Films that started in Japan

(left to right) Edge Of Tomorrow (Warner Bros.);  The Ring (Paramount Pictures);  The Magnificent Seven (Warner Bros.).

(from the left) edge of tomorrow (Warner Bros.); the ring (Paramount Pictures); The Magnificent Seven (Warner Bros.).
Image: Todd Gilchrist/Warner Bros.; Paramount Pictures; Warner Bros.

High-speed train will surely be number one – with a bullet – at the box office this weekend. How could it be otherwise, with a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Bad Bunny, Brian Tyree Henry and Joey King, and with stuntman/action director David Leitch (John Wick, Deadpool 2, Hobbs & Shaw) Behind the camera? The film is just the latest in a long line of Hollywood productions inspired by Japanese stories or direct adaptations of Japanese properties.

Based on Maria Beetlea 2010 novel by popular Japanese author Kōtarō Isaka, High-speed train takes its premise—several assassins are stuck together on a high-speed train—and branches off into its own territory. Although the location is largely the same, the cast includes Americans and Brits alongside Japanese actors, with Pitt headlining as an unlucky hitman named Ladybug.

Notably, Isaka himself has endorsed Sony Pictures’ changes to his source material, suggesting that an adaptation need not be beholden to an all-Japanese distribution or production. “I have no desire for people to understand Japanese literature or culture,” he told the New York Times. “It’s not like I understand much about Japan either.” That said, the film may inspire moviegoers to pick up Maria Beetle or one of his other books, the nuances of which have been translated into other languages ​​on the printed page, but not transformed as Leitch does on film.

Suffice it to say that High-speed train is not the first Hollywood film to originate in Japan. The audiovisual club takes a look at Tinseltown on a handful of other projects – some that started out as books, and others that first found success on movies in their native language. In each case, the power of these stories transcends (or at least challenges) geographic and cultural boundaries as much as it benefits them.

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) | Official trailer | MGM

It’s a little known but highly relevant fact that Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic Seven Samurai was actually released in the United States as The Magnificent Seven. So it made perfect sense for the John Sturges adaptation to have the same name. Thanks to Sturges and a top-notch cast including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Eli Wallach as hiss-worthy villain, they’ve crafted a classic – translated into the most American genre, the Western – which works on its own merits while honoring Seven Samurai.

A handful of dollars (1964)

For a Fistful of Dollars – Official 4K Restoration Trailer

A handful of dollars is a crucible of film, something of a miracle, and the subject of much debate when it comes to adapting Japanese films. It is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 drama Samurai Yojimbo– only Kurosawa and co-writer/producer Ryūzō Kikushima received no credit. Quite naturally, Toho, the production entity behind Yojimbofiled a lawsuit, which delayed the publication of A handful of dollars. SureA handful of dollars never, never should have worked, with an American actor (Clint Eastwood), an Italian director (Sergio Leone) who didn’t speak English, and Italian, German and Spanish producers. And yet, it’s a masterpiece, and one of the best spaghetti westerns ever made.

The pillow book (1996)

The Pillow Book (1996) | Trailer | Viviane Wu | Ewan McGregor | Yoshi Oida

Peter Greenaway continues Peter Greenaway with this erotic drama inspired by The pillow book, the centuries-old diary of a Japanese woman named Sei Shōnagon. The plot is typical Greenaway, with Vivian Wu as Nagiko, a model and poetess fetish for writing about human flesh. She finds a willing partner in Jerome (Ewan McGregor), who invites Nagiko to “use my body like the pages of a book”. The film is sexy, disturbing and elegant (with a Greenaway boilerplate like layered images and an obsession with numbers) – and certainly not for everyone.

Godzilla (1998) and Godzilla (2014)

Godzilla (1998) – Godzilla Rises Scene (1/10) | Film extracts

The great fire-breathing juggernaut Godzilla has always been synonymous with Japan, even though Hollywood was drawn to the creature’s destructive power almost from the start of the franchise: three years after the original release, Raymond Burr was added to the Japanese film for a hybrid of 1956. production called Godzilla, King of the Monsters! for an American release. But it wasn’t until 1998 that Hollywood decided to make its own Godzilla movie. By then, of course, the atomic-age paranoia that inspired the original – and the powerful sadness that oozes from its story – was long forgotten, leaving behind only an empty spectacle. Roland Emmerich’s film was rightly panned in 1998, but Gareth Edwards got it more right with his version of the story in 2014, which of course led to a “monsterverse” that introduced other creatures, both friendly and enemies.

the ring (2002)

The Ring (2002) Trailer #1 | Classic Trailers

The ring-in which anyone who watches a cursed video dies seven days later – can claim to be the remake that spawned a deluge of Americanized iterations of Japanese films, especially horror. Whether this is good or bad is up for debate, but the ringwritten by Ehren Kruger and directed by Gore Verbinski, wisely claims to be nothing more than a remake of the 1998 Japanese horror hit of the same name, itself based on the 1991 book by Koji Suzuki. Ring was loyal to Ringand the ring tries to capture the spirit of its sources, although some purists have suggested that it did not. The film is edgy, atmospheric, and features strong performances from female leads, Naomi Watts and Daveigh Chase. The success of the ring opened the floodgates for the horror adaptation: dark waterbased on dark water (also based on a Suzuki story); Impulsebased on Impulse; A missed callbased on A missed call; and The Grudgebased on Ju-on: The grudge.

Shall we dance? (2004)

Shall we dance? (2004) | Official Trailer (HD) – Jennifer Lopez, Richard Gere | MIRAMAX

Not every remake of a 2000s Japanese film was in the horror genre. The 1996 romantic drama Shall we dance? follows a disgruntled Japanese man who learns ballroom dancing, much to the surprise of his wife, who thinks he is having an affair. The American remake gave us Richard Gere as husband, Susan Sarandon as wife, and Jennifer Lopez as Gere’s dance teacher. The film garnered mediocre reviews, but it’s a personal favourite, with charming performances, lots of heart, and understated direction from Peter Chelsom.

eight below (2006)

Eight Underneath (2006) Official Trailer #1 – Paul Walker Movie HD

eight below follows a rescue mission involving a group of sled dogs in the freezing cold. This is also the basic principle of Antarcticthe 1983 Japanese adventure/survival film it was based on. Antarctic itself was modeled after an actual incident that occurred in 1958. Directed by Frank Marshall, eight below shifts events to 1993 and features a different setup featuring American characters (played by Paul Walker, Moon Bloodgood, Jason Biggs, etc.). It’s an exciting and tense race, with heroic and photogenic dogs, and you can’t help but rejoice and cry at the end.

speed racer (2008), ghost in the shell (2017), Alita: battle angel (2019)

Speed ​​Racer (2008) Official Trailer – Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon Film HD

Japanese manga and anime series have served as a launching pad for several Hollywood productions. The colorful and highly stylized box office of the Wachowskis speed racer was based on Mach GoGoGothe speed racer 1960s manga and anime series. ghost in the shell, a wildly popular manga, sparked a cottage industry of movies, games, and shows in Japan and the United States. Unfortunately, the mega-movie version starring Scarlett Johansson garnered awful reviews and bombed at the box office. And then there is Alita: battle angelbased on manga title Gunnm. Even an epic team of James Cameron (producer and co-writer) and Robert Rodriguez (director) couldn’t push this visually stunning adaptation into blockbuster territory.

edge of tomorrow (2014)

Edge of Tomorrow – Official Trailer 1 [HD]

Many fans of Tom Cruise’s hit edge of tomorrow don’t realize it’s derived from a Japanese book, the science fiction novel for young adults all you need is to kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, published in 2004. Later, in 2014, the book was made into a manga in Japan, an English-language graphic novel in the United States, and a thrilling film by director Doug Liman. edge of tomorrowwhich plays as an alien invasion version of groundhog daywith Cruise’s character, Major William Cage, time loops and dies repeatedly until he, with the help of Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), saves the day.

The silence (2016)

SILENCE (2016) Trailer

Martin Scorsese co-wrote and directed The silence, a drama based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shūsaku Endō. In it, two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) try to spread the message of Catholic Christianity in Japan while trying to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson). The book had already received the adaptation treatment. Japanese screenwriter and director Masahiro Shinoda collaborated with Endo on the script for an acclaimed 1971 film also called The silence. Scorsese’s ambitious, nearly three-hour-long version has garnered mostly positive reviews, but it ranks among the filmmaker’s least successful titles at the US box office, barely surpassing the $7 million mark.

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