Hollywood movies often get car scenes wrong, but especially when the setting is in Japan. Typically they just sprinkle in some a Nissan Figaro in the background or set up a parking garage drift in Los Angeles that stands in for Tokyo. However, in the trailer that dropped last night for Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, the cars are spot on.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is Paramount’s reboot of the G.I. Joe franchise, starting with everyone’s favorite ninja that, in our recollection of the 1980s cartoon series, never spoke a single word. In this film he does speak, depicting the years in Japan before he signed on to the Joe team.
The trailer opens with a bit of a misdirect for us car guys. There’s a sword fight on a car transporter shipping a fleet of new Hyundai Sonatas. Cut to a car chase where Snake Eyes (Henry Golding) is in one of the Sonatas (with a Japanese license plate) shooting at what appears to be a Santa Fe. Great, you think, typical Hollywood product placement in which every featured car is of the same brand.
But then, after some cuts of ninjas training and a sword fight against a giant neon sign, we see a shot on an airport runway with Mt Fuji rising in the background. A fleet of VIP sedans pull up, led by a G50 Toyota Century with two Celsiors in tow, one of which is actually VIP’ed. Hey, now we’re interested!
It’s not just a distant cameo. The Century appears in another scene at what appears to be an important building or temple. The walls, tiles, and trees all look very authentic. But there are numerous Japanese gardens around the world that could have subbed in for this scene. It’s the Century that really makes it feel like Japan.
A few clips later, we see a motorcycle speeding down a Japanese highway. We see Tokyo Tower and other skyscrapers in the background, along with Japanese signage, but these days all those things can be added with CG. The double yellow line is throwing us off here, as traffic on both sides of it are moving in the same direction. Could it have been an American road with Tokyo’s skyline added in post?
The cars, once again, make the scene. There’s another VIP’ed Toyota sedan, what could be a silver Crown Athlete, and a Hilux Surf that’s, importantly, two-tone with a tire mounted on the back. They could’ve used a US market 4Runner and 99 percent of the audience wouldn’t notice or care, but this SUV makes it look like Japanese traffic.
There’s a good reason for the authentic Japanese feel. Turns out they actually shot parts of the movie in Japan, according to this “making of” video. There is likely some Hyundai product placement, but at least it didn’t take over the movie. We suppose they could’ve replaced the Century and Celsiors with the Mitsubishi Dignity and Proudia if the Hyundai Motor Group insisted, but we’re glad they didn’t. No self-respecting ninja would drive one. Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins opens on July 23, 2021.