Shifting from 2-D to 3-D drifting.
What They Say
The ultimate race car movie!
From the acclaimed director of Infernal Affairs and The Storm Riders, Andrew Lau, comes this live-action spectacular about the furious streetcar sport of "Drifting." Initial D raced its way to the very top of Hong Kong's summer box office and is based on one of Japan's most popular manga. So fasten your seatbelt and feel the adrenaline pumping full throttle as Initial D unleashes a new generation of racers...where speed alone is just not enough.
Initial D brings a large selection of audio choices to customize your experience. The options are English 5.1, Mandarin 5.1, Cantonese DTS ES 6.1 and Cantonese: DD-EX 5.1. For the purposes of this review the Cantonese: DD-EX 5.1 track was used. There were no dropouts or distortions noticed and the mix was very well done to convey a feeling that represented the actions on the screen.
The video is a touch less impressive then the audio as dot crawl, noise and some color blur are noticeable on occasion. They aren't overpowering but when they do appear it can be distracting. Also of note is that the film uses quite a bit of grain and sadly is 2.35:1 but not anamorphic as the specs claim.
The cover features all four of the main racers in poses that convey their general disposition for the top half and the AE86 leading a race on the road of Akina on the bottom half.
The menu features a large picture of Takumi on the left along with a painted looking background of a part of Akina's road and trees behind him. The initial D logo takes up the top half of the middle and right side of the screen while scenes from the movie play out in a small space under that and just over the menu choices. The menu is quick to respond to various selections and there is a music track from the film playing in the background.
There is a very good selection of extras to be found here on the second disc. The features are a behind-the-scenes, a "Making-of' featurette, Deleted scenes, Outtakes, TV spots, Promotion highlights and a photo Gallery. The behind-the-scenes portions though are largely culled from the Making of feature edited down to a few minutes to highlight a particular character or effort from the movie.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The film opens with a fly over of the mountain pass of Akina in Japan that the manga also uses as its initial setting to introduce the viewers to where much of the action in the film takes place. As the film moves past the opening the scene shifts to Ryousuke of the Red Suns talking with Nakazato of the Night Kids. They agree on a challenge that they will race after Ryousuke and Nakazato have challenged all the other downhill racers in the area. Ryousuke will start in the North of Gumma and Nakazato in the South and they compete to see who can rack up the most wins before they race each other again. A scene shift brings us to early morning when a white and black AE 86 can be seen tearing through the mountain pass with its tofu moving slightly in the back and disinterested driver at the wheel. Takumi returns home to the tofu shop his father Bunta owns to find his father lying passed out with bottles surrounding him and he cleans up the mess and drags his father up the stairs. Later in the day Takumi escapes the house to go to school despite being on summer vacation and meets up with his friend Itsuki. Itsuki is sitting there with some of their other friends waxing philosophic on how a god is a human but who can do things no other human can do. He then proclaims he will show the school for throwing him out as he will become a god of racing. As Itsuki is going on Natsuki walks by and it is clear Takumi has a thing for her with how he acts though he doesn't see her get into a car shortly after passing them and being handed money by the driver. Takumi and Itsuki head to gas station which is owned by Itsuki's father where Takumi works and Itsuke tries to mooch off his father at.
As Itsuki is inside Nakazato of the Night Kids arrives looking for the racing god of Akina he heard owns the gas station. Itsuki tries to play that he is the god of racing but Nakazato doesn't believe him and declares he will be at the top of the hill later on. The film passes to evening when Ryousuke and Nakazato meet with their respective teams in tow each having won 3 races. Itsuki gets off to wrong start with Night Kids and jumps the gun for the race and winds up proving he is most assuredly not the god Nakazato is looking for. As Nakazato is challenging the course later in the evening after something Ryousuke says that he noticed about Nakazato's driving he sees headlights in his rearview mirror. His pride is further bruised when the car effortlessly passes him on one of the turns-but not before he saw the writing for the delivery shop on the side of the car.
Nakazato shows up at the gas station looking for the driver of the car but Itsuke decides he wants to race again. Itsuki's father takes Bunta out to a host club in order to find out if he was the one that passed Nakazato on Akina only to discover that the driver was Takumi and he has been driving for five years already and improving his return time over that time. A flashback shows the origin of Takumi's cup of water used while delivering and how he keeps getting faster. Itsuki's father persuades Bunta to get Takumi to race Nakazato so Itsuke won't try again. As further incentive Ryousuke finds Bunt's shop and tries to play on his ego in order to get a match which just incenses Bunta instead. When Takumi approaches him about using the car Bunta figures out that he can use the car as leverage to get both Itsuki's father off his back and give Takumi a taste of racing-but only if Takumi wins. From there the film travels into showing Takumi's budding romance with Natsuki and also introduces a brand new and dangerous opponent from Team Emperor. Will Takumi find a new direction in life or will the numerous challengers who come out in force leave him by the side of the road when the events heat up? And what could happen if he gets blindsided if Natsuki's side job is ever revealed?
Initial D is a film that attempts to take the characters and action from the manga and anime series and adapt them to the big screen in such a way that fans of the previous incarnations will not be turned off but also in such a way as the story can be modified to fit the live action format. Overall the film does a pretty good job of succeeding at that-particularly on the casting side as most of the main characters feel and to no small extent resembles their 2-Dimensional roots. The car races are also really well done and some interesting camera angles can be found. The downsides is that some of the characters are changed quite a bit and some long time fans may have a problem adjusting to changes to some of their favorites (like Bunta now being an alcoholic and abusive father) and the music no longer bears any resemblance to the Euro beat that the series originally used.
Initial D is an ambitious attempt to make a movie roughly covering the events of the First and Second Stages, with a few pieces of the Third and one event from the Fourth thrown in. Fans of the manga or anime may object to some of the changes but as a film attempting to adapt preexisting work to fit a new format Initial D passes that test rather easily. The result is a film that can represent the characters in the series well while not forcing anyone to have any prior knowledge of the series coming in. It looks to be quite a labor of love by those who worked on it and the results translate into a very enjoyable film.
English Language, Cantonese Language, Mandarin Language, English subtitles, Chinese subtitles, "Making of" Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Behind-the-scenes footage, Outtakes, TV spots, Promotion Highlights, Photo Gallery
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.