Gran Turismo Review: A Cliché Yet Invigorating Ride for Racing Fans

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PopCorn Princess
"Gran Turismo" takes audiences on a familiar yet electrifying journey through the world of professional racing. While the film navigates the well-trodden path of sports clichés, its adrenaline-pumping race scenes and compelling characters make it a must-watch for any racing aficionado.

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Film and video games have often danced a tango. You might recall that back in the early ’90s, we witnessed the first attempt at this cinematic tango with the now-infamous “Super Mario Bros.” (1993).

But let’s be real: the path to get video game adaptations right has been paved with more missteps than triumphs. Still, it’s heartening to note we’re possibly in what one might label the “Golden Era” of game-to-screen adaptations. The success tales of “The Last of Us” and “Super Mario Bros. – The Movie” are testimonies to this claim.

Enter “Gran Turismo,” directed by none other than Neill Blomkamp. This movie brings to the big screen the adrenaline of the most beloved racing franchise in the gaming world.

But here’s the twist: It isn’t just a linear adaptation of virtual races. It draws inspiration from a true-life arc. It’s the riveting journey of a video game enthusiast who metamorphoses into a professional race car driver.

Diving into the heart of “Gran Turismo,” we meet Jann Mardenborough, played with panache by Archie Madekwe. This isn’t just any PlayStation enthusiast; Jann’s dexterity with “Gran Turismo” on the console sets him apart.

So much so that life throws him a curveball of a dream opportunity. Soon enough, he’s seen clinching victories in a series of Nissan challenges with an aim—scaling the dizzying heights of professional racing.

As he chases this audacious dream, he’s not alone. Backing him up are a motley crew of believers: a once-promising race car driver, now past his prime, portrayed by David Harbour, and a visionary automobile executive brought to life by Orlando Bloom.

Let it be said: this film is not just about revving engines and screeching tires but also about dreams, determination, and the sheer will to defy the odds. It gives audiences a pitstop to ponder and then accelerates right back into action.

Gran Turismo (2023) Review

Gran Turismo: A Predictable Yet Exhilarating Lap in Sports Movie Clichés and High-Speed Racing

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: “Gran Turismo” checks off almost all the boxes you’d expect from a sports drama movie. Yes, it plunges into the well-tread waters of an underdog story.

The film does indeed walk that familiar tightrope of a protagonist overcoming staggering odds. In this rendition of the age-old story, we see Jann Mardenborough, brought vividly to life by Archie Madekwe, going from game controller to steering wheel, aiming for nothing less than professional racing stardom.

But even within its cliché confines, the film engrossingly connects you with its characters—emotionally, you’re strapped in for the ride from start to finish.

As a video game adaptation, it’s transparent from the get-go: this movie is a full-throttle advertisement for the gaming franchise. Sony, PlayStation, and Nissan are not subtle with their branding; it’s almost like a long-form commercial.

This becomes particularly evident in the first act, where much of the screen time is devoted to Danny Moore, a character personified by Orlando Bloom. Danny’s role? To sell you on the importance of the “Gran Turismo” franchise while manifesting the grand plan of turning a gamer into a race car driver.

Director Neill Blomkamp, celebrated for his knack for science fiction narratives like “District 9” (2009), “Elysium” (2013), and “Chappie” (2015), is taking an interesting detour here.

“Gran Turismo” marks a pivot in his career. It’s a movie based on a true story but retains a unique narrative twist: it’s a tale spun from a gaming universe where the lines between simulation and reality blur, and often.

Where the film shifts into high gear is in its action scenes. Blomkamp leverages his storytelling prowess to create race sequences that meld game-like visual cues with real-world track dynamics.

The result? An immersive experience that pumps your adrenaline as if you were the one navigating tight curves at 200 mph. In some sequences, the film even toys with your perception.

One minute, you see a digital race car materialize on screen, and the next, you’re watching Jann inside a real cockpit, racing down an asphalt track. This fluid shift in vantage points captures the essence of the film’s central question: Where does simulation end and reality begin?

So, yes, while “Gran Turismo” may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to sports movie tropes, it definitely throws in enough nitrous to keep you glued to your seat.

Gran Turismo (2023) Review

Gran Turismo: When the Underdog’s Quest Strikes Both Heartstrings and High-Octane Thrills

Indeed, “Gran Turismo” isn’t just a pedal-to-the-metal race movie; it’s a character study revved up with existential questions about who belongs in the world of professional racing.

Penned by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin, the screenplay really kicks into high gear when it zooms in on its main guy, Jann Mardenborough.

Archie Madekwe not only embraces the role but wears it like a glove—skillfully capturing the herculean weight of proving to the world that gamers aren’t merely joysticking jockeys but can actually ace it as legit racers. What adds depth to this is the guy’s indefatigable drive to smash through societal expectations and skepticism.

Let’s not just talk about generic naysayers or the snobbish elite of the racing world, who would rather see him fail. No, this is deeply personal. Jann’s skepticism starts at the family dinner table.

His father, Steve Mardenborough, portrayed by Djimon Hounsou, can’t wrap his head around the idea that his son wants to trade a virtual car for a real one. A father grappling with a generational gap in understanding life’s ambitions—now that’s relatable.

And just when you think you’ve got the film figured out, enter David Harbour, who steps into the shoes of Jack Salter, Jann’s magnetic coach.

Harbour exudes charisma, so much so that his dynamic with Madekwe adds a layer of complexity that stretches over the film’s two-hour runtime like a well-oiled machine.

The viewer’s emotional investment only intensifies, reaching a crescendo as the film speeds towards its climax—the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Here, director Neill Blomkamp fires on all cylinders, letting you taste the rubber, smell the gasoline, and feel the velocity.

Since “Gran Turismo” is based on a true story, some narrative liberties and creative tweaks are par for the course. But here’s the rub: the film is sometimes more preoccupied with telling you how Herculean the task at hand is rather than diving into the nitty-gritty complexities of the mission itself.

Furthermore, it’s been the subject of pre-release criticisms in Brazil for altering the chronology of a real-life fatal accident involving Mardenborough.

The reshuffle of this event into a motivating narrative arc for the protagonist in the film does raise some ethical questions, casting a shadow over its storytelling approach.

In summing it all up, “Gran Turismo” does what any sports movie is prone to do—lean into clichés like a car hugging a tight corner. But where it excels is in the unexpectedness of its protagonist’s journey—from gamer to pro racer—that manages to entertain and emotionally captivate.

No doubt, Blomkamp’s venture is set to win over not just the gaming fans but also those who are suckers for speed, lacing high-octane scenes with raw emotions that bring the exhilaration of the racetrack right into your pulse.

Synopsis

“Gran Turismo” is an American action-drama flick, its title paying homage to the iconic video game series that first hit screens in 1997.

Under the directorial vision of Neill Blomkamp, the film weaves in the gripping tale of a real-life journey closely linked to the video game universe.

Center stage in this cinematic landscape is young Jann Mardenborough, portrayed by Archie Madekwe, whose digital dexterity in maneuvering virtual cars in Gran Turismo didn’t just make him a gamer but catapulted him into the ranks of professional racers.

As a kid, Jann wasn’t merely enthusiastic about the game; he was nearly obsessed. From juggling joysticks on his console to mastering the virtual physics of the game, he wasn’t just another face in the crowd of gamers.

He was becoming something of a gaming prodigy, enough so that his life swerved onto a surreal fantasy lane.

It wasn’t long before his conspicuous talents caught the eye of Nissan, the automotive giant, inviting him to take part in a groundbreaking venture: a competitive series designed to transform gamers into real-world, helmet-wearing, wheel-gripping professional racers.

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Pop Corn Princess
Hey there, I'm Princess. I’m an annual comic con attendee, Star Wars-loving, and collector freak. My mission is simple: To bring cool geeky news and content and share my passion with the rest of the world. (... I secretly wish to save the world as a superheroine...)

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Picture of Pop Corn Princess

Pop Corn Princess

Hey there, I'm Princess. I’m an annual comic con attendee, Star Wars-loving, and collector freak. My mission is simple: To bring cool geeky news and content and share my passion with the rest of the world. (... I secretly wish to save the world as a superheroine...)