Last week I briefly touched on the subject of the monomyth or ‘The Hero’s Journey’, a concept conceived by Joseph Campbell which provides the structural basis of, well pretty much every good film ever made. Referring to the diagram we see that the monomyth consists of six key steps which basically state that “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” (Joseph Campbell). It is a simple structure that most games overlook due to the complex nature and length of games. However the Zelda game franchise time and again has been seen to rely on the monomyth in their story telling. Using Ocarina of Time (arguably the best game in the Zelda franchise) I will illustrate ‘The Hero’s Journey’.
Call to Adventure: Like most Zelda games, Ocarina of Time begins with Link awaking. He is a small town kid in an idyllic village and is instantly given a call to adventure as Navi summons him to visit the Great Deku Tree. He rescues the ill tree from Ganondorfs curse and is in return given supernatural Aid from the great tree and is sent off on his quest with the instructions to take the Kokiri Emerald to Princess Zelda. Loss is an important part of the call to adventure. Like Luke’s parents in Star Wars, The Great Deku Tree dies meaning home will never be the same for Link.
Threshold: The initial errand is only the beginning, crossing the threshold will show the protagonist their true mission. Like Luke learns of Vader, Link is told of Ganondorf and sent off on a Hyrule wide adventure.
Challenges and Temptations: This segment of Zelda fulfils literature’s rules of three. In other Zelda games its three Goddess Pearls or three pieces of fused shadow, in Ocarina its three spiritual stones.
The Abyss (death and return): This step traditionally does not literally mean to die and be reborn but instead a symbolic death and re-birth. This occurs in Ocarina of Time when Link returns the spiritual stones to Princess Zelda, only to find her being kidnapped by the evil Ganondorf. Link then enters the temple of time and is put to sleep for 7 years to be awoken (re-born).
Transformation: Link is literally transformed into a man because of the temple of time.
Atonement: Link was not fast enough to bring Princess Zelda the spiritual stones and save Hyrule from Ganondorf. Hyrule is now is ruins and Link must awaken the seven sages to save Hyrule. This being the toughest of trails to date often shows the protagonist helped by a mentor. For Link this mentor is a masked woman.
The Return: After defeating Ganondorf, Link is returned to his own time, but remains changed from the events of the game.
Link is clearly a classic hero destined for the big screen. The story is neatly split into three acts beginning with the exposition and the inciting incident which leads link on the adventures for the spiritual stones. Then after the crisis of Zelda’s capture, the stakes rise throughout the second Act climaxing with the final battle with Ganondorf in the third act and then the resolution. The is a vast world of characters and moments in the game to flesh out the story. For example the masked woman I mentioned turns out to be princess Zelda providing an appropriate cinematic twist in the story. Plus the game even has an innocent character from Links childhood, Saria who loves Link but alas her love is un-requited, or perhaps it isn’t. The game has written the potential films romantic triangle and never revealed conclusively how it ends. As far as Zelda goes, the question isn’t will it become a film but when will it happen and more importantly, how?
Zelda is a game which has a story that is so desperate to become a film that there are multiple amateur versions already made.
Just because Zelda: Ocarina of a Time follows certain rules of successful Hollywood cinema, it doesn’t guarantee that it will be a success but it does mean that the skeleton is there for the possibility.
There are various viable approaches to a Zelda adaptation. One naturally, would be an epic live-action drama. However Zelda would also adapt well into a lighter film about the kid from a small forest village desperately trying to date the princess and reluctantly thrown in situations which give him the chance to prove him-self. This is the approach the animated show took which worked rather well portraying Link as an immature teenager whose catch phrase was “well excuuuuuse me princess” emphasising the classically ‘film’ love hate relationship. Visually, animation would also work for this title because of the fantastical nature of the material however recent technological advances in films such as The Lord of the Rings would allow a live-action film to capture the scope of Hyrule and its inhabitants.
It has become apparent that game designer Shigeru Miyamoto is taking his time with the concept of the Zelda film adaptation as to avoid another Mario movie catastrophe. There are many things uncertain about a Zelda film however one thing is for sure, this game is destined for the big screen.