Like a few movies and films that I’ve talked about through the years now, Lupin the Third: Legend of the Gold of Babylon is yet another one suffered major production issues. This time, I would consider it more of a success despite how much of a mishmash it is. From what I’ve read about the production on this film, it was a bunch of miss managed production. There were things like Mamoru Oshii supposedly originally in charge of it at some point with his own ideas, high production costs, the original lupin cast traded for cheaper voice actors due to that high cost, and who knows what else. With all of that thrown into the mix, I’m surprised that a fun Lupin movie came out from it. While Lupin is after treasure yet again while facing against an Italian mob for clues to it, it’s a lot more about the goofy interactions from that then anything else for me.
Lupin the Third: Legend of the Gold of Babylon is supposedly about the Legend of the Gold of Babylon. Or possibly not the gold and a lot of treasure. Oh wow, surprising considering the long title. Doesn’t really matter for Lupin and crew, because they want whatever they could find for their own reasons. That is the thing from happening all the Lupin characters against Marciano and Kowalskies mafia gang of utter buffoons and idiots. Then again, that’s almost everyone in this film. Each group has an understanding of the ancient Babylonian writings that the other doesn’t, some stone tablets to lead the way to where the treasure might be, and so many other things. Great set pieces and everything. The treasure is found. Boom, done. Would it surprise you if I said it was a casually supernatural film as well? Halley’s Comet and aliens have a role in this film too.
As a tone setter, the opening scene of this film is great. Possibly the best tone setter that I’ve seen. It starts at a Halloween party at a bar in New York City where people are wearing costumes of all sorts. It’s a fun party. Two people walk in. You think they are Jigen and Goemon looking for Lupin, we we quickly discover that they are wearing costumes too as they try to get a bounty on Lupin who’s enjoying the party. A small amount of shenigins happen, Zenigata steps in to go after the found Lupin, the real two settle issues with the false Goemon and Jigen, and we get this amazingly cartoony motorcycle chase between Zenigata and Lupin as they race up a wonderful and ridiculous slot machine like clock tower and things get more insane in terms of “I’m not left handed” until Lupin wins. That’s the kind of cartoony-ness we’ve got here. It’s a lot of fun.
So yes, the Lupin cast is all here. Lupin is here for his crazy shenanigins and as leader of his group, Goemon is the quiet Samurai with a sword that cuts everything, Jigen is there with his ace gun shooting and doubting of Lupin’s motives, and Fujiko is her fem fatale self and always there in the place she wants to be for mysterious reasons. This movie has a couple major draws that make me enjoy it so much. The first one is the character interactions and placing these characters in situations I haven’t seen them in a lot. What happens if a mysterious drunken old lady is after the famous womanizer Lupin? What happens when Zenigata is followed by a group of beautiful, international women who want to prove themselves as he goes after Lupin in the desert? These are things I never expected to see and I love it.
The villains of this movie, Marciano and Kowalsky, are pretty interesting in their own right. Marciano is a very strait-laced individual who has everything planned out in his head, is very methodical, and likes everything perfect in how they are executed. We see that in how he lives out his life in a perfect estate, his perfect rich life, and even Fujiko as his fiancé for some reason. He is clearly the opposite of Lupin who lives in a trashy hide out, doesn’t have much of value, and everything else. It’s really fun to see the two interact with each other and relish in how they different. Kowalsky on the other hand, is something else. He’s strict regarding his men that constantly fail at Lupin and friend’s hands. He also has a thing for punishing his goons by hitting their butts which is a hilarious and awkward joke throughout the film.
All of which is the second draw of this film. Legend of the Gold of Babylon is as cartoony as possible. Like very Looney Tunes in a good way. Not in an unbelievable way too because we knew it would be cartoony from the very first scene onward. Those beginning expectations are great. The situations and character art and animation are incredibly loose and full of energy. Directly opposite to the pacing of this film. Legend likes pushing the boundaries of what is possible before everything becomes a mess of lines in an unrecognizable way. All of which gives this film its own sort of unique feel. Lupin is inherently cartoony and crazy in the stories it tells from week to week episodes, but I haven’t seen Lupin like this in my very limited experience. You know, besides some Lupin Part 2 episode I’ve seen, older movies like Mamo, and such. It’s just embracing what it wants to be and it’s great.
Lastly, Lupin the Third: Legend of the Gold of Babylon has a lot of style to it. I’ve already talked a lot about art and animation, but let’s talk about color. This film is very bright and colorful. Has that typical 1980’s city sort of vibe too which I enjoy and makes it stand out. It does date the film a little bit, but so what? I really like a Lupin movie for settling for a color aesthetic to go with to differentiate itself further from others that are something like Red Jacket and well-defined sort of feel to it. This is an awkward film for the Lupin the Third franchise in a lot of ways, but I really enjoy it despite all that. There is no other Lupin film like this one, as far as I know, and it’s a treasure because of that. There is a number of flaws and issues, but somehow came out with something unique. As a result, I’m going to give it a good.
One thing I didn’t have the space to say, the audio quality of the voice acting is horrible. I have never watched an anime thing where a character talks and half their voice output is static. Where did they record this, the producer’s bathroom? Jeez. It doesn’t hurt the film for me, but it’s something to bring up in regards to the experience of the film.
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