Ancient feudal Japan, a land shrouded in mystery, forbidden to foreigners. A group of magical islands home to witches and demons. A nation of rival provinces, whose lords were ruled by a Shogun, whose will is absolute. Peace in the realm is kept by the Samurai, master swordsmen, tasked with protecting their lord and their province at all costs. Should a Samurai have a lose or fail his master, he suffers the greatest shame in all of Japanese society. He becomes a Ronin. And yet to know the story of the 47 Ronin is to know the story of all Japan.
Huh? Sorry, you lost me.
Witches? Demons? No, I’m sorry. I’ve been to Japan. There were no dragons or demons there. Maybe witches, but I never ran into them. Certainly, there were legends of demons and some such, but that’s a whole other thing.
Before I could even shake my confusion, the movie began to tell the story of a “half-breed” named Kai, whose life is spared by Lord Asano, and who is greatly admired by his daughter Mika. As they mingle in the woods as teens, Kai happens upon a broken branch. He asks Mika what it is and she says, “a branch”. Then he responds with:
No, it’s a deer. It took this path.
Oh god, we’re in for a long one.
Then the movie quickly fast-forwards to where Kai grows up to be Keanu Reeves. I’m glad they spared us the embarrassment by hurrying through the key points of the story and Kai and Mika’s uneventful childhood. The introductory sequence definitely does not set up this movie to win.
Frankly, the movie is somewhat patronizing. There is a scene where Kai sees a fox with one bluish eye, and one brown eye. Then, later he sees a woman with the same eyes. The movie quickly flashes back to when Kai encountered the fox, despite the fact that it was only minutes ago. Good lord.
This film also assumes the average viewer would know nothing about the Samurai. I don’t know about you, but when someone tells you about how Samurai used to commit honorable suicide with Seppuku, you don’t easily forget that visual.
I think what the movie is trying to say is that there are some cultural differences you should understand. What the movie doesn’t know is that it’s fictional, so trying to establish fact is almost pointless. Sure, it’s based on the true story of the forty-seven Ronin, but I’m pretty sure there weren’t foxes, dragons or Tengu in the original telling of that legend.
Okay, so accept it. This is a fantasy action movie.
For a fictional re-telling of a historical account, I think they failed to make it any more interesting than it actually was. Sure, it’s fun to see CG dragons, and while it might add something to the action, it certainly doesn’t add to the story.
Not as bad as you might think. Even Keanu Reeves seems to have improved since his Matrix days, and there are some top-notch Japanese actors represented here as well.
I do feel a little sorry for the otherwise beautiful Ko Shibasaki though, as her makeup job in this film did not do her any justice. While I was watching the movie, I was thinking they should have picked someone else. Then I saw her headshots, and quickly realized that they didn’t present her in the best light possible.
Oh, come on. I have no basis for rating a movie like this based on its CG effects. They were pretty good for what they were, but they were also off-putting.
With their revenge on Lord Kira complete, the 47 lord-less Samurai end up having to commit Seppuku.
Kai, of course, was not excluded from having to end his life as well. In his final moments with Mika, he tells her:
I will search for you through 1,000 worlds and 10,000 lifetimes.
Oh god. This is a very Japanese thing to say, sure, but for some reason the words really hurt my soul. They do not elevate the quality of this movie even a little bit.
You probably think I hate 47 Ronin, but frankly I’ve seen much worse. I’m just glad that I went to the cheap theatres to see this.(3 / 10)