Last week ended with a report that excited Legend of Zelda fans the world over. The beloved Nintendo franchise was reported to be headed to Netflix as a live-action series. While Nintendo has yet to come out and confirm that any such deal is in place, that hasn't stopped fans from weighing in on the prospect of Link hitting the Netflix scene.
As one might imagine, many have weighed in on what they would like to see in any Netflix series based on The Legend of Zelda. Today, Shacknews joins the chorus and breaks down what the ideal live-action adaptation should look like.
The Hero's Path
One of the first questions that come to mind when thinking about a Legend of Zelda series is what game it should be based on. All of the games told the story of a great hero named Link who saved the kingdom of Hyrule from the forces of evil, with fans all divided over which of those stories was the best. Was it Ocarina of Time? A Link to the Past? Link's Awakening? Wind Waker? Skyward Sword? The franchise has a rich history with a lengthy, if slightly convoluted, timeline. But it's precisely because of that timeline that a Legend of Zelda live-action series should stand on its own and not be based on any of the previous games.
Nintendo has proven capable of finding ways to retell the franchise's basic story in fresh ways over the past two decades. A Link to the Past told the story of a hero questing for peace across both light and dark dimensions. Ocarina of Time told the story of a hero going across time to save a kingdom at its darkest moment. Even the more offbeat games (Minnish Cap, Spirit Tracks) experimented with the narrative formula, finding new ways to tell Link's story. But Nintendo has also let it be known that the series spans over generations with new heroes inheriting the spirit of the Triforce of Courage. Many of the franchise's installments start the same way and that's with a new hero being born.
So why should this Netflix series deviate from that path for an adaptation that will almost surely pale in comparison to the source material? That's not to say it can't touch upon elements of the games. The Dark World can be acknowledged as an alternate plane. The Temple of Time can serve as a flashback device for time travel sequences. It can even touch upon the curse from Twilight Princess. The Legend of Zelda lore is rich enough that it shouldn't be dependent on a single game's narrative. A series can still explore the Lost Woods, introduce races like the Goron and the Zora, and even go into the origins of places like Kokiri Forest or Gerudo Valley without being based on a particular game's plot. As long as the plot touches on the basic elements (kingdom is in peril, destiny chooses a hero, a princess, and an evil villain), the extras lore should be icing on the cake.
One of the few constants of the storyline is Ganon, who haunts the hero's bloodline throughout the ages, yearning to be released once more. While Link has been haunted by other antagonists in the past, like the sorceror Vaati and the dark king Zant, it wouldn't feel right if the main baddie was anyone other than the King of Evil himself. If the producers of the new series do go the original route, hopefully they'll remember to include Ganon in a way that honors his legacy.
The Silent Protagonist
Because it's television and because it's live action, there's going to be temptation to give Link a voice. Have him be a mighty swordsman and leader of a great Hyrule army, not unlike what's on display in Hyrule Warriors, and with that will come the temptation to give him a silver tongue.
But then, it wouldn't be Link, would it? One of the hero's defining characteristics is that he doesn't speak. He never needs to. Without uttering a single word, he expresses all the righteous qualities of a hero. He's selfless, courageous, and willing to sacrifice anything to save the kingdom from evil. So that puts the producers in a precarious position. Silence doesn't always translate to television, so how could they possibly convey the idea of a courageous, yet very mute, hero?
Oddly enough, the best idea I've seen for setting Link as a silent hero comes from the world of fan fiction. During my high school days, 15 years ago, I read a story set in Hyrule Castle during the aftermath of Ocarina of Time. While it contained some of the silliness that these fantasy tales are known for, it did express the idea that Link's silence isn't voluntary. The story spoke a curse placed on the hero's bloodline, which would forever keep them silent. This is a completely feasible plot device and one that would easily explain the silent frontman without appearing absurd or "gamey," the latter of which is particularly important if an endeavor like this is going to succeed.
To pull this off, however, would require quite a talented actor.
The temptation is going to be there to cast Link in the role of an established actor, whether from movies or television. But it's important to resist that temptation. Recognized actors sometimes come with the baggage of past roles, meaning it's best to leave that on the backburner. For something like this, it's best to simply start fresh.
The fantasy genre has done well with unknown actors. A chunk of the Game of Thrones cast consisted of unknowns when that series first took off. For The Walking Dead, few knew who Norman Reedus was before he picked up the crossbow. Just like those shows, The Legend of Zelda should create some new stars, not rely on old ones. In the right hands, Link and Zelda could be defining roles for a pair of talented actors. Licensed properties have the benefit of garnering viewership for the license, not for the names attached. I'd love to see the producers take this opportunity to make a brand new star with this show.
On something of a tangent, some will point to the disastrous Super Mario Bros. movie as an example of why this project is doomed to failure. After all, Bob Hoskins (a great actor, but an ill fit) didn't exactly have a grasp of what he was getting into. But it's important to note that this was 25 years ago, during gaming's relative infancy. Many of today's young actors grew up with The Legend of Zelda. Many of them understand the source material completely and have a deep reverence for it. This isn't the old guard not understanding what these newfangled "video games" are. Whoever gets cast for Link, Zelda, or even Ganon will understand the gravitas of these roles. There's plenty of reason to believe that they will be just as enthusiastic to bring these characters to life as fans are to see them. Assuming they get a decent script, it should be fun to watch.
We've said our peace at Shacknews. What say you all? What would you like to see in a Legend of Zelda live-action series? Let us know in the comments.