Review of 47 Ronin - ehhhhhhhh
Kiki on 08/31/2015
I should clarify a few things before this review. I didn't dislike this film. There is the gem of a nugget of good idea here. That much is pretty evidenced by the fact that this story is revered...
I should clarify a few things before this review. I didn't dislike this film. There is the gem of a nugget of good idea here. That much is pretty evidenced by the fact that this story is revered in Japan, and for good reason because the real 47 ronin were hella badass. Like, seriously. I'm also not one of those people who hate Keanu Reeves (*cries about those people because seriously have you seen this man HE IS ADORABLE PERSONIFIED*), so much so that every couple of years I go into something of Keanu spiral which generally culminates in me rewatching Speed obsessively one night and then shouting 'POP QUIZ, HOTSHOT' at every student who walks through my door but maybe that's a story for another time. (Though for real, that film is amazing. If you haven't seen it in a while, just rewatch it now. Go on. You'll feel better, I promise. If you have never seen it before WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE.) So, the question we must ask ourselves is...why is this film so deeply unsatisfactory?
Ugh. The film starts off with a little prologue, as young Kai (KR) runs through trees, clearly away from something, and a creepy narrators voice intones about the mystical nature of Old Japan. Kai is found collapsed in a stream by the samurai of Asano, Lord of Ako. One of whom then presumes to TRY AND DROWN KAI. Like, immediately, with no preamble. Ugh, I mean, really. I don't particularly care for this kid but to flat out try to murder him straight off the bat? Screw you, dude. He's basically on the verge of death anyway, being passed out in a stream at all, but you just had to try and hurry that along, for some reason? Lord Asano then pops along and slaps the hell of his man for being such a dickwad. Well, you know, not really, but a girl can dream. He basically gets him to stop though.
Kai is taken back to Asano's freakin' palace (because lets Wuthering Heights the hell out of this shiznit, what with the picking-up-random-kids-who-don't-look-like-they're-from-round-here-and-taking-them-home-thing), where he is looked after by Mika, Asano's daughter. Naturally, they are of an age. Oh, FFS, yes, I know what is happening. Right, so they're in love? Because the love we feel in our mid-teens so commonly turns out to stick around into our late twenties (I assume this is the age later on) They basically frolic about in the woods, which makes me wonder - is she not basically a princess? Did Creepy Narrator not JUST tell me how dangerous Japan could be? Do you generally just let a princess roam about with only a half-Japanese, half-English kid, who men just seem to despise on sight, for company/guard? I assume the automatic dislike of Kai is due to the rigid social structure of the time, but basically, since Asano can clearly get over this, its just comes off as racist af.
Ugh, sure. So cliched, so good. The film does look fairly good, for what its worth, though some of the CGI could use a leetle work. Its just the actual dialogue/script/story/acting that's the problem. I mean, how does this happen? You have an amazing cast here: Hiroyuki Sanada, who has been working like, forever, stars as Oishi, leader of the ronin, Rinko Kikuchi is fierce af as the witch, and Tadanobu Asano is perma-douchefaced (in a -good- way?) as Lord Kira. Yet all of those characters are so effing one dimensional, it just blows my mind. How the hell was this director (whose name I cannot bring myself to learn) allowed to just waste all the talent he had in that room. I am inclined to blame the director/writers as the actors, particularly Kikuchi, seemed to be really trying to create nuance where none was ever intended to go, and being stifled all the while.
The film is very oddly paced. It goes prologue -> hunting a beastie (aka, establishing that Kai=Keanu) -> Lord Doucheface, I mean Kira, arriving -> quick scene to let us know that Doucheface is not unfortunately struck with the male version of the common female affliction, Resting Bitchface, and he is in fact, a douche, all in around 15 minutes. I mean, settle in, dude. Do some world-building. What you have here is a freaking amazing world, this is what people would pay to see. Make them feel like they're walking in feudal Japan! Or, you know, you could also half-assedly throw in a vague romance (though if these two grew up together, does that not make it somewhat incesty?), some admittedly cool swordplay, some really REALLY shit CGI as the ronin enter and explore the Tengu Forest (though you do get some intriguing hints as to what Kai's life was like there, which to be quite honest, sounds like the film I actually wanted to see here. Why didn't they make that film instead?), some racism, some blank Keanu (sorry! I love you forever KR), some perma-doucheface, some unexplained motivations, some scenery chewing from the witch, including what actually was a really good scene between her and Mika (it can be so refreshing to see women interact on screen, that sometimes you don't realise how much you missed it until its RIGHT THERE INFRONT OF YOU CARL RINSCH YOU DOUCHE SEE I LEARNT YOUR NAME ARE YOU HAPPY) and some highly bizarre fighting techniques.
Essentially, what I am saying is, this film is an exercise of your goodwill. Your goodwill towards Keanu (dear, sweet Keanu), towards the idea of other cultures and their respective histories, to the fact that this a true story of honour and sacrifice and they managed to make it BORING. It will test your goodwill, dear reader, and I am sad to say that it has beaten me. Hmm. Maybe I did dislike it after all.