The Not so Magnificent 47?
Or as many critics have called it. The 90 million dollar flop?!
Watchable, if a little patchy and predictable, with great visuals that worked well in 3D.
47 Ronin is a fantastical take on an Chushingura (a Japanese fictional account) about a group of samurai who avenged their master in 18th Century Japan.
We watch outcast Kai (Reeves) as he is taken in by the samurai after being raised and trained by demons (Still with me? Good). The obvious ensues, in which Reeves is never really accepted BUT their master Lord Asano still continues to keep him around. To make matters worse, an obvious and cliched forbidden romance brews between Reeves and Asanos’ daughter (the beautiful Ko Shibasaki).
It all got a little bogged down with backstory that wasn’t really interesting and quite befuddling with Asano being tricked into attacking his rival Kira (Tadanobu Asano) by Kira’s own sorceress, the alluring Mizuki (Rinko Kinuchi). Some hoodoo about dishonour and Asano is ordered to commit suicide by the Shogun. Leaving Kira to marry Asano’s daughter.
However, Kai and Asano’s loyal servant Vassal Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) team up with the rest of the banished samurai to prevent the wedding and avenge their shamed master. It was all a little by the book relieved by a few outstanding visual pieces.
A beautiful mess. The Last Samurai with demons. The feudal Japan landscape was visually stunning. The opening sequence in which the samurai hunted down a demon was fantastic. The 3D was impressive with blades, trees and demons flying out at ya!
Keanu was dreadfully wooden in this outing. He looked the part BUT my God. A tree giant from The Lord of The Rings could have done a better job. Luckily, he managed to muster some chemistry in the final minutes with Shibasaki.
Kira’s villain was quite pathetic and very passive. If not for Kinuchi’s sorceress, the pair would have been the worst villains since Bambi and Thumper in Diamonds Are Forever. Sanada was very good. It’s great to see him getting awarded with bigger roles, especially after his supporting roles in Revenge and the epic Last Samurai.
Luckily where 47 Ronin lacks in originality, it redeems itself with animation, special effects and choreographed fight sequences (The little that there was). The props, sets and costumes were stunning. Except for Hiroyuki Tagawa. It was incredibly hard to take the main Shogun seriously when he looks like an angry Humpty Dumpty.
The slave ship fight sequence was spectacular. Racy, action packed, more please! The visuals on the demon master that trained Reeves? Not so much. Looked more like Eagle from the Muppets
The questionable running time did drag in parts and felt like it was building up for a big finale. A big gamble if the finale doesn’t deliver. Luckily, it was a sight to see.
The animation went borderline overkill with Kikuchi’s sorceress transforming into an agitated Japanese Falcor. The Matrix nerd in me was buzzing. That sequence was how I wanted Matrix Revolutions to end with the OZ-esque head made of Squiddies battling it out with Neo.
It was easy to dissect the plot holes BUT what annoyed me was that the filmmakers created this incredible visual world that inhabited demons and sorcery. However, in trying to stay true to the retelling of the Ronin, they didn’t do enough with the fantasy element.
That was it’s secret weapon and what separated it from the numerous retellings of the samurai tale. BUT the demons just made random appearances to break up the monotonous story and the spiritual stuff didn’t really kick off until the finale. Stunning and entertaining but too little, too late?
A watchable BUT eye catching mess. However, for those familiar with the samurai culture, once their objective is achieved, there is only one ending (without spoiling too much).
If you’re a fan of the samurai or fantasy, then give it a go. Not the worst, but certainly not the best.