Movie Name: 47 Ronin
Studio: H2F Entertainment
Genre(s): Martial Arts/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Release Date(s): December 6, 2013 (Japan)/December 25, 2013 (US)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) finds himself dishonored by half-breed Kai (Keanu Reeves) in a battle then bewitched by a witch (Rinko Kikuchi) who forces him to attack Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) who is plotting with Kitsune. Now, Lord Asano’s men find themselves without a master and faced with the difficult decision to break the Shogun’s word by avenging their master. Led by Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the ronin must rescue Asano’s daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki) and stop the evil of Kira forever…even if it could cost them their lives and honor.
Directed by Carl Rinsch, 47 Ronin adapts the Japanese true-life event that occurred in 18th Century Japan. The movie was poorly received by critics and a box office failure (despite making over $150 million worldwide).
The tale of the forty-seven ronin has been told before but this film took a different approach. With tons of production problems (it was actually completed in 2012), the movie allegedly had a vision that never made it to the screen.
The story opted to go for fantasy. Allegedly, Carl Rinsch really wanted a more realistic movie with stylized fighting (like Gladiator), but was overruled by Universal who demanded a more of an Avatar feel for the movie. The result was a mish-mash of fantasy and action that just really didn’t seem to go anywhere…and it also really negated the sacrifice made by the ronin by choosing to avenge their master. If someone is battling an evil demon, you really do expect them to kill it regardless of the cost. It doesn’t raise as many morality questions as the original story.
The movie also falls into a difficult battle. Keanu Reeves really doesn’t feel like the star here. That was a concern by him and Universal when the movie was made so his role was beefed up leading to this weird conflict of who the movie is really about. Oishi feels like the natural star of the movie, but Keanu keeps giving shoved over him in the spotlight.
The visuals for the movie are a saving grace. The movie looks pretty good, but it just doesn’t match the story. The samurai sword-work and battles are well choreographed and many of the monsters created for the movie look great with ties to the Japanese folklore (the opening hunt scene reminds me a lot of Princess Mononoke)…it just isn’t what the movie is about.
47 Ronin is a misfire. It is a good story that is poorly told and executed. I don’t know that the movie is a Hollywood story and that is what Universal tried to make it. The story has a lot of aspects of 300 in it but 300 made more sense as a blockbuster story. I’m sure that the tale of the forty-seven ronin will be told again and again, but I just hope the next version is a better telling.
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