mode

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is ready to kick off its second season. While Activision hasn’t revealed all the details of the upcoming update, they have dropped…

The Top Nintendo Switch Controllers for 2023

The Top Nintendo Switch Controllers for 2023

The Nintendo Switch has become one of the most popular gaming consoles of all time, and with the release of the Switch Lite and the Switch OLED, its…

Warzone 2.0 and DMZ Contract Guide: Understand Every Objective and Reward

Warzone 2.0 and DMZ Contract Guide: Understand Every Objective and Reward

When Warzone entered the battle royale arena, it could have easily relied on the Call of Duty brand name to succeed. But instead, Warzone aimed to stand out…

The Best ISO Hemlock Loadouts for Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0

The Best ISO Hemlock Loadouts for Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0

The highly anticipated second season of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone 2.0 has arrived, bringing along a new assault rifle called the ISO Hemlock. This…