Tuesday, December 31, 2013
47 Ronin A Confusing Journey
Keanu Reeves stars as feudal Japan's 'Great White Hope' in the beautiful and odd 47 Ronin.
ARTH VADER (AV): While this movie does NOT follow a predecessor directly, this story has been told a few time by Hollywood. In the vain of the bumbling westerner (or 'Half-breed" in this case) a non-Japanese hero rises to become a savior. We saw this with Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, with MIchael Douglas in Black Rain and now again in this film. Also, as the film shares during the end-credit roll, that the story of the 47 Ronin is one that has been passed down through the years and is highly regarded example of Japanese heroism, revered the world over. Did Hollywood do this story justice, Pontificator?
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Well Vader, that depends on whom you ask. Based on “true” accounts, this film strays from the “facts” in many areas. Firstly, Kai (Keanu Reeves) is completely made up for the film. No doubt all the magical stuff is also fictional (but you never really know huh?). Chikara (Oishi’s son) was not spared by the Shogun. There are undoubtedly more inconsistencies, but the film was still very entertaining despite some continuity divergence.
CASTING, DIRECTING AND ACTING
AV: Director Carl Rinsch shoots a handsomely crafted visual experience in 47 Ronin. The cinematic display of this film is gorgeous. As for the casting, well I will say, that the cast is a near-perfect depiction of prominent Japanese and asian actors and actresses that would make this film gripping and authentic in the order of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Kagemucha or The House of Flying Daggers or any number of other Critically acclaimed Asian-only casts (yes I am aware that many of these stories are Chinese in origin, but please savior my point I apologize for any offense). In the case of this film, Keanu is as out of place as Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Thoughts?
TP: Keanu Reeves headlines the film as the outcast Kai (a fictional character added for the film) and adds an interesting element to the film as well as an identifiable persona to widen audience interest. However, I’d say he’s more out of place than Cruise was in The Last Samurai. Rinko Kikuchi (last seen in Pacific Rim) plays the Witch, the main proponent of the mystical elements of the film. Hiroyuki Sanada (last seen in The Wolverine) plays Oishi, the lead Ronin (leaderless Samurai) charged with restoring honor to Clan Asano. It was good to see Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shogun Tsunayoshi, he’s been around for awhile and has always been a great actor. Overall, well cast for what it delivered with directing that made the film flow at a steady pace.
AV: Though I am hard pressed to understand precisely why, 47 Ronin commands some stunning visual effects. Complete with dragons, witches, mystical warriors and giant galloping beasts, not to mention some of thew most gorgeous environmental effects around. There were very cool visual effects sequences, Ponty, I just wasn't sure why they were all there. Am I being too persnickety, P-Man?
TP: Maybe Vader, but I thought there was nothing groundbreaking in the special effects department… at all. In fact, the CGI was sub-par in comparison to what I have become accustomed to. The best effects were the costume design and fight choreography, which gave me sense of watching the classic series Shogun, mixed with The Matrix.The best effects were the simplest ones, while the big stuff suffered… big time.
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK
AV: Wikipedia calls fictionalized accounts of popular japanese literature Chūshingura. This is probably the best way, I can think of Mr. Pontificator, to categorize this film. I know Mr. Reeves was inserted to add a 'familiar western face' to the film's otherwise completely Japanese cast but it comes off as the better-than-everyone-else-white-guy syndrome, also known as the great white hope syndrome and that just turns my stomach here at the end of 2013. C'mon Hollywood, we already have instances of critically acclaimed non-white films that have done well on their own; Hotel Rwanda, Slum-dog Millionaire, the original Old Boy (2004), 3 Idiots, The Life of Pi, and Yojimbo to name a short list of a deep selection of successful and cinematically important non-white films.
TP: This story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. There is no room, nor any need to do a sequel. If Hollywood is smart, it will leave this classic Japanese story alone (err, too late).
ARTH VADER rates 47 Ronin: Can't in all consciousness suggest that someone go and spend hard-earned money on this movie. Rental? NetFlix? Amazon Prime? Hulu? Maybe but consider this, I am an avid movie goer and mire watcher with a high tolerance for toxically bad films but I fell asleep on this film… twice. Had to go back and see it a second time to fill in the gaps of awfulness. So with that, I turn over just three (3) busted blocks to 47 Ronin.
47 Ronin: 5/10 Busted Blocks