Fresh off the $1 billion-plus success of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” the next big-deal video game adaptation has dropped its first trailer and poster. Rather than attempt to make a workable fictional narrative from a series of racing video games, the filmmakers have opted to adapt a true story connected to the games.
The film, penned by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin, and helmed by “District 11” director Neil Blomkamp, is based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough (played by Archie Madekwe in the film) whose video game skills won a series of Nissan competitions and allowed him a shot at being an actual race car driver. “From Gamer to Racer,” the tagline states and it’s an interesting narrative that would be intriguing even sans the IP surrounding it.
The trailer lays out the story in a nutshell a “Gran Turismo” gamer wanting to turn his passion into an occupation while his parents (Geri Halliwell Horner and Djimon Hounsou) try to get him to realize that his blue-collar roots offer a different path.
David Harbour plays his disbelieving but empathetic trainer and Orlando Bloom is the mercenary marketing guru — loosely based on GT Academy founder Darren Cox — who may or may not be a villain. And we get plenty of seemingly practical racing sequences, including one fiery wreck and the usual “you don’t get a do-over in real life” warnings.
Sure, it’s not that far off from “The Wizard,” but that Fred Savage/Christian Slater/Jenny Lewis coming-of-age road trip film — essentially “Rain Man” for kids and also a feature-length Nintendo commercial — is nearly 34 years old and doesn’t have the hook of being a true-life narrative.
Produced by Doug Belgrad, Asad Qizilbash, Carter Swan and Dana Brunetti with Kazunori Yamauchi, Hermen Hulst, Jason Hall and Matthew Hirsch serving as executive producers, “Gran Turismo” hopes to continue a hot streak for video game movies, one that began in early 2018 with “Rampage” and “Tomb Raider” and continued with “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” the two “Sonic the Hedgehog” movies and “Uncharted.”
Whether the seven games-and-counting series has the kind of fanbase which will run out to theaters is an open question, but this video game movie will also exist as the kind of low-stakes, grounded, character-focused melodrama that has become a rarer breed as Hollywood tripled-down on mega-budget fantasy action franchise films. It’s a grim irony that the 2014 “Need for Speed” adaptation has become the kind of film to inspire “They don’t make them like this anymore” nostalgia.
Columbia and PlayStation Productions’ “Gran Turismo,” based on the 25-year-old PlayStation stock car racing game, opens theatrically from Sony on August 11.