Star Wars III - In July!

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Many of you are familiar with the Star Wars motion picture franchise and the fact that the final episode — Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith — has opened in America to huge fanfare and even larger box office receipts. A quick scan of the international release dates will show that unprecedented technological progress, high consumer demand, and greater globalization have created a world in which all of God’s children can enjoy the saga of Anakin Skywalker within a mere two days of the U.S. release.

Except of course, Japan. Release date: July 9th.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Japan ain’t playing “the game.” She’s a dreamy rebel you can’t tame, playing by her own rules, and just because “everyone” is watching Star Wars on May 19th, doesn’t mean that Japan is going to do what everyone else is doing! She’s a loner, Dottie, a rebel.

Japan is apparently the only country in the world self-absorbed enough in its own Star Wars traditions to actually postpone the release — in this case, until the beginning of summer vacation. No one in the Japanese film distribution world seems to have had faith that the Force (“that ancient belief system!”) would bring kids to the theaters in May. So Japanese fans will have to wait, because they should be hard at work/school and not gallivanting at moving-picture nickelodeons!

Of course, this is just one more example of Japan refusing to follow the ever-greater trend of global cultural convergence. And if they want to punish their consumers in order to snatch onto petty control of their own traditions, more power to them! When I finally see Star Wars in July after hearing two months of nonchalant references to plot points on the Internet, I’m sure I’ll be ecstatic that Japan’s the kind of dude who runs on his own clock. They’re fighting the power, brother.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

20 Responses

  1. jariten Says:

    Isn’t this more to do with Lucasfilm just wanting to keep the hype and exposure for this film going for as long as possible by staggering the release dates? I’m not sure that Japan is entirely to blame for this.

  2. marxy Says:

    Interesting theory, but why would Lucasfilm choose Japan as the only country with a staggered release date. Wouldn’t they have UK be early June and Germany be late June?

    My essay is intellectually dishonest by making it into a broad cultural issue when the problem is most likely just one film distributor looking to maximize profits in the cultural context of the Japanese market. Lucasfilms is releasing it on May 19th to hit the American Memorial Day crowds next week, and even without Memorial Day being an international holiday, the world is going along with this U.S.-centric schedule.

    Japan’s the only market to readjust the date to fit its own timing – but to the great disappointment of the fans. Does anyone in Japan really want to wait two months to see what everyone else is already seeing just because they “always” see new SW films in July?

  3. r. streitmatter-tran Says:

    Japan isn’t alone. Vietnam won’t get it until July either, as reported by ThanhNhienNews (the english language version). Now, with Big Macs to the north in China and 7-11’s to the West in Thailand multiplying faster than new reports of US prisoner abuse, Vietnam has neither. THATS fighting power.

    We’ll just have to wait and see if there’s an interest in seeing it at the theater in July when images are likely be burnt on DVD and on the black market througout Asia by weeks end.

  4. Chris_B Says:

    r: a workprint DVD image has been available on the internets since opening day.

  5. Joao Barata Says:

    “Of course, this is just one more example of Japan refusing to follow the ever-greater trend of global concurrence.”

    Thank god theres one such place left… now i want to there even more…

  6. Brad Says:

    It could also be , like you said, a strict adherence to tradition because just as Americans associate Star Wars openings with Memorial Day weekend, every Star Wars movie has opened in Japan during the first part of July, going back to the original release of the original trilogy. (At least, this according to one of my good (Japanese) friends, a huge Star Wars nerd.)

    Those wishing to see it sooner can take it in at one of the local U.S. military bases. It’s been playing at Atsugi and Yokosuka but I don’t know if you need to know someone to get in or if you can just waltz right on in on you own.

    2nd best movie in the series (after Empire, natch) in my humble opinion. Not that I have seen it or downloaded that workprint or anything…

  7. jasong Says:

    The subtitling and translation of related materials often takes more time in Japan than in other countries. In the case of other delayed releases, Japanese distribs wait for any awards that may be forthcoming so that they can make mention of it in the advertising. And with franchises like SW, there are all the run-up events, campaigns, tie-ins etc., of which Japan is king.

    Looking forward to seeing it.

  8. marxy Says:

    The subtitling and translation of related materials often takes more time in Japan than in other countries.

    I very much doubt this is the hold-up. Why is it that the Chinese can subtitle faster than the Japanese?

    In the case of other delayed releases, Japanese distribs wait for any awards that may be forthcoming so that they can make mention of it in the advertising.

    It’s Star Wars, not some indie film. You could spend 0 on advertising and still make a killing.

  9. marxy Says:

    every Star Wars movie has opened in Japan during the first part of July, going back to the original release of the original trilogy.

    I also very much doubt that consumers would actively want to wait two months in order to coordinate with a made-up consumerist tradition.

    This has everything to do with the distributor maximizing profits – at the expense of consumers.

  10. Brad Says:

    Oh no, I agree with you, I don’t think that people want to wait the extra two months. I mean, I sure as hell don’t. And I also don’t buy the subtitling excuse. Like you said, China gets it before Japan. I was just pointing out the release date thing.

  11. jariten Says:

    Interesting theory, but why would Lucasfilm choose Japan as the only country with a staggered release date. Wouldn’t they have UK be early June and Germany be late June?

    well, that pretty much was the case back in ’99 when Phantom Menace was released. That was met with such uproar that Lucasfilm fixed it so that Attack of the Clones got a ‘worldwide release date’. Which was fine, as long as your concept of ‘worldwide’ doesn’t include Japan of course.

  12. marxy Says:

    That was met with such uproar that Lucasfilm fixed it so that Attack of the Clones got a ‘worldwide release date’.

    Interesting. So consumers demanded a quicker release date. Good for Japan that its consumers never register complaints or disrupt the harmony of the business exchange process.

  13. farley Says:

    The subtitling and translation of related materials often takes more time in Japan than in other countries.

    I very much doubt this is the hold-up.

    What?!?! Are you saying that the Japanese language isn’t more specialler and complexcated than all the other languages in the world combined? Of course it will take longer! Every Yodish utterance must be a Haiku, as stark and profound as an Ikebana arrangement, every stroke of every Kanji trembling with life instilled by the hand of zen!

  14. marxy Says:

    Of course it will take longer!

    Well, they do need time to suck out the humor and life out of every single utterance to make sure that all Japanese people will understand the dialogue.

    In the Aviator, Howard Hughes says to Kate Hepburn through the wall:

    “I haven’t shaven.”
    And she says, “Me neither.”

    Which they translated as something like:

    「髭をそってない。」(I haven’t shaved.)
    「私はノーメイク。」(Well, I didn’t put on make-up.)

    Because there was a small chance that a Japanese viewer would say, “Wait a minute! Women don’t shave their faces!” I also like the implication that women are ugly and unrefined without putting on make-up.

  15. mmm Says:

    “Wait a minute! Women don’t shave their faces!”

    But I thought Japan was the only country that actually takes outward pride in women shaving their entire face, forehead and all. In Kawabata novels, lesbians, when their not having sex with old men, spend pages shaving each others their faces. Please don’t tell me it’s all fictionalized fantashii.

    Your point is well made though. Japanese subtitles suck much of the latent humor from foreign film dialogue. Jokes (even sarcasm) that could be translated and fit naturally into Japanese often get cut.

    George Lucas isn’t really known for writing stunningly funny or unpredictable dialogue anyway so to say that translation is the reason for Star Wars to be “premiered” two months late is ****.

  16. Dave Says:

    Of course another reason for the Japanese release date being later is that nobody will download it off the net onto their keitai for viewing, while in the rest of the world vast legions of fans would just download it and watch it for free if they were made to wait.

    As for the not shaving…. is it the same verb for women in Japanese?

  17. jasong Says:

    Sorry, I wasn’t that clear. When I said it takes more time, that includes the time for coordinating the translation jobs, which are generally outsourced. Certain aspects of the film industry here run much slower than China or Korea — I know this for a fact.

    Anyway, it’s a combination of that, having all the run-up events, and yes, the ability to build on the buzz in the foreign press.

  18. marxy Says:

    And having total contempt for your own consumers.

  19. tracy Says:

    Japan Today has an article addressing the question why movies like Star Wars have such a delay. Their answer: To be included in one of the three peak periods in Japan (New Year’s, Golden Week, and summer). Like Brad mentioned earlier, the article points out that all the Star Wars films have been shown in July.

    http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=feature&id=924

  20. stanleylieber Says:

    I’m pretty sure this was all covered on the official Star Wars site sometime in the last couple of years. It’s no mystery — the delay in Japan is up to the Japanese film distributors.