47 Ronin

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The outcast Kai (Reeves), orphaned son of a British sailor and a Japanese peasant woman, joins a group of rōnin, led by Kuranosuke Oishi (Sanada), who seeks vengeance on Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), a ruthless master of ceremonies who killed their master and banished the group, aided by the sorceress Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi). The rōnin embark on a journey to get their revenge with challenges that would defeat most warriors


Late in the summer, I saw the first trailer for 47 Ronin and was blown away by the action and fantasy elements that appeared to be in the film. Also, there was intrigue about Keanu Reeves’ return to the big screen after what seems like forever since we last saw him. This film, unfortunately has been getting nothing but negative reviews. Is it really that bad, though?

What is this about?

Based on the famous true story, this historical action-adventure follows the honor-bound exploits of 47 samurai warriors who patiently plot to exact revenge on a court official responsible for their master’s death.

What did I like?

CG. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of CG. As a matter of fact, I’ll probably go to my grave championing the use of stop motion. However, when CG is done right, I can appreciate it. In this film, I’m not quite sure it is done right, but because there is so little of it to be seen, when a big colorful creature comes burrowing through the trees in the first 10 minutes or a wispy snakelike creature is fighting Keanu Reeves’ character in climax, it makes a difference, not to mention is a feast for the eyes.

Tradition. As someone who has done a little bit of research in to the samurai traditions, I can appreciate the effort the filmmakers put into making sure that Japanese culture was honored and portrayed accurately. Some films would have taken something like the seppuku, which is an entire ceremony to go along with the suicidal disembowelment, and just had some guy stick a knife in his stomach. In the case of this film, they were smart and honorable enough to go through every detail thy could possible show and still get a PG-13 rating.

Westward, ho! This epic tale is actually a true story. Some of the events have been changed, but this is a legend in Japanese mythology much as Amelia Earhart is to us over here in the states, for example. The kind that you don’t know whether it is real or not and the legend has made them larger than life. As you can about imagine, this is not a tale that in the western part of the globe are too familiar with, but perhaps this is a start to getting some more films about them. Who knows?

What didn’t I like?

Ad blitz. In the opening, I mentioned how the trailer I saw blew me away. Well, pretty much everything you see in the trailer gives you all the good parts. Truth be told, I went in this expecting some sort of CG mess that, while onsalughting my senses and better judgment, was still fun to see. That wasn’t the case, though, as only 3 or 4 scenes that have something CG and action packed. The rest of the film is pretty heavy drama, unfortunately.

Liberty. I’m not too familiar with the tale of the 47 ronin, but I can say that I am about 50% sure that Keanu Reeves’ character wasn’t around. If he did exist, I doubt he played as big of a role as he did in the film. The Tengu forest segment notwithstanding, it seems as if there was an attempt to push Reeves’ character more to the forefront, because he was the name star. About 3 or 4 people have mentioned this to me tonight, so I wonder if is true or not.

Pacing. Once the opening narration ends, it isn’t long before the film takes off, but it cannot maintain that frantic pace, sadly. It isn’t long before the film slows down. The rollercoaster pace of this film should be fun, but the fact that down parts are so, shall we say, down, just kills the film’s momentum and it never recovers until the film’s climax. Unfortunately, by that time, the audience is so lost that is doesn’t matter.

47 Ronin is one of those films that I really don’t know what to say about. I am a fan of samurai and action flicks, so this really should have been right up my alley, but something just didn’t quite hit the mark. It is for that very reason that I can’t say this is a film you should run out and see. On the other hand, I feel I need to see it again to make a final judgment on whether it is good, bad, or headed to cult status. In the meantime, I have to say that by this time next month, we’ll all have forgotten about this flick.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars



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