The Americanization of the Super Robot

When reading Tanner Mirrlees’s Global Entertainment Media: Between Cultural Imperialism And Cultural Globalization, the passage that “entertainment media no longer only flows from the global North to global South and from West to East, but often from the South to the North and from the East to the West as well” (P. 48) caught me by surprise. Sure I’ve seen many films from Japan brought over in their original state (Mainly Miyazaki films) in recent years, but there is still the cultural appropriation that comes with this kind of film and how it clashes with American ideals. I’m going to focus on two films from North America that have their ties to East-Asian products in particular here: Pacific Rim and Edge of Tomorrow.

coyote

A Japanese interview/report of Guillermo Del Toro and his Inspirations for Pacific Rim https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-zCQGA4fdY

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim is inherently an American-produced film with a Japanese style. The film’s characters, plots, and designs all draw inspiration from the various Tokusatsu movies (Think Godzilla or Ultraman) and giant robot anime of the 60s – 80s, as well as the characterization of the average Hollywood action film. Despite this, the majority of the film doesn’t take place in either Los Angeles or Tokyo but rather Hong Kong, the location of the last Shatterdome base in the movie. Even farther from Hong Kong, the majority of the filming took place in Toronto of all places. While Pacific Rim was a success worldwide ranking in ~$310 million USD, domestically the film didn’t do so well making only ~$109 million. Considering it went up against Despicable Me 2 and Grown-Ups 2 during it’s opening weekend, the numbers are (somewhat regrettably) understandable. China on the other hand was all for the film, where it grossed $114.3 million overall.

The armor in All You Need Is Kill…

While Pacific Rim was an original idea inspired by ideas from Japan, Edge of Tomorrow was a film that took itself directly from a Japanese product. Based on a novel with the amazing name of All You Need Is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow focuses on William Cage (Tom Cruise), a soldier who gets stuck in a time-loop and must find a way to break the loop and defeat the invaders with the aid of Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), another soldier stuck in the loop. While there’s the usual cultural changes of names and locations when adapting a foreign product (Could you see Tom Cruise being referred to as Keiji Kiriya?) dropping a female Native American scientist from the original and replacing her with a white male with a similar role in Edge of Tomorrow just feels rather brash personally. There’s also the same problem films like Starship Troopers faced where instead of full-body armor in the original, Edge of Tomorrow has a much lighter exo-skeleton where the actors faces can be visible on posters and other promotional material.

…and the same armor in Edge of Tomorrow

America in recent years seems to be interested in taking Japanese productions and adapting them into American films. In the last few years there’s been plenty of rumors of a Cowboy Bebop adaptation starring Keanu Reeves, and plenty of stories reporting how Tobey Maguire wants to play the lead role in a Robotech adaptation. More recently, casting for a live action Death Note produced by Warner Bros. has begun and is planning for a 2017 release, and Ron Howard of all people is preparing to produce an adaptation of superhero show Tiger and Bunny. These are all fairly basic plots that would work fine if the cast was white-washed (Death Note in particular is the only one that’s primarily set in Japan or has a predominately Japanese cast), but I kinda fear that we’ll probably end up with another Dragon Ball: Evolution.

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