Will there ever be a great motion picture adapted from a videogame? Certainly there have been a few reasonably enjoyable ones, and a fair share of watchable yet critically flawed attempts, but it seems generally agreed that the vast majority of game-to-film adaptations are pretty dire. One of the more recent attempts is Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, released in Japan in late 2009 and based on the popular puzzle-based adventure games for the Nintendo DS.
I entered the film with fairly high hopes – it is an animated feature, utilising the same animation and design work as the videogames it’s based on, and supervised by the original game design studio Level 5. The characters in the games are remarkably appealing, and they already boast a very film-like aesthetic and narrative. Sadly The Eternal Diva doesn’t quite live up to its promise, but it does remain an enjoyable distraction.
After a bizarrely inaccessible and confusing opening ten minutes – which includes two flashbacks, one nested inside the other – the film settles down to exploring a strange mystery. Archaeologist and renowned puzzle solver Professor Hershel and his apprentice Luke Triton travel to view a new opera performance whose composer, Oswald Whistler, has just adopted a young girl claiming to be the reincarnation of his dead daughter. Soon the situation explodes into death-defying escapes, radio-controlled sharks, a theatre that transforms into a cruise liner, a mysterious Atlantis-like island and – potentially – the secret to eternal life.