The world doesn’t need a Gran Turismo movie, but it’s happening anyway

Thomas Harrison-Lord
Gran Turismo will be coming to theatres in August 2023, directed by District 9’s Neill Blomkamp. But, why?
The world doesn't need a Gran Turismo movie, but it's happening anyway

For decades now Sony’s PlayStation division has been creating genre-leading franchises from scratch. Think Uncharted, Horizon, Returnal, The Last of Us and God of War. All created, and owned, by the Japanese tech giant.

It also beholds a film division – Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group – known for churning out Hollywood blockbusters like Men in Black, several Spider-Man titles and, strangely, via its Screen Gems offshoot, the Resident Evil movies.

At last, the company seems to be joining the dots and pushing its fêted gaming franchises toward the big screen too.

Uncharted Movie, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Uncharted Move, Sony Pictures Entertainment

This was exemplified by the Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg film adaptation of Uncharted, released earlier this year.

I watched it last week, as coincidence would have it. A turgid mess that simultaneously manages to frustrate the game series fan – Wahlberg as Sully, really? – and not build up enough context for someone who didn’t own a PS3 or 4.

Despite this, it grossed over $400 million at the global box office. Perhaps this prompted the green light for a Ghost of Tsushima adaptation, set to be helmed by Takashi Doscher.

There’s also a Twisted Metal TV show in the works starring Anthony Mackie, alongside yet another attempt at a gaming reboot. HBO is working on a The Last of Us TV show, which despite my cynicism so far in this polemic, I am very much looking forward to, and according to Deadline, God of War will be heading to Amazon Prime at some point.

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Gran Turismo however, predates them all in gaming folklore, and following Gran Turismo 7 in March has been an active series since 1997. Again, as reported by Deadline, it’s about to receive a film.

This is strange to me because the other PlayStation-exclusive games up for adaptation have characters, story arcs and personalities – yes, even Twisted Metal, in a way.

The only form of charm Gran Turismo has is its eccentric ways and lack of development priorities. Funky jazz menu music and ranked online races aren’t really scripting material.

So instead, it seems, the creators are plunging the archives way back to the GT Academy racing esports competition than ran in various forms between 2008 and 2016 for the foundational plot.

“Based on a true story, the film is the ultimate wish fulfilment tale of a teenage Gran Turismo player whose gaming skills won a series of Nissan competitions to become an actual professional race car driver,” reads the logline.

Lucas Ordonez, the first GT Academy winner right, with ALMS teammates in 2011 Franck Mailleux, Soheil Ayari - Motorsport Images
Lucas Ordonez, the first GT Academy winner (right), with ALMS teammates in 2011 Franck Mailleux, Soheil Ayari – Motorsport Images

In the then-unique initiative, anyone with a PS3 and various specific GT demos or the Gran Turismo 5 and 6 games could enter time trial competitions. From there, the quickest entrants went into a reality TV show competition, in the early years, to find a new full-time Nissan racing driver.

Spanish entrant Lucas Ordóñez won the inaugural event 14 years ago, going on to twice finish on the LMP2 24 Hours of Le Mans podium. Still affiliated with the Gran Turismo games, he appears within Gran Turismo 7 as one of the talking head characters.

The third European winner was Jann Mardenborough (featured image), who went on to win a race in GP3 and completed four seasons in the top Super GT category until 2020. He was also a co-host of the World’s Fastest Gamer 2 television show, a contemporary reimagining of the sim racing talent search that he was discovered through.

Lucas Ordóñez and Jann Mardenborough were both part of the ill-fated 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans effort - Motorsport Images
Lucas Ordóñez and Jann Mardenborough were both part of the ill-fated 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans effort – Motorsport Images

Rising to become a professional paid motorsport star from your bedroom does at least have a hook.

The feature, simply entitled Gran Turismo, will release on 11th August 2023 and is said to be in the early stages of development.

It will be directed by Neill Blomkamp, known for 2009’s superlative District 9, the pretty good Elysium in 2013, the decidedly average Chappie two years later and the, by all accounts, abhorrent Demonic in 2021.

There’s a running theme there…

So, in my opinion, there’s a precedent for the Gran Turismo film to be, well, a quick cash-in. That’s a shame.

However, I do understand Sony’s sudden rush to turn its popular games into other forms of content. Often, its virtual stories are compelling and feature complex characters built up over time. TV shows and movies help solidify that, helping establish the company as a leader in gaming plot development.

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Only provided, however, they stand up on their own merit. Uncharted just wasn’t up to snuff. I honestly believe watching the cutscenes from the four-and-a-bit games would have been more enjoyable.

Not only does the Gran Turismo film need to surpass my, admittedly lowly, expectations, but it also has the weight of the racing esports community on its shoulders – hoping it showcases to a large audience that becoming a motorsport star is possible from a gaming background.

Don’t besmirch a 25-year-old gaming legacy too, please. No pressure then.

Gran Turismo movie release date

Gran Turismo will release in theatres 11th August 2023.

Image source: Sony Pictures Entertainment and Motorsport Images

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