Saturday, January 4, 2014

47 Ronin (2013)

*spoilers! But if you already know the original story, then there's no point to the warning, then.*

This film is based on the true Japanese story of 47 samurai left leaderless after their lord was forced to commit ritual suicide (seppuku - but according to our local subtitler it's sepupuku, which is Malay for 'my cousin') for assaulting a court official. The ronin (the term for samurais without masters) then enact revenge on the official (apparently he was a massive douche) to restore their lord's honour, and in turn, were obliged to commit seppuku themselves as they had been forbidden by the emperor to retaliate in the first place.

What could've been a film similar to 300 minus the fantastical elephants and Persian ninjas and, well, grounded in realism, is instead turned into a film with fantastical monks, sorcery and no ninjas. And with every Hollywood movie revolving around Asians or Asian culture, affirmative action is in place and you have the obligatory white guy in the film.

Surprisingly, given the (misleading) trailer and Keanu Reeves's top billing, he's technically only a minor character in the film, even though the focus is on him with all those unnecessary close-ups and he's there to counter the baddie's witchcraft subplot. That said, Keanu's presence unfortunately pulls focus from Oishi, the real main character of the film, played by Hiroyuki Sanada. He's the one driving the avenging, gathering all other ronin, and he was the one who busted Keanu out of Singaporethe Dutch settlements. Without him, Keanu would still be cage-fighting mutants for the rest of his days. Oishi is also the one who chases down and has the final fight with villain Lord Kira (rightfully so) and this, to the movie's credit, is not shared with Keanu even after he gains acceptance from the ronin.

With these liberties with the plot (romance is minor, which is good), I was quite pleased with the direction that the film took, even though the plot also seems to have forgotten that it was sorcery that led Lord Asano to his (wrongful) death in the first place (Kira has a witch in employ), and that the ronin are in fact justified in seeking revenge against Lord Kira. It's rather refreshing to watch a movie where the sole white guy doesn't get any special treatment at all, from being utterly mistreated and bullied in the beginning, till the end where there's no reprieve for him from seppuku.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike Keanu; it's just that I'm rather sick of movies getting the white-guy treatment (or, nowadays, it's the yellow-guy treatment but that's already a rant in my other blog) in order to pull audience numbers. I don't get why Hollywood thinks that films with Caucasians sell more than films with people of other races (*cough* The Last Airbender *cough*). I don't get why they can't just have 47 Ronin without Keanu (again, I don't dislike Keanu); I mean, they already have a practically-full Japanese cast; why not just make the whole thing in Japanese and market it as a foreign movie instead.

That said, I'm glad that the movie doesn't alternate/break into Japanese at all, which would be wrong (like in The Wolverine, where in one scene two Japanese people were speaking to each other in English.)

7/10. Maybe it's Christmas, but I'm not really hating this movie as much as everyone is. 'Tis the season, I guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment