Lupin III (film)
Japanese promotional poster
|Directed by||Ryuhei Kitamura|
|Produced by||Mataichirō Yamamoto|
|Written by||Mataichirō Yamamoto
(as Rikiya Mizushima)
|Story by||Mataichirō Yamamoto
|Based on||Lupin III
by Monkey Punch
|Music by||Aldo Shllaku
|Cinematography||Pedro J. Márquez|
|Edited by||Shūichi Kakesu|
|Box office||$22.3 million|
Lupin III (ルパン三世? Rupan Sansei) is a 2014 Japanese heist film directed by Ryuhei Kitamura based on the manga of the same name by Monkey Punch, starring Shun Oguri, Jerry Yan, Tetsuji Tamayama, Gō Ayano, Meisa Kuroki and Tadanobu Asano. It is the second live-action film adaptation of the manga, following Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy (1974).
The film is a origin story that presents its characters in a modernized context, and follows the title character as he forms his thieving gang to steal a Cleopatran necklace while facing opposition from Michael Lee, his rival, and Pramuk, an underworld crime boss.
Lupin III premiered in Japan on August 30, 2014, and made its international premiere at LA EigaFest 2014. Although financially successful, critical and audience opinions of the film were mixed to negative, with criticism frequently focusing on the film's derivative and convoluted narrative. Other areas of the production, such as the cast's delivery of the screenplay's largely English dialogue, were also frequently targeted for criticism.
Lupin III, grandson of the legendary gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, is a member of the international thieving ring "The Works", which specializes in stealing valuable objects from wealthy owners. Lupin beats his fellow Works members Fujiko Mine (his would-be lover), Pierre (a computer genius) and Jiro to the theft of an Olympic medal in Singapore, but is forced to surrender it to his rival, Michael Lee, when he threatens to kill him and Fujiko. At a meeting of The Works, Fujiko is hailed as the culprit behind the theft (thanks to her machinations), and Thomas Dawson, the leader of the organization, shows them the most valuable item in The Works' possession - the Crimson Heart of Cleopatra, a necklace commissioned by Mark Antony to symbolize his love for the Queen of the Nile. However, a ruby of Cleopatra's intended to complete the necklace is missing. A trio of thugs led by Michael - Royal, Saber and Maria - steal the necklace and kill Jiro and Dawson, apparently in revenge for "Edward Lam", resulting in the disbanding of The Works. Devastated by Dawson's murder, Lupin, Fujiko, Pierre and Daisuke Jigen join forces to find Michael and the necklace.
Within a year, Lupin and Jigen have established themselves as accomplished thieves, but Jigen grows weary of following Fujiko's false leads. While meeting with her, Lupin is turned in to the police in Thailand. He then meets Inspector Koichi Zenigata of ICPO, who informs him that Michael, using the alias Georgio Zhang, is arranging a major auction with Mamrachiao Pramuk, the chairman of Navarone Security and a crime lord in secret. Zenigata wants Lupin to 'steal' the items that they intend to sell to each other for the police so that he can arrest them; in exchange, Lupin's criminal record will be erased. Lupin accepts, and enlists Goemon Ishikawa XIII into the gang.
Fujiko meets with Michael, who explains that Edward Lam was a member of The Works and a father figure to them both, but after helping Dawson find the Crimson Heart and the accompanying ruby in Egypt, Dawson betrayed and killed him, and Pramuk stole the ruby. Michael intends to buy the ruby to complete the necklace. Lupin, who has been spying on the pair, tells Michael that no matter who wins the auction, he will steal the necklace. At the auction, Michael and Pramuk prepare to sell each other the necklace and the ruby respectively. During the transaction, Pramuk tells Michael that he was a former member of The Works, and killed Lam while trying to kill Dawson. Michael attempts to kill himself and Pramuk before the latter can buy the necklace, but Pramuk reveals that Royal, who (along with Saber and Maria) now works for him, disarmed the explosives. Pramuk buys the ruby for $200 million, and Michael destroys his reward cheque in defeat. Lupin, having listened to Michael and Pramuk's exchange via lip reading technology, calls off the theft to Zenigata's frustration.
Disheartened, Michael offers to join Lupin's gang to steal back the Crimson Heart and ruby from the Ark, Pramuk's stronghold, and is accepted. Lupin and Michael enter the Ark disguised as Zengiata and Commander Narong of the Thailand Army, and upload a virus into the Ark's networks in the guise of a calling card from Lupin. Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko attack the Ark's main defenses, defeating Royal, Saber and Maria in the process, while Lupin and Michael, aided by Pierre and Joseph (a hacker), along with prior research made by Goemon, penetrate the security defenses protecting the Crimson Heart. Pramuk traps the pair in the vault, intending to suffocate them. Michael places Lupin in the vault's safe and blows the vault door up, killing himself but saving Lupin. Lupin and the others are handed over by Pramuk to Zenigata and Narong, but they instead arrest Pramuk for his crimes, using the Crimson Heart as evidence. Zenigata then discovers too late that the necklace and ruby given to him by Lupin were fakes.
Later, Lupin unsuccessfully tries to get Fujiko to wear the Crimson Heart, and Zenigata returns to pursue them. Fujiko takes the necklace and escapes while Lupin and Jigen escape together in their Fiat 500.
- Shun Oguri as Lupin III
- Jerry Yan as Michael Lee
- Meisa Kuroki as Fujiko Mine
- Tetsuji Tamayama as Daisuke Jigen
- Gō Ayano as Goemon Ishikawa XIII
- Tadanobu Asano as Koichi Zenigata
- Kim Joon as Pierre
- Nirut Sirijanya as Pramuk
- Rhatha Phongam as Miss V
- Vithaya Pansringarm as Narong
- Nick Tate as Thomas Dawson
- Thanayong Wongtrakul as Royal
- Kazutaka Yoshino as Saber
- Yuka Nakayama as Maria
- Kohtee Aramboy as Joseph
- Geoffrex Giuliano as Anatoli
- Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi as Jiro
- David Asavanond as Ajit
Development and writing
In 2003, Schindler’s List and Minority Report producer Gerald R. Molen, through his production company WhiteLight Entertainment, purchased the live-action film adaptation rights to the Lupin III franchise. Molen noted that the five main characters would be featured in an upcoming film, and that some creative licence would have to be taken to "make the story work". Monkey Punch, the creator of the original manga, expressed no desire in being involved in the production of the film. A year later, David Ranes and Chet Thomas were named as the film’s screenwriters, and the release date was set as being late spring 2006. This release date was later pushed back to 2009, by which point the film had still not formally entered production. In late 2009, ex-astronaut Buzz Aldrin, along with his then-wife Lois Cannon and daughter Lisa Cannon, sued WhiteLight and Guardian Pictures for breach of contract and fraud, as he had invested $200,000 into the production companies on the pretext that they were using the funds to make films that were never produced, including Lupin III.
In 2011, Japanese producer Mataichirō Yamamoto acquired the adaptation rights, and hired Ryuhei Kitamura, with whom he had previously collaborated with on Azumi, to co-write a new screenplay with him and direct the film. Over "three or four months", the pair extensively studied the franchise by reading the manga and watching the anime adaptations before deciding that their film would not be directly based on any of them, and would serve as a modernized origin story for the Lupin Gang. They also decided that the adaptation would be a heist film, and considered a variety of artefacts that could serve as a unique MacGuffin, such as a "cursed diamond from the Smithsonian" and an "ancient Soviet tank with a giant treasure". Kitamura later hired Los Angeles-based journalist Joseph "Joey" O’Bryan – who he described as his "strongest weapon" – to co-write the screenplay with him. O’Bryan and Kitamura wrote three separate drafts, which were compiled by Yamamoto into a complete script. Monkey Punch acted as a creative consultant during scripting. In total, the writing process of Kitamura's film took two-and-a-half years.
Kitamura noted that creative tensions between himself and Yamamoto were high during the development stage; the director noted that the producer/writer “want[ed] to go in all different directions” and wanted to remove the comedic elements of Lupin III from the film. He also expressed that there was difficulty in having Lupin being clearly defined as the film’s protagonist instead of Michael Lee, a character who was created for the film to "drive the story". Kitamura did, however, express that Yamamoto gave him full creative freedom when filming began.
Filming began on October 3, 2013, and included scenes shot in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines, before moving to Thailand for two months. Principal photography concluded on December 26, 2013.
The film's first promotional images of the cast were released on April 9. The first teaser for the film was released online on April 25, 2014, while the full trailer was uploaded on June 25. The full trailer features the theme song, "Trick Attack -Theme of Lupin the Third", which was written and performed by Tomoyasu Hotei.
Upon release, the film reached second place at the Japanese box office. It then made its International release at LA EigaFest 2014 on September 15, 2015. It was released in Japan on DVD and Blu-ray on February 18, 2015 with a collector's edition. Madman Entertainment released their Blu-ray and DVD of the film in Australia on 24 June 2015.
Critical reception of Lupin III was generally negative among Japanese and Western film critics, especially following the film’s showing at LA EigaFest. Areas frequently targeted for criticism were the film’s supporting characters, screenplay, cinematography and editing (especially in the action scenes), costume design and soundtrack. The film was also criticized for having most of its dialogue performed in English (resulting in poor delivery and intonation of numerous lines by its Asian cast members), and for overall squandering its potential as an adaptation of Monkey Punch’s manga. Oguri, Tamayama, Ayano, Kuroki and Asano were, however, frequently seen as well-cast in their roles. Opinions from Japanese audiences were mixed, with some viewing Lupin III as “an enjoyable time to be had to the whole family”, while others viewed it as part of a “terrible live-action adaptation trend that has been going on through the years”.
Film critic Yuichi Maeda rated the film 3 out of 100 in an online review, writing “The exhibitionism of the movie, ‘Isn’t this action cool?’, ‘Isn’t this pose cool?’, ‘This line’, ‘This costume’, ‘This (etc)’ all feels extremely forced. And more importantly, not one of these things is cool at all. The minute you try to make everything ‘cool,’ everything becomes cheap instead.” Maeda also criticized the film for lacking the franchise’s spirit, stating “[…] Lupin the Third has almost none of the ‘Lupin-ishness’ found in previous pieces [of the franchise]. If you give a big budget to people without any sense, you end up with an outlandish movie. This is a good example of that”.
Writing for Kotaku, Richard Eisenbeis described Lupin III as “both a Terrible Adaptation and a Horrible Film”, criticizing the script’s numerous plot holes (namely the absurdity behind the buy/sell auction between Michael and Pramuk, in which a live studio audience becomes a “room full of witnesses for illegal dealings”), Kitamura’s “nauseating” direction of the action scenes, and the impractical costumes worn by Lupin, Saber and Maria. He also described the film’s soundtrack as “porno music” and disliked the incorporation of Pierre and Joseph as members of Lupin’s gang. Eisenbeis concluded his review by describing Lupin III as “nothing but a schlock action movie; and while 20 years ago it might have been acceptable among the horde of similar films, that boat has long since set sail”.
Matt Schley of Otaku USA called the film “a cookie-cutter, movie-by-committee 2+ hour yawner that fails as both as a Kitamura piece and, crucially, a satisfying live-action Lupin the 3rd film”, panning the costumes, the characters of Michael Lee (and his role as the film’s source of drama and conflict), Pierre and Joseph, the unmemorable music, and the derivative heist film set pieces. Schley also stated that “it's not as if those involved couldn't figure out how to replicate the spirit of Lupin in live action form - it's more like they never even tried”.
Paul Bramhall of Cityonfire.com rated the film 3/10, and described it as “a poorly executed retread of the 2012 Korean film The Thieves", noting that Kitamura’s film “steals” plot elements and character motivations from Choi Dong-hoon’s film more than it does from Monkey Punch's manga. Bramhall criticized the inclusion of Goemon, “for no other reason than he’s obviously also from the manga”, the convoluted and exposition-heavy storyline, and described the action scenes as “the Hallmark Channel versions of the back seat car fight from The Raid 2, the Donnie Yen vs. Wu Jing fight from Sha Po Lang, and the car chase from The Matrix Reloaded”, lamenting that Japan’s need for its mainstream films to be shown on television as holiday specials frequently results in derivative and diluted productions.
Ryuhei Kitamura has confirmed that a sequel is in development.
- "Lupin III". Box Office Mojo.
- "Lupin III Gets Live-Action Film in Summer 2014 Starring Shun Oguri". Anime News Network. 2013-11-26. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
- "Friend of Director: Live-Action Lupin III Film to Modernize Characters". Anime News Network. 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- "Live-Action Lupin III Film's August 30 Date, New Set Photo Revealed". Anime News Network. 2013-12-16. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
- "Lupin III Coming To Hollywood". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- "WhiteLight shines on Ranes". Variety. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- "Lupin Live Action in 2006". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- "Nerd Alert! The Black Card Is Used in Anime TV Show Lupin III". Luxury Plastic. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- "Buzz Aldrin Sues Film Companies". Radar Online. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- "Ryuhei Kitamura Reveals the Arduous Three-Year Journey to Bring LUPIN THE THIRD to the Big Screen". Collider. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- "'Lupin III' to get a live-action film adaptation starring Oguri Shun". Tokyohive. 2013-11-27. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
- Komatsu, Mikikazu (8 April 2014). "Character Visuals for "Lupin the Third" Live-Action Film Revealed". Crunchyroll.
- "New Live-Action Lupin III Film's Full Trailer Previews Theme Song". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2014-06-25.
- "Kill Bill's Tomoyasu Hotei Performs Live-Action Lupin III's Theme Song". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
- "Japanese Box Office, August 30–31". Anime News Network. September 8, 2014. Retrieved September 18, 2014.
- "Lupin III Live-Action Film's Making-Of Video Streamed". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
- "Australia's Madman Ent. Adds 2014 Live-Action Lupin III Film". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
- Nakamura, Toshi (29 August 2014). "Things Sound Grim For The Lupin Movie". Kotaku.
- Eisenbeis, Richard (2 September 2014). "Lupin III Is Both a Terrible Adaptation and a Horrible Film". Kotaku.
- Schley, Matt (8 September 2014). "Lupin III (2014) Live-Action Review". Otaku USA.
- Bramhall, Paul (16 September 2014). "Lupin III (2014) Live-Action Review". Cityonfire.com.
- "Exclusive interview! Director of "Lupin the Third," Ryuhei Kitamura What's Up Hollywood2". YouTube. Retrieved 2 January 2015.