Johnny Depp, whose involvement in the modestly
successful Pirates of the Caribbean films has earned
him a modicum of popularity in Japan.
While Spider-Man 3 pulled in massive amounts of yen here (and caused 2 of my students to cry), nothing in recent memory outside of the Titanic fad has had as huge an impact on Japanese moviegoers as the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise.
Suddenly, people here are enthused about Spidey... but that's nothing compared to their adoration for Depp and the Pirates.
I have no idea. Pirates are amusing movies. The first was certainly a surprise, a dark horse hit powered by Depp's fey turn as Captain Jack Sparrow. The second film was an even bigger hit, but basically a bloated mess that consists mostly of set-up for the third. Which seems to be even more bloated. Despite the summer event trappings, they're still basically fun flicks about pirates, and Depp's performance is such a major component that I try to catch a few moments sleep during the scenes where he doesn't appear.
But why now, and in Japan?
Could it be some holdover from his title role in Edward Scissorhands, a film often cited by Japanese Depp enthusiasts as their second favorite? Was Secret Window and its second generation The Shining trappings so effective here?
Japanese pop and visual-kei bands tend to rely on androgyny or outright femininity among their male members as part of their appeal. So maybe that's why Captain Jack Sparrow- or as he's called here, simply Jack- has such popularity.
Or then again, maybe it's inexplicable.
What I do know is I avoided Zaza City during Pirates 3's opening weekend. Well, that's not entirely true. I took a piss in the Toys-R-Us bathroom because it's roomy, clean and features foamy hand soap and a powerful air dryer.
But I refused to take the escalator to the next level, where hordes of Depp fanatics (male as well as female) were thronging. I'm not certain but I think I heard a faint chorus of, "Yo ho ho, a pirate's life for me..." The scene lives in my imagination, though. A Saturday at Toho Cinemas, with the most eagerly-awaited franchise follow-up here since Azumi 2: Death or Love?
A madhouse, I'm sure. The line spilling out of the cinema into the lobby, the ticket cashiers' parking ticket validation wrists aching, popcorn supplies running dangerously low, leading to a run on nacho chips (a poor substitute). The clean-up crews doing pretty much what they do everyday because this is Japan and people rarely throw their empty wrappers and soft drink cups on the floor (unlike America, where most people just leave them where they finish them).
Unfortunately for many of Depp's most adoring fans, it's also school festival season. Many of them are locked up with preparations for this weekend's festivals, and have been for several weeks now, leaving them no time to obsess over Depp or attend the cinema to get their fix of Jack.
Poor kids. I remember when Blues Brothers 2000 came out and I couldn't see it opening night. I cried.