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SYFY WIRE Action & Adventure

How Brad Pitt's action flick 'Bullet Train' took inspiration from a real Pokemon train car in Tokyo

Momomon, I choose you!

By Josh Weiss
Bullet Train SONY PRESS

When Bullet Train rolls into theaters this August, Brad Pitt won't just find himself besieged by an army of lethal assassins — he'll also have to fend off a rogue Pokémon. Well...sort of.

Since the action film (helmed by Deadpool 2's David Leitch) mainly takes place aboard the titular high-speed railway that crisscrosses all of Japan, the production team took inspiration from actual Japanese culture to craft what producer Kelly McCormick called "a surreal fairy tale" during a recent interview with Empire for the magazine's latest issue (now on sale). "It's very different from the Japan of today," she teased. "Everything is heightened, everything is a little bit different."

"It's wish fulfillment," Leitch — who also serves as producer alongside McCormick (Atomic Blonde) and fellow director, Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer) — explained to the publication. "It's our version of Japan for this story to give us the freedom to make something that can break the rules."

This idea of taking what already exists and pumping it full of summer blockbuster adrenaline is best exemplified by the arrival of Momomon, an innocent-looking costumed mascot based on a fictional anime character. "We were just looking at conductors' outfits [and] there was a whole Pokémon-themed car on one of the trains," Leitch remembered. "It spoke volumes about some of the crazy things you might find on a Tokyo train."

Despite Momomon's outward cuteness, the big-headed mascot (who just so happens to have an official TikTok page) is ready to slit a throat or two when Pitt's character — codenamed Ladybug — shows up on the locomotive with a mysterious briefcase that everyone wants to get their mitts on.

What begins as a simple pick-up and delivery mission turns into an edge-of-your-seat fight for survival as Ladybug takes on a number of killers for hire with more unassuming monikers like Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The latest thrill ride of a trailer, which you can check out below, reveals that all of the mayhem can be traced back to a dangerous gang leader calling themselves the "White Death."

Since the logistics of filming aboard an actual bullet train would have been an absolute nightmare to figure out, Leitch and his team built their own full-scale copy on a soundstage in Los Angeles. The director was incredibly hands-on during the planning and construction, even having a say in "where the blood should spatter," Henry revealed to Empire. "He's that detailed."

To impart a greater sense of immersion for his actors, Leitch ditched the idea of using green-screens right away, instead opting for high-quality LED video screens. It was so convincing, in fact, that some of the cast and crew "got motion sickness," Pitt admitted. "It was so invigorating. Soundstages can get very musty, very stale. It can feel very phony and fake. But with this kind of technology, it was like being on a train every day."

Joey King (The Act), Andrew Koji (Snake Eyes), Hiroyuki Sanada (Mortal Kombat), Michael Shannon (Knives Out), Benito A Martínez Ocasio (aka Bad Bunny), and Sandra Bullock (The Lost City) round out the cast. Brent O’Connor (Power Rangers), Ryosuke Saegusa, Yuma Terada, and Kat Samick (Infinite) are on board as executive producers. Zak Olkewicz (Fear Street: Part Two - 1978) adapted the script from Kōtarō Isaka's 2010 novel.

Bullet Train pulls out of the station and into theaters everywhere Friday, Aug. 5.

Bullet Train poster SONY PRESS

Looking for more wild action in the meantime? Jurassic World Dominion is now playing in theaters everywhere, and features plenty of high-speed fights (just, y'know, with dinosaurs).