It sounds like the upcoming Ghost of Tsushima movie will be presented entirely in Japanese with subtitles – assuming John Wick director Chad Stahelski gets his way. Speaking with Collider, the filmmaker explained that “Sony is on board” with the idea, but admitted that he won’t be getting a $200 million budget to realise his ambition.
“I think if we did this right, it would be visually stunning,” he beamed. “It's character driven. It's got an opportunity for great action, great looks. And honestly, we'd to try to do it, all in character. Meaning, it's a Japanese thing about the Mongols invading Tsushima Island. A complete Japanese cast, in Japanese. Sony is so on board with backing us on that. I've been going to Japan since I was 16. I have a love of the country, love of the people, love of the language.”
The reality is that lucrative markets like the US and UK have historically shunned movies with subtitles, but there has been a subtle shift of late. The success of releases like Academy Award winner Parasite and Netflix’s own Squid Game have proven that the masses will show up for non-English film and movies when the content is good.
“No one is going to give me $200 million to do a technology-push movie without speaking English,” he admitted. “I get it. So, I have to be clever and I have to figure out what's fiduciary responsible to the property, to the studio, and still get what I want out of it and still make it something epic. Again, big challenge, man.”
Stahelski continued that he believes classic silent movies can hold the key to directing great subtitled content, because actors can portray meaning through their facial expressions without you necessarily needing to understand what they’re saying. “I think there's a way to do it,” he continued. “And a way to direct the cast and a way to mellow dramatically enhance facial performance. So, if I turn the sound off, I want you to know what the scene is about, in whatever language.”
In the Ghost of Tsushima game, Sony included both English and Japanese voice acting options, and in the PS5 re-release specifically it improved the motion capture to better incorporate the Japanese track. We can’t imagine this movie will command a particularly high budget, so Stahelski may ultimately get his way. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of compromises are made between now and when shooting begins.