47 ronin – matrix style

I saw 47 Ronin with Damielle today.  It’s an adaptation of a Japanese tale where 47 samurai avenge their master’s death.  It’s about honor, loyalty, and duty.  Throw in an American sensibility with slick computer graphics, and you get this latest film adaptation.

The good; the action is nice, it sucks that these days, those of us who are old enough, Keanu Reaves always gets compared to The Matrix.  But the action is well done, we get medium and wide shots, not all of it is shakey-cam close ups.  I really appreciate that.

Hiroyuki Sanada usually plays a tough as nails jerk, but here he’s actually a good guy.  He plays Oishi, the default leader of the forty seven ronin.  His stoic devotion is very well delivered.
Continuing on with the acting, we also get treated to Kō Shibasaki as the love interest.  Good to see her in stuff, you may remember her from Battle Royale.

Considering this film is for the average American going audience, the film does a good job with letting us inside eighteenth century Japanese culture.  The cultural rules are set up, the reason for the disgrace, and the reason for loyalty is all done fairly well.  At no point did I feel that there was a large leap in logic taken.

The bad; the character that Keanu Reaves plays is made up, there was no half-breed amongst the forty seven ronin.  I understand why they created this character, but like The Last Samurai, where Tom Cruise is the titular Last Samurai, why are these historical inaccuracies allowed?  It feels somewhat disrespectful to the source material.

This story has endured throughout Japanese culture for a reason, it’s compelling and awesome, why can’t the filmmakers rely on those aspects to sell the story?  Why must they insert something fictional for us to relate to?  I didn’t mind the magical/fantasy aspect, but comeon.

Overall, not as bad as I thought it would be, and I did enjoy the action sequences as well as the fantasy bits that were thrown in.  If you know nothing about the original story, you should be fine viewing this movie, but sometimes one can be too smart for ones’ own good.  Luckily I was able to still enjoy the bulk of the movie.

On another note, there were a lot of people in the theatre for this film… and the audience was very varied, mostly stupid though.  Hearing their comments was like listening to first graders who aren’t able to connect the story threads of See Spot Run.  It’s really hard to enjoy a movie in a theatre these days… shame.

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7 comments

  1. *Written by “A”@ The Guilty Kitty

    To be honest, I am not going to see the film for the reason you stated-I don’t feel that it’s socially or culturally “right” with Keanu angle. Now, don’t get me wrong, he’s an excellent actor! But I really do feel that they should have had a Japanese actor as the main character. Similar to Avatar to me(I know people are sharpening their knifes right now), the Hollywood theme of “white man saves the minority civilization” is old, tired and just plain inaccurate. In some historical cases if not most, you could argue that the oppression was by White or European people! It reminds me of Dancing With Wolves. Great actor just typical story.

    On that note-can we get a matrix 4 please?

    1. I agree with you about Avatar, which is why District 9 is a better movie to me, the white protagonist becomes one of the undesirables and doesn’t save them, but perhaps just saves his own soul by helping them.
      And Matrix 4 yes, but there’s only one Matrix movie… right?? 🙂

  2. I am going to try to catch 47 Ronin in Bangkok where it will be cheaper to see it.. I wonder if the audience will be better or worse than in LA! Thanks for the review. I have often wondered how to walk the tightrope of staying true to time-honored stories and appealing to mass audiences… I wonder if it can actually be done..

  3. If the movie used all Japanese actors and spoken in Japanese, it would have been a much better movie. 47 Ronin is supposed to be based on a true story about the samurai period. In my opinion, should be only told from the side of the Japanese because it is an important part of their culture. However, I am not surprised that this movie did poorly in Japan. It just shows that Hollywood is more interested in making a quick buck instead of getting their facts straight about historical events. Come check out my blog and comment at http://internationalwayne101.wordpress.com

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