While I am by no means a heavy Netflix watcher, I like to browse the movies and series once in a while and try out anything that looks interesting. More often than not, I end up getting bored partway through and don’t finish the series or the movie. But just the other day I ended up watching 夏への扉 (キミのいる未来へ) [“The Door to Summer”] all the way through, so I thought I would write up a brief review article about this movie.
I didn’t realize it until halfway through the movie when I took a break and did some research, but this movie is actually based on a Robert A. Heinlein novel by the same name, originally published back in 1956. I liked the movie “Starship Troopers” (also based on a novel of his), and also enjoyed reading the novel “Stranger of a Strange Land”, which is a pretty famous sci-fi classic, so I had high expectations about “The Door to Summer”.
The basic premise of this story is about a robot scientist living in 1995 who runs into a difficult situation and ends up using “cold sleep” technology to sleep for 30 years until 2025. As you might expect, he is not happy by what he finds, and ends up trying to find his way back into the past (hence the Japanese subtitle that translates to “to the future where you are”).
Besides the basic ideas of robots, deep sleep and time travel, this movie doesn’t actually contain that much in terms of hard sci-fi elements. There is some discussion about how money in the future involves using a phone, not physical cash, and while that at first it seemed like no big deal, if that is actually in the original novel from 1956 it is pretty impressive on Heinlein’s part. The core of the movie is about relationships and running back and forth to solve mysteries and trying to basically repair the main character’s life.
Even though the movie was around two hours, I didn’t feel like that much really happened. I guess you could say it seems like it would be possible to cut things down into 90 minutes, maybe even 60. The reason for the extra time is various drawn-on dramatic scenes, which were likely heavily modified from the original novel.
While I did enjoy this movie and recommend checking it out for anyone who already has a Netflix subscription, overall it seemed heavily produced in the style of Japanese dramas. By that I am referring to how people acted, the camera angles, the music, and other elements that are used to dramatize the movie. It didn’t help that I had already seen several of the characters in other movies or serieses, which made the association with (cheezy) Japanese dramas even stronger.
I guess the dramatization and overall production was done in order to make what might normally be a cult film to be more accessible by a larger audience, and by a wider age group. Perhaps it achieved this goal, at least in terms of a Japanese audience (a check of the ratings shows the Japanese-based ratings were on average much higher than those by English viewers). But I feel the production style watered down things a good bit, and often I didn’t really feel like I was watching a sci-fi movie. I couldn’t find the budget listed anywhere online, but the movie also seemed to have very little in terms of CG and other effects except a few key scenes, which went against my expectations for a modern science fiction movie.
I think the other reason that the production stood out is that I have seen a few Japanese “artsy” films, where there are many shots of the countryside and long pauses to add to the atmosphere. Even though this movie did have some of that, the production was much closer to that of a B-grade drama (something like a soap-opera). The introduction especially was well done and tricked me into believing the whole movie would be in the same style.
Perhaps one of the most memorable parts of this movie was the appearance of a certain cat that is connected to the meaning of the title (which is itself one of the most creative ideas in the movie, so I won’t reveal it here). I remember reading somewhere about how cats are notoriously difficult to work with on movie sets, but this cat did a wonderful job, and while it wasn’t exactly the cutest cat, it was a pleasure to watch.
In terms of Japanese, there weren’t too many technical terms or difficult slang, though due to recording quality and background noise/music, as is often the case I had trouble picking up all the dialogue, so I watched part of the time with Japanese subtitles. While sometimes it can be difficult to find movies with Japanese subtitles, I was glad this one had them available on Netflix.
To be honest, I think my biggest takeaway from this movie was to get me to want to read the original book (somewhat like the Cowboy Bebop remake, sadly). But it was still enjoyable and I learned some new words, so I don’t regret the time spent.
If you are looking for an even better Netflix experience in Japanese, check out this series for which I managed to make it through a whole season of.