So this critic must preface this trailer preview with a stark admission: The initial news of John Cho being cast as the lead Spike Spiegel didn’t sit well with me; it seemed like a casting oversight to select a non-action star like Cho over Keanu Reeves, who publicly outed himself as a long-time fan of the series.
Personally, having trained under the iconic Dan Inosanto I had been privy to the explosiveness of Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and was pessimistic over Cho’s ability to translate this onto the screen. There is no doubt that he is a legitimate actor, but a thespian in a more traditional dramatic sense; certainly not within the context of an action hero who could bring Spike’s interpretation of Bruce Lee’s deadly art into a live action series.
Over the years, Reeves himself has made it no secret that he is a big fan of Lee, with nods to the martial arts legend in everything from ‘THE MATRIX’ (1999) ‘JOHN WICK FRANCHISE (2014 onward) and even ‘MAN OF TAI CHI (2013).’ He has proven himself to possess that raw physicality and elusive personality that is so intrinsic in Spike. Prior to the recent reveal, this is one critic who wasn’t expecting too much.
And yet…this is one of the rare instances where the recent trailers had forced me to eat the movie equivalent of ‘humble pie.’ Evidently, what André Nemec has composed is not only a genuine attempt to match the source material but go beyond mere tribute and homage – and instead immerse the real life actors in what becomes a live action anime. The colours are striking and vivid; there are unique visual cues to the manga source materials and there seems to be a real chemistry between each of the main players. The artistry in framing the universe paints something dynamic, a unique and beautiful tapestry of a modern universe where the protagonists are not so easily defined by heroics; presenting the moral quandary of flawed characters – makes for more compelling viewing.
The premise is exciting and engaging, with the rag tag bunch of bounty hunters engaged in high octane pursuits of targets throughout the galaxy. Yet this is not a space opera, but rather viewed as a high-tech western set in space, with punctuated by neo-noir elements and certain buddy-cop element marked by the most idiosyncratic of characters. Cho seemingly has nailed the philosophical, somewhat sardonic yet very lethal Spike Spiegel; Mustafa Shakir aptly evokes the gruff and imposing Jet Black; whilst Daniella Pineda is perfect as the sexy femme fatale Faye Valentine. Even the adorable Welsh Corgi Ein, makes an appearance.
To treat Shinichirō Watanabe’s source material with such care and reverence, has eventuated in some incredibly glorious eye candy that is potent enough to shake the senses; in all the best possible ways. Indeed, this preview is not indicative of the final product which releases on Netflix on November 19. But given the traction that this series reveal has garnered over the last few days, is perhaps testimony to what will be a faithful and respectful live action adaptation. Moreover, the dedicated cult following will undoubtedly enjoy a renaissance by introducing this sophisticated fan favourite to the masses.
With the quality it boasts in just a few trailers, it is enough to give this cranky old Australian critic faith in a new live action remake of ‘FIST OF THE NORTH STAR’ – with Scott Adkins starring as Kenshiro – BUT, we can discuss that in another article separately. Comments? Anyone?