Review: Gran Turismo


2023 has been a very good year for video game adaptations. Between The Last of Us getting several Emmy award nominations and The Super Mario Bros. Movie becoming the highest-grossing animated film of the year, I think it’s safe to say that the stigma against video game adaptations has finally been lifted. Gamers have always felt that they had something to prove in the world of cinema to be accepted as a true form of entertainment… for some reason. Remember when people debated about if games were art?

At the end of the day though, who cares if video games are accepted by the masses? As long as you enjoy them, whether they have artistic integrity or are simple products or toys to maximize corporate profits, that’s all that should matter. I say this because now with the release of Gran Turismo, we can get back to the status quo of years ago where anything that was adapted from a video game was self-conscious and had something to prove!

I kid of course. Gran Turismo isn’t some god-awful dreg that managed to be released in spite of production delays or only existed to fill out some studio release schedule. It’s a generic sports movie that hits all of the beats that you would expect a sports movie to hit. At the same time, it’s a shameless advertisement for a product that is so blatant and pervasive that it’s impossible to separate Gran Turismo the movie from Gran Turismo the game. Granted, that’s to be expected when your film is based on a true story, but it’s still a weird watch to wrap my head around.

GRAN TURISMO - Official Trailer (HD)

Gran Turismo
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Release Date: August 25, 2023 (Theatrical)
Rating: PG-13

Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) has always wanted to be a professional racer ever since he was a kid. He grew up playing the Playstation video game series Gran Turismo and is one of the best players around, despite getting very little recognition or praise from his strict father, played by Djimon Hounsou. One day, he is invited to participate in an event called Gran Turismo Academy, hosted by a Nissan marketing executive named Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), who wants to prove that people who play the Gran Turismo video game have the skills to be actual drivers. If Jann places in the event, then he has the chance to become a professional racer in the major leagues, just as long as he’s able to beat several other of the world’s best Gran Turismo players. Even then, if he is able to become a racer for Nissan, he’ll have to compete against other professional racers who look down on him with dismay due to his upbringing as a “sim racer.”

Despite not being a fan of the Gran Turismo series (I only played 5 Prologue back on the PS3), it turns out I didn’t really need to know much about the series to understand what was going on in the film. That’s because the only thing that Gran Turismo really has going for it is that it’s based on a video game and just how hard it commits to telling the audience it’s based on a video game. The film has an inferiority complex of sorts, much like Jann, who constantly feels like he’s being doubted due to his association with video games. The film barrages Jann and the viewer with this sentiment that gamers can’t do anything and that trying to turn a passion for games into a career is foolish. While this message probably would have rang true more than a decade ago, it’s not as strong given that one of the highest-grossing movies of the year is based on a video game and the Esports community is as large and as lucrative as it is.

Gran Turismo as a whole feels outdated in a lot of ways. The film is just so unambitious that it’s coasting by on genre tropes and nothing else. It tells a functional and competent story without any extra narrative frills. The character is almost entirely related to the developing bond between Jann and his mentor/pit boss, Jack Salter (David Harbour), while every other character gets the shaft. At first, it seems like there’s going to be a rift between Jann and his father, but that plot thread is dropped for almost the entirety of the film’s two-hour and 15-minute runtime until a blink-and-you-‘ll-miss-it scene at the end. There’s also allegedly a romantic subplot in the film, but I cannot confirm nor deny its existence from how tepid and weak the chemistry is between Jann and his supposed love interest.

Review: Gran Turismo

Copyright: Sony

David Harbour does what he can to keep the movie as entertaining as it is though. His cynical and biting sarcasm and demeanor bring some much-needed levity to the proceedings. In a film where everyone is so deathly serious about the importance of validating the gaming community, he just rolls his eyes and belittles everyone around him. He eventually loses that edge as he befriends Jann, but at the very least he also introduces a solid soundtrack to the movie. I know it’s a weird thing to talk about, but since he’s almost always listening to Black Sabbath, hearing classic rock play in what would otherwise be a forgettable racing film keeps me engaged ever so slightly.

Again, Gran Turismo isn’t an affront to nature or anything. It’s just a boring sports movie that frames itself around a video game in an attempt to elevate itself. It doesn’t really help separate it from every other sports movie out and instead highlights how far other video game adaptations have come in recent years. It feels like a relic from a time when games were self-conscious about their reputation in popular culture and because of that feels like it’s a film that maybe would have done alright in the 2000s. But not in 2023. The standards have been raised and Gran Turismo simply hasn’t met them.




Gran Turismo is the definition of an average movie. It's inoffensive and straightforward, going through the motions of a sports movie with the only thing making it stand out is it's gaming iconography.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.