47 Ronin takes place in ancient feudal Japan, circa 1700, amongst a group of magical islands, home to witches and demons… and Fukishima really hasn’t happened yet?
The ronin are basically the cast-offs from society when they’re estranged by the samurai who are in charge. The opening monologue tells of everything that’s happened about all this, while full of names and words from long ago.
It starts with Kai (Keanu Reeves) chasing a big creature and trying to kill it, which our hero eventually does, although since Mr Reeves is badly miscast, the whole thing looks like an overlong Bill & Ted scene, and I kept expecting Alex Winter to pop up at the moments when the good guys are suffering and shout, “This is most bogus, dude!”
There’s also a girl involved (as there always is) and both she and Keanu fancy each other, but they’re from different classes. You can tell they’re in love, since at one point when they’re about to be separated, he says he’ll search for her in 1,000 lands, across 10,000 lifetimes. Really? They could just thump the powers that be, say balls to honour, and run off to Gretna Green.
Anyone high-up in rank has a constant disapproving look on their face as if someone’s just taken a dump in their pot plant, and there’s a massive overdose of deep spiritual Japanese culture which looks like something you’d normally expect to star Richard Chamberlain, but it all comes across as massively boring.
Even when we get to the meat of the film in the final half hour, when the 47 Ronin gather together to defeat Kira, the grinning cartoon baddie, and his men, the final fight scenes are lame!
47 Ronin cost $175m to make and barely took 10% of that in its opening weekend. In fact, it’s as if 47 Ronin’s failure at the box-office wasn’t unexpected by Universal, since it was the first new project to be given the go-ahead by then new head-honcho Adam Fogelson, and he was shown the door in September 2013, 3 months before its release.
I’ve seen this film in both 3D and 2D and, while it was shot in 3D, as opposed to shot in 2D and converted to 3D in post-production later, the 3D isn’t really necessary. It looks nice for the occasional establishing shot, but are no scenes which use it well, and nothing you wouldn’t get from the basic perspective when watching it in 2D.
Overall, 47 Ronin is badly acted, it’s badly scripted, and while there are some scenes with a bit of action and/or a lot of special FX, it’s astonishing just how boring the end result is.
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the extras.
The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio and the picture is the best thing about this release, crisp and sharp with no issues at all. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma screen with a Samsung BDP1500 player.
Audio-wise, the speakers get a workout during the fight scenes and when there’s all manner of spiritual hokum going on.
The extras are as follows, all of which are in HD:
- Deleted Scenes (7:42): Four of them here, all containing the same stilted acting.
- Re-forging the legend (6:44): A fairly perfunctory skip through the making of the film – locations, set design, etc.
- Keanu & Kai (4:00): Another short piece, this time centreing on the lead actor and his character, making it all sound more intriguing than it actually is.
- Steel Fury: The fights of 47 Ronin (5:54): A look at how the fight scenes were choreographed, surprisingly.
- Myths, Magic & Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin (7:35): A look at the… oh, you get the idea.
There are subtitles in oodles of languages (see below) and a reasonable 20 chapters, although a few more wouldn’t hurt.
Running time: 119 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Released: May 12th 2014
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hindi
Subtitles: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Hindi, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Arabic
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (2.8K))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Carl Rinsch
Producers: Pamela Abdy, Eric McLeod and Scott Stuber
Screenplay: Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini (based on a story by Chris Morgan and Walter Hamada)
Music: Ilan Eshkeri
Kai: Keanu Reeves
Ôishi: Hiroyuki Sanada
Mika: Kô Shibasaki
Lord Kira: Tadanobu Asano
Lord Asano: Min Tanaka
Chikara: Jin Akanishi
Yasuno: Masayoshi Haneda
Hazama: Hiroshi Sogabe
Basho: Takato Yonemoto
Hara: Hiroshi Yamada
Horibe: Shû Nakajima
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.
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