Movies based on video games generally have pretty pathetic adaptations. In my Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time review I stated that movie makers have yet to make a good movie based on a video game. I’m pleased to say that I have to retract my previous statement. Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva (2009) was a respectable adaptation of the Nintendo DS puzzle games.
Archeologist and avid puzzle solver Professor Layton (Yô Ôizumi/Christopher Robin Miller) and his self-proclaimed apprentice Luke (Maki Horikita/Maria Darling) think back to one of their earliest cases together… Janice Quatlane (Nana Mizuki/Emma Tate), famed opera singer and former student of Layton, requests his help after meeting a strange little girl. The girl claims to posses eternal life and to be the reincarnation of Janice’s deceased friend, Melina. Layton and Luke attend Janice’s latest opera performance. At the end of the recital, the audience is shocked to find that the entire opera house has been converted into a ship and that a mystery man now holds them all captive. The man forces them to solve a series of riddles. The winner will receive the secret to eternal life, but the losers will die. Each successive puzzle proves to be more and more hazardous as an insidious plot unfolds.
Nintendo’s best selling Professor Layton video game series features the titular character and his assistant Luke as they travel around solving some really tough puzzles in order to solve mysteries. There are currently four titles in the series and two more in the works. Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is a unique story that fits into the game’s chronology. Fortunately, the story doesn’t depend on the viewer having played the games; it stands alone just fine. Even if you’ve never heard of Professor Layton, you won’t be lost watching this movie.
A Professor Layton film adaptation is not a bad idea. The games are plot driven and have some endearing characters; no cyborgs or muscle-bound heroes here. Simply a tea-drinking, top hat-wearing gentleman detective whose only “special move” is thinking really hard. Both lead characters are portrayed by the same voice actors from the games and are written to fan expectations. Some of the music from the games is even incorporated in to the movie. Layton remains a quiet man of thoughts and actions while Luke is filled with child-like energy that doesn’t annoy.
The story in Eternal Diva keeps our attention, though it does have a several common anime clichés. For a movie based on a puzzle game, there are precious few puzzles for the audience to solve along with The Professor. That’s just fine; the plot and characters are the driving force in the story. This is a movie, after all, not another game. For a mystery story it has a major snag; not enough clues are shown to the audience for us to figure out “whodunit.” There are several times when Layton reveals his conclusions, and they are often out in left field. There are plenty of mystery stories that do this and still remain decent stories. Even so, Eternal Diva puts any Scooby-Doo mystery to shame.
Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is possibly the best video game based movie made to date; though that isn’t saying much. Like the game on which it’s based, this movie shows us that entertainment can appeal to all ages and doesn’t need to talk down to us. It’s not great, but it’s a decent movie that is appropriate for the whole family. By itself, it’s an enjoyable film. As a video game movie, it’s a great example of how to do it right. Whether you’re new to Professor Layton or a veteran puzzler, you will likely enjoy this movie.