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Film / Ace Attorney (2012)
aka: Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney

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Mia Fey: You're not wrong. Turn logic on its head.
Phoenix Wright: Turnabout?

Ace Attorney (or Gyakuten Saiban) is a 2012 Live-Action Adaptation of Capcom's Ace Attorney Visual Novel games. Directed by Takashi Miike, the movie focuses on the events in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, specifically the second and fourth cases.

Phoenix Wright is a rookie defense attorney determined to uncover the truth and defend the innocent. When his mentor, Mia, dies after calling about a big case she's working on, Wright finds himself thrown into cases much more difficult than he'd imagined. Aided by Mia's younger sister, Maya, he must go against the legendary prosecutor Manfred von Karma, in order to clear the name of Miles Edgeworth and solve the fifteen-year mystery known as the DL-6 Incident.

Ace Attorney provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Personality Change: von Karma in the game didn't bother hiding how much of a Jerkass he was, even before he was exposed for the murder of Gregory Edgeworth. Here, he puts on a more friendly facade until he gets exposed.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • Maya breaks down a few times, and is very much traumatized by the death of Mia and the thought that her mother's channeling technique really did send an innocent man to jail. She also screams at Redd White after her trial, demanding to know why he hurt her family so much.
    • Aside from the trauma of his childhood, Edgeworth has to deal with the suspicion that his father hid evidence.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • Dick Gumshoe. While the game version of him has plenty of fans, the film makes him younger, cuter, and more conventionally attractive.
    • Phoenix Wright in this version does not have the Unusual Eyebrows and so is more conventionally attractive.
  • Adaptational Badass: Detective Gumshoe. In the games, he's usually a bumbling, gruff-spoken, middle-aged man whose occasional bouts of competence is overshadowed by the accomplishments of Phoenix and Edgeworth. Here, he's one of his department's leading detectives and acts it, too.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Only the second and fourth of the game's four cases are given focus on, with the first case only having the conclusion shown, and a variation of the third case being briefly shown and concluded to introduce Edgeworth. And even the second and fourth cases are condensed somewhat; however, the movie makes up for this by giving the second and fourth cases a stronger connection to each other by way of making Redd White's murder of Mia an order from von Karma to cover his misdeeds in the trial against Gregory Edgeworth (in the game the relation between the second and fourth cases are only tangential due to past events that play a minor role in each).
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • In the games, it is simply assumed that Edgeworth's slide away from his father's profession is the result of his upbringing by Manfred von Karma with no personal sentiment on his part. However, in the movie Edgeworth is given a personal reason to drift away from the life of a defense attorney caused by suspicion that his father had tampered with evidence in a trial he was working, and he grew distrustful of defense attorneys.
    • The movie expands on Yogi's motives, by showing how cold-hearted Robert Hammond really was, and going into detail of how DL-6 ruined his life.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: In the movie, Manfred von Karma, who is elevated to being the Big Bad, is introduced far earlier than he is in the videogames. It is largely due to all but two of the game's five cases being Adapted Out and also using the case against Miles Edgeworth (the fourth one that occurs late in the game, but the second one in the movie) serving as the main plot of the film.
  • Adaptational Intelligence:
    • In the games, Gumshoe is a Clueless Detective, who's constantly admonished for his screw-ups. Here, he's a competent investigator, and is treated with respect by those around him.
    • While still rather excitable, Larry has a much clearer head on his shoulders in the movie than in the game, where he's an absent-minded ditz who constantly makes things worse for himself.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Manfred Von Karma. His movie self is less aggressive and hostile towards the defense, instead acting more professionally than his Jerkass video-game counterpart. It's only when he begins going through his Villainous Breakdown do we start to see his more temperamental side.
    • Detective Gumshoe. In the game, he starts as a hostile witnessnote  who eventually becomes an ally in the sequels, though he remains the The Ditz. In the movie, however, he seems to be an Adaptational Badass as he acts as one of the department's leading detectives, and is generally less antagonistic throughout.
    • Edgeworth is a bit nicer in the film. At the very least, he's less antagonistic to Wright.
  • Adaptational Seriousness: Much of the main cast undergoes through this to fit the film's more grounded and serious tone compared to the games.
    • Maya in the game was a Genki Girl and a bit of an Adult Child. Here, she is a borderline stoic person who behaves more maturely and is still haunted and grief-stricken by Mia's death. She still has some traces of her original personality at points (such as looking at the giant inflatable Steel Samurai with a look of awe at one point), but it's more sparse and muted compared to the game.
    • Edgeworth in the game was a Smug Snake who took pride in humiliating his opponents. Here, he's more of The Stoic and is less antagonistic towards Phoenix.
    • The Judge in the games was an occasional Cloudcuckoolander, who while competent at his job, can be somewhat childish and is just as prone to being silly and over the top as the court he presides over. In the film though, he is borderline stoic and very serious.
    • Gumshoe in the games was depicted as being a friendly and bumbling Clueless Detective who tends to be a Genius Ditz and a frequent Butt-Monkey. In the film though, he is far more competent and is less humorous, being incredibly serious for most of the film.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Redd White, who turns from a sharply-dressed pretty boy into a Severus Snape/Howard Stern look-alike.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Von Karma is just as vile as his game counterpart, but also has Mia Fey and Redd White killed which he didn't do in the games.
    • Subverted with Gregory Edgeworth. Miles only thought his dad was hiding evidence.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Marvin Grossberg does not appear in this film at all.
    • Most of the people involved in "Turnabout Samurai", including Will Powers and Wendy Oldbag, are absent. Justified since the case was moved before "Turnabout Sisters".
  • Anime Hair: Oh yeah! Most of the improbable and sometimes downright impossible hairstyles present from the game are faithfully recreated. Even the kids in Phoenix's elementary school and what we can see of bystanders have really overdone hair.
  • Ascended Extra: Larry Butz, though he could hardly be called unimportant in the game, only appeared in the first and fourth cases, while he's there for almost the entirety of the movie.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Robert Hammond. While all the details are the same as game, we see firsthand how callous he was through Yanni Yogi's flashback. In a nutshell, Hammond didn't care whether Yogi killed Gregory or not — he just didn't want his firm's reputation go down because of a guilty verdict. So he told Yogi to admit his crime and plead insanity.
    • Redd White dies in the movie. Being one of the biggest slimeballs in the franchise, nobody misses him.
  • Beat: A pretty amazing one happens after the truth about Gourdy is revealed.
  • Big Damn Heroes: On the last day of Edgeworth's trial, it looks like the key witness won't be found in time and Wright can't think of anyone else to call to the stand. The Judge is about to pound his gavel for a guilty verdict when... the Blue Badger dives in and blocks the gavel, followed by Gumshoe dragging the witness into the courtroom.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The movie's interpretation of von Karma. He presents himself as a respectful and polite man with only some stiffness that can be chalked up to professionalism. However, he's just as self-serving and sociopathic as he is in canon.
  • Blatant Lies: During Edgeworth's trial, Yanni Yogi describes seeing a man with a "fluttering cravat" outside his window just after calling the police. Edgeworth angrily protests, saying that his cravat is definitely not fluttering "to that extent!"... while it's indeed fluttering to that extent. Cue the entire courtroom doing a Face Fault.
  • Broken Pedestal: How Edgeworth viewed his father, after seeing him stealing evidence, presumably to destroy it.
  • By the Eyes of the Blind: In the games, a spirit possessing a medium really does alter their physical features, making it absurd that anyone disbelieves in spirit mediums. However, in this film, Phoenix is the only one who can see Mia's ghost possessing Maya, making it easier to believe the skepticism surrounding possession.
  • The Cameo: Matt Engarde (foreground) and Adrian Andrews (blonde in the background) appear in the case shown during The Stinger.
  • Creator Cameo: Shu Takumi is seen in the gallery celebrating with Larry after Edgeworth's trial.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Thinker statue. The DL-6 evidence Mia found (the bullet removed from Gregory Edgeworth) was hidden in it the entire time.
    • For anybody who's not familiar with the game: the metal detector. It ends up proving that von Karma had in his shoulder the missing bullet from the DL-6 case.
  • Composite Character: Redd White was the one who gave the newspaper the story that ruined Misty Fey's reputation like in the game, but he also takes on April May's role of framing Maya for Mia's murder. He even has a bit of Mike Meekins when he suddenly takes out a megaphone.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Parts of the original case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is used to condemn Redd White in his trial. In the mean time, the case of the Steel Samurai is handled solely by Edgeworth and a no-name attorney in which Edgeworth completely demolishes everybody who stood against him, including Dee Vasquez, who makes a cameo appearance as a witness. The movie's main focus is Case 1-4.
    • As well as what in-game was evidence towards Redd White, who owned a company based on blackmail, in the movie the Thinker statue contained the bullet that hit Gregory Edgeworth.
  • Confess to a Lesser Crime: Redd White does this in the film, but differently from how he did it in the game. He confesses to breaking and entering Mia's home and to faking his testimony, but not to killing her.
  • Darker and Edgier: The film did minimize a lot of the quirkiness from the game. Gumshoe is a young, fresh detective rather than his bumbling, middle-aged game counterpart; Maya is a serious, hurt woman rather than her bubbly, humorous game persona. Compared to other examples of Darker And Edgier, this film doesn't exemplify it as much, but in the context of the Ace Attorney series, definitely.
    • The darker tone is especially noticeable during Polly the Parrot's cross-examination. In the game, it's hilarious all the way through. In the movie, it is a pitiful grasping at straws as Phoenix desperately tries to save Edgeworth. And then the movie shows just how much DL-6 really affected Yanni Yogi's life...
  • Death by Adaptation: In the game, Redd White just disappears after his trial. In the movie, he is poisoned in jail. This is to fill a potential Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole, since the movie has Redd be an accomplice for von Karma, and him being killed prevents Wright from getting him to testify.
  • Demonic Possession: Not exactly demonic at all, but this is how the Kurain channeling sequence is portrayed: instead of the spirit medium's body being transformed into the spirit called and having said spirit control it like in the games, the spirit simply takes control of the medium's body without the transformation.
  • Demoted to Extra: Winston Payne and Frank Sahwit have a minor appearance, since the first turnabout was less showed.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Von Karma tells Edgeworth that the way he conducts his trials is not to be commended, being too harsh. He then kicks off the Gourdy shooting trial by introducing himself to Wright, and basically wishing the best man to win. And then, everything he's done is revealed... Though he's still more Affably Evil than his game counterpart. Where in the games he's solely focused on never losing, always getting a Guilty verdict despite the opposition, and cheating his way to victory, in the movie, he claims his mission was to get the guilty condemned, in a perverted fashion of what (prior to Character Development) Edgeworth's characterization was like. Also, in the movie he faces his final fate with more dignity.
  • Face Fault: Several examples, though portrayed as realistically as a live action adaptation of Ace Attorney can permit.
    • The first time is when Phoenix nitpicks Lotta Hart's testimony, trying to find a valid contradiction in her saying the gunshot went off on Christmas Eve — but the best he can do is to point out that, since it happened shortly after midnight, it technically happened on Christmas Day. Everyone, including Lotta, Edgeworth, and von Karma facefault at that.
    • The second happens when the boat rental man testifies that he saw Edgeworth on the night of the crime, his cravat fluttering as he said, "I never thought I'd shoot someone!" Edgeworth objects to this on the grounds that he never said that, and "Moreover... my cravat doesn't flutter to that extent!" Cue the entire courtroom facefaulting.
      Someone in the crowd: Hey, it's fluttering!
    • An apparent subversion shows up when von Karma stumbles in place, but doesn't actually fall, when Phoenix calls Polly the parrot to the stand.
    • In the post-credits scene, the courtroom does this when the defendant identifies the glowing guitar presented as evidence as "Jammin' Ninja's Trademark Guitar!".
  • Feather Motif: White feathers tend to fall around Yanni Yogi in the courtroom whether his parrot is present or not. It foreshadows Yanni's innocence in the DL-6 incident, and Edgeworth's trial eventually turning in Phoenix's favor.
  • Fingore: Yanni Yogi bathed his own fingers in acid to remove his fingerprints.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Unlike the games, we actually get a glimpse of the afterlife during the spirit channeling session. It appears to consist of a ruined city with an enormous, static fireball in the background and a B-52 in the sky above with the dead waiting in a long line.
  • Funny Background Event: After the Blue Badger makes his heroic appearance and blocks the gavel, his head rolls off, revealing that no one was inside the suit.
    • The very presence of the Blue Badger. The story behind it (it's actually the police department's mascot) is touched on in case 1-5... which is the only case that does not make it into the movie. Without this background info, most of its appearances give the impression that one of Gumshoe's entourage has decided that every day is fancy dress day down at the office.
  • Glass Cannon: In the flashback to the DL-6 Incident, Edgeworth was able to distract Yanni Yogi by biting him and apparently threw the gun hard enough to knock him out, but was knocked unconscious by being shoved against the wall. Justified, as he was a child at the time.
    • Interestingly, the Thinker clock itself could be considered this. Redd White swung it hard enough to kill Mia Fey with one blow, but it breaks after being accidentally nudged off the defense's bench.
  • Happily Married: Polly and Yanni were actually married, and flashbacks show they were very happy until harassment from the neighborhood caused Polly to be Driven to Suicide.
  • He Knows Too Much: Mia is killed for uncovering new evidence which would have proved that the gun von Karma provided as evidence fifteen years ago was forged. It turns out that Von Karma was anticipating this when he killed Gregory Edgeworth, who hadn't actually figured out the forgery, but was well on his way to discovering it.
  • Hollywood Healing: In the game, Von Karma took a six-month vacation to recover from being shot in the shoulder, but here it's said he only took a single day off.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Mia, Maya and Edgeworth's younger selves all make cameos during Gregory Edgeworth's spirit channeling.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • The evidence presentation interface from the games is in the movie. However, instead of simply yelling "Take That!" and then pointing out the contradicting evidence, Phoenix throws the hologram at his opponent.
    • Analyzing a bullet is done by throwing it towards the ceiling, where it is suspended in mid-air while several laser beams shoot through it.
  • New Meat: Unlike in the game, which glosses over it after the first case and then turns Phoenix into an instant expert at defending, the movie really highlights Phoenix's rookie status. Just compare his flustered behavior in Maya's trial to that of the veteran Edgeworth, who's as cool as a cucumber.
  • Oh, Crap!: Phoenix gets this look a lot, when something unexpected comes up in court. Maya also gets this look a few times, notably when Yanni Yogi proclaims his innocence, and she believes that her mother really did screw up channeling Edgeworth's father and thus ruined an innocent man's life.
  • Orbital Shot: During the cross-examination of Larry Butz in Edgeworth's trial.
  • The Perry Mason Method: Surprisingly subverted, during the cross-examination of Redd White. Even though Phoenix is able to prove that Redd was in Mia's office the exact same time the murder happened, Redd only will admit he was there, and insists that there's no proof he actually committed the crime. While the Judge admits this is true, he also declares Maya "not guilty" because Redd's testimony was clearly false. After the trial, Gumshoe arrests Redd presumably for perjury, and tries unsuccessfully to get more info on the murder out of him.
    • This also has to do with the fact that Phoenix is fresh out of his diapers and as nervous as hell in the defense's seat in his second trial. This is why the trial lasted as long as it did, as Phoenix didn't squeeze White while he was down.
    • It also receives a Call-Back in the final trial, when von Karma uses exactly the same excuse as White and argues that it can't be proved he killed Gregory Edgeworth because he had no motive to do so. As a sign of how far he's progressed, Wright is able to quickly put together exactly what von Karma's motive was and get him arrested.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: A lot of things were pared down or tweaked to make the first game fit a good running time for a movie. Notably, the first and third cases are cut down to an opening montage to show how Wright and Edgeworth operate in court, leaving room for the second and fourth cases to be meshed together. The second and fourth cases are even fitted to operate in the 2 hour 15 minute movie, as most details and even characters (April May and Marvin Grossberg) are cut.
  • Pretty in Mink: Maya wears a nice fur collar.
  • Race Lift: For most of the characters this is only in the case of the English translation of the game, as the film takes place in Japan like the original version of the game and all the characters are played by Japanese actors.
  • The Reveal: Gregory Edgeworth was in the evidence room to expose von Karma's false evidence, not destroy legitimate pieces. Also, he was killed by von Karma, not Miles.
  • Skewed Priorities: Played for laughs. During his trial, Edgeworth calls out Yanni Yogi not for accusing him of saying a potentially damning sentence... but for saying that his cravat fluttered to an extreme extent. Everyone collapses to the floor in shock.
  • Starts with Their Funeral: The movie opens with the reveal that Gregory Edgeworth has been killed, and Misty Fey is channeling his spirit to find out who did it.
  • Technology Marches On: In-universe, the trials of Gregory Edgeworth's time involved giant rusty cyberpunk Takashi Miike CRT monitors that descended from the ceiling. By the time of Miles Edgeworth... it's giant rusty cyberpunk Takashi Miike hologram generators instead.
  • 20 Minutes in the Future: The movie takes place in the year "20XX".
  • Villainous Breakdown: A rather epic one with Von Karma where he gives a calm yet condescending Hannibal Lecture to Phoenix interspersed with random Cluster F Bombs and loud immature ranting with his hair getting further disheveled by the second.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: In the public's eye, von Karma is a pretty reasonable individual and he even shakes Phoenix's hand before going into court. What no one knows is he's terribly corrupt behind the bench and will use every underhanded trick to score convictions, which makes him look like a hero of justice to the eyes of the public but the reality is far darker. This is actually something of a change from the games as in the games, he is overtly ruthless and won't even so much as make eye contact unless he wants to intimidate someone.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Edgeworth, for the first part of the movie. Lampshaded early on, when a defense attorney he's against accuses him of using underhand tactics. His response is that all of his methods are perfectly legal. Further lampshaded in the post-credits scene.
    Edgeworth: My methods neither violate nor contradict the law, but they do seem to irritate you. Is there a problem?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The tasering of Phoenix and Maya. Those who played the game will know that it was Manfred von Karma. The movie goes out of its way not to show the culprit and thus preserve the mystery, but it doesn't really come up again and is only there to explain the loss of the letter incriminating Yanni Yogi.
    • Inverted with the evidence Mia finds just before she's killed. In the game, it's hinted to be something pertaining to Redd White's blackmailing, but is implicitly stolen back when he kills her and pretty much forgotten about. In the movie, it's the bullet from Gregory Edgeworth's heart, which is re-discovered by Phoenix in the third act and helps him win the trial.
  • World of Ham: While it's slightly toned down compared to the games, the cast still has plenty of ham to go around.
    Mia's killer: (inexplicably holding a megaphone) Hold it! What you have proven is just that I was at the site of the murder. It doesn't mean I killed her!
    (Everyone in the gallery groans, complains, or shouts at him)
    Butz: You nonsense-spouting bastard!
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: In the present day, Prosecutor Manfred von Karma hasn't lost a case in 40 years. Phoenix says that Gregory Edgeworth found it suspicious that he hadn't lost a case in 40 years... but Gregory was killed 15 years ago, which means von Karma's streak was 25 years at the time.

Alternative Title(s): Ace Attorney, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney 2012, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney