Having seen the original anime on Adult Swim, I was surprised by just how kid-friendly this movie is. I do not complain, though I do worry a bit about the kids who walk unknowingly into the anime expecting something more like the movie. I wonder if there’s an argument to be made here about keeping a franchise consistent in the sort of audience it is intended for, ie, if something is intended for kids, don’t pervert it, and if something is intended for adults, don’t make a child-friendly lure that will bring them into it.
But as for the movie itself, on its own, Lupin the Third: The First is a delight. It’s hilarious and exciting with zany, over-the-top action, a thrilling adventure, and a heart-warming tale mostly about a thief and a budding archaeologist as they rise to meet the legacy left by their respective grandfathers. The title, of course, indicates it to be the first in what is intended to be a series, and I rather hope that happens.
Leading the cast, of course, is the man himself, Arsene Lupin III, grandson of a notorious gentleman thief from France. His partners and costars from the anime show up, including the gangster-like Jigen, the samurai swordsman Goemon, and especially the feisty femme fatale Fujiko. And who could ever forget the noble, stubborn inspector Zenigata? But they’re generally in a more supportive role rather than taking the lead. No, that falls to the lovely Laetitia, a young lady who is already accomplished in the archaeological community from an academic standpoint. She dreams of becoming so much more, starting with going to a most prestigious university. Unfortunately, she is trapped in a terrible situation involving a manipulative parental figure and, oh, right, a number of Nazis leftover from World War II.
That would obviously be the cast of antagonists, right there. One can always call on Nazis to be the villains of a story set one or two decades after the war. Obviously, they want power enough to conquer the world and such, so, in this instance, they are searching for a certain treasure: a weapon of terrible power left behind by an ancient civilization. They have a good place to start their search, as it was once found by a thief and an archaeologist several decades ago. However, these two intrepid explorers feared the danger of what they had found, but they also had hope for future generations, that humanity might become ready for it. As such, instead of simply burying their tracks forever, they left behind a trail of clues and riddles which only the worthy would be able to decipher, beginning with a mechanical tome, one which has a formidable lock.
Two generations later, Lupin and Laetitia follow in their grandfathers’ footsteps in a race with the Nazis, including the same people who murdered Laetitia’s family when she was a child.
So, we have old mysteries, modern adventures, personal stakes, global stakes, evil villains, unorthodox heroes, and a lovely lady lead. What more is there? 😉
Well, there’s the animation style. I’ve seen a lot of “modern” CGI which is, quite frankly, absolutely horrific to behold, so that was something of a concern of mine. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Instead of going with anything either too realistic or too simple, the animators struck a balance with something fun and cartoony. Indeed, one could describe it most simply as a 3D rendition of the anime’s style. Not bad, not bad at all!
There’s the music, which while not especially unique or memorable, certainly fits the movie perfectly. It’s not the work of masters, there won’t be any awards for it, but setting the perfect music for any given scene is a feat in and of itself.
There’s the direction, the voice acting, the pacing of the plot, all of which were quite well done. The plot did begin to feel a little long and predictable towards the end, but I suppose they did have to give the villains their little moment of triumph. Though, in the words of another rascal of particular renown, a moment was all they could spare. I had no particular qualms with the acting, especially that of Lupin’s legendary Tony Oliver, the return of Michelle Ruff as Fujiko, and a relatively lesser-known actress, Laurie Hymes, as Laetitia. Hymes’ performance was my favorite.
Basically, Lupin the Third: The First is just a really fun movie, and, unlike the anime, fun for the whole family. 🙂
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.