Wednesday, 2 April 2014

47 Ronin (2013)

So what's going on with Keanu Reeves these days huh? he seems to have taken a shine to the Far East recently what with this and 'Man of Tai Chi'. Problem is Mr Reeves keeps sticking himself in these films which just doesn't work, sorry Mr Reeves but you're not a good enough actor face it.

Ah the legendary tale of the 47 Ronin, this film is very very very loosely based around this Japanese story of honour. The real origins are much simpler in truth, in the early 17th Century a Daimyo (Territorial Lord) called Asano attacked a high ranking Edo official called Kira. The reason was simply down to the fact that Kira had been rude to Asano and Kira was possibly corrupt which also offended Asano. So basically there was a scuffle which one could say was childish, but because of this Asano was ordered to commit seppuku. You can't go around attacking important Shogun officials willy-nilly.

So now we have the classic tale of the 47 Ronin...the Hollywood version, hurrah!. The film follows the basic premise of the old story but uses artistic license heavily and thick highly stylised visuals. Yep, this is '300' for feudal Japan (Edo period). The visuals are clearly influenced by that Greek Spartan battle porn flick, I thought the film was a more historically accurate that wrong!. Admittedly most of the creatures we see are the result of sorcery by this naughty female witch but there is a huge armour clad uber Samurai, a big ogre/troll guy, some weird spiritual bird-faced monks and some massive half dragon half horse with antlers type thing at the start.

I can't lie to you, I flippin' loved the visual style of the film. Maybe we could of done without the monsters and freaks as they didn't really add anything to the plot other than fancy flair. Would of been fine without the magical hocus pocus too but unfortunately that is all tied in with the new plot. All the fantasy aside the actual realistic Japanese period costumes, weapons and sets are all expertly created and beautiful to look at. The ceremonial sequences at the start are truly stunning, bold and colourful, while the sets look pretty accurate to me. Its all topped off with some well created CGI landscapes and skylines.

Plot queries...apparently Reeves character was raised in some spooky woods by the bird-faced monks, who are apparently demons. Not overly sure why they would do that, they also trained him to be a bloody good katana fighter, although again not too sure why they would do that, how does it benefit them? oh and why do they look the way they do?. Other things stood out to me also, for example, when 'Oishi' is getting his samurai back together for his revenge mission he finds Reeves character first. But why? he clearly doesn't like the guy as we saw for the whole film right up to that point, also Reeves character isn't a samurai so why would he even think of him, this whole issue has nothing to do with Reeves character. Its about the 47 Ronin, not 47 Ronin and one outcast along for the ride.

Another thing I don't get was the abundant advertising of Rick Genest's face all over the posters (guy covered in tattoos). I kinda got the impression this bloke was a main character in the film yet he does nothing and shows up for less than a minute. I'm guessing whatever he did was cut out.

I'm not gonna beat around the bush here, I really liked this film. It has its problems but as far as I'm concerned they are easily overlooked by the tremendously sumptuous visuals, solid acting from the Japanese cast and the kick ass battle sequences. Yep if you wanna see some samurai action that other films like 'The Last Samurai' didn't quite deliver on then this is for you. There isn't any blood and gore on display but the sword battles are awesome and most of the time not spoilt by CGI silliness. For the most part everything seems to have been kept as relatively historically accurate as possible, its just bits here and there...which does beg the question why but anyway.

In all honesty there are many little niggly bits that could be pointed out, I get the feeling they really struggled to incorporate the fantasy element they wanted into this historic event. But lets not allow that to dampen our oriental spirits here. Yes the film blatantly pinches ideas from various films like '300' 'The Matrix' and even 'The Empire Strikes Back' with the sequence where the good guys must enter a sacred spooky wood to face an unknown force...of sorts. It does feel like they're totally jumpin' on the 300 franchise bandwagon mainly and as I've said it does feel a bit unnecessary.

Never the less I did enjoy the film thoroughly. My love of Japanese culture will make me somewhat biased of course but anyone who likes this new blend of history and slick glossy stylised action should enjoy this.