Let’s talk about Gran Turismo.
Video game movies are now a big thing and many are suggesting that with comic book movies on the decline and Hollywood doing what they can to avoid original films, films based on bits and polygons will be soon be the big thing. That’s because we’ve had some genuinely enjoyable ones over the last few years, with neither Uncharted or Super Mario Bros being brilliant movies but still being successes. Considering The Flash lost so much money that Warner Bros might have to sell Bugs Bunny to someone who wants to make a nice stew, it’s easy to see why this appeals to studios. But a lot of video games don’t really have a plot so how do you make them into a movie? Well, here comes Gran Turismo racing into view to show us.
Jann loves playing Gran Turismo and wants to become a real racing driver because of it. This seems like a fantasy until a GT Academy is announced, taking the best Gran Turismo players in the world and giving them a chance in a real race car. Jann gets in and has to his best in a world that doesn’t really want to see him succeed.
The idea of being a film based around the video game than using the game itself for the adaptation is not original. In fact, we saw it earlier this year with Tetris. It’s also a smart idea as Gran Turismo hasn’t just got a minimalist plot, it has no plot. It’s just a racing simulator and as the film says so much, it is basically an advert at times, it’s the greatest racing simulator on the planet. Forza would argue differently, but whatever. Instead, the film goes for the underdog story, which apparently is based on real life. Racing is a rich man’s sport, so a working class lad from Cardiff shouldn’t have too much of a chance even if he has the talent. And that’s where the film picks up.
And it’s the most clichéd sporting underdog story you’ve seen. It’s a madcap idea with a plucky likable hero at the centre of it. They bring in a gruff trainer as the race engineer who thinks the whole idea is stupid but he grows to like our hero. And of course, everyone in the racing community hates Jann because coming through video games is the wrong way to become racer, the better way is your daddy buying a team just for you to race in, just to make sure we have all the same ingredients that Cool Runnings had about 30 years ago. Yes that film is that old, look it up. There are parts of the script that are so predictable that I was saying them along with the characters. In terms of the story, it’s not really bringing anything new.
Thankfully, most of these clichés are consigned to the first half of the film. This is when Jann is going through the GT Academy and the plot is probably at it’s heaviest and most trite. This can be a tiresome part of the movie especially as you just want it to move on. Thankfully, in a similar way to Meg 2 last week, when the film moves on it can get quite good. The last part of the film certainly has it’s plot elements, including an absolutely pointless but also harmless romance, but it’s much more streamlined and focused on the racing. And that’s good! The race scenes are really good, intense and have plenty of drama riding on them. They are shot very well, director Neill Blomkamp has plenty of talent despite being known as a on-hit wonder, and the behind the car shot like the video game is a nice little trick. These are the highlight of the film.
I think the main problem with the movie though is not necessarily that it’s terrible or has huge major flaws but that everything it does has been done better. The film builds up the Le Mans 24 hour race as the most intimidating, terrifying race around, something it does well. But we’ve had Ford Vs Ferrari which builds the allure of that particular grand prix in a much better way. The film also makes a huge point about the danger of racing and again, it does that well. You do feel like Jann is on the edge of his life when he is going for it. But Rush was 10 years ago and no film has ever made racing seem as dangerous as that movie. 15 years ago, Gran Turismo would have been much more warmly received than now with a lot more great racing films on the grid.
Gran Turismo is alright. It does struggle in the first half of the film when it’s more plot heavy and relying on a lot of clichés the movie doesn’t even bother to disguise. But when it gets to the second half when most of the motor racing happens, it becomes a pretty decent movie. There’s nothing here to cause a revolution and if you want to just watch a racing movie, there’s far better out there as it’s a genre that continues to get better and better. But it’s decent for the most part and harmless at worst.