Swords and martial arts :: Just a few days after I watched The Forbidden Kingdom on television, this movie finally released in India, overtaking a few other movies which are still pending to be released here. Based on the legend about the revenge of the Forty-seven Ronin based on Japan, the movie brings back the swords and martial arts into the Hollywood which has been taken over by men with the superpowers in the last two years. The movie also marks Keanu Reeves coming to the big screen in this part of the world after a long time. Well, this is the right time for release indeed, as the Christmas releases have been losing power, and with only The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Wolf of Wall Street to give some challenge, 47 Ronin does have the opportunity to do its best here, with one of the most famous actors (thanks to The Matrix) for the people here, as the critical opinions are forgotten.
What is it about? :: Kai (Keanu Reeves) is an outcast among the samurai, as he lives a life throughout which he is ignored as he is a half-breed, half-British and half-Japanese. He is in love with Mika (Kou Shibasaki), which both of them haven’t taken far, as she is the daughter of a Samurai Lord and he is the forsaken one. But as Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) with the aid of a witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi) murders the Lord and takes over the kingdom, the Samurai are banished from their lands and Kai is sold into slavery due to his low birth. But they vow to return and avenge their master under the leadership of Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada). 47 in number, including Kai who wishes to save Mika from being forced into marrying the new Lord, the team goes through dangerous quests in order to achieve their objective. The movie deals with their pain, hardships and questions about their possible success in their primary objective.
The defence of 47 Ronin :: Whatever the critics say, 47 Ronin is a colourful movie, and it is difficult not to get lost in the beauty of its colours as well as its use of light, darkness and shadows. There is a beautiful environment created by the movie which seeks our attention. The sword-fights are well-executed without the addition of exaggeration which has threatened to plague this one right from the beginning. There are also some interesting dialogues, some philosophical and some just being stylish. There are also a few funny moments, quite short in length. The CGI which involves some creatures as well as the shape-shifting skills of the witch turned out to be good too, and in the 3D, they looked interesting throughout, but considering the visual experiences we had last year, one can’t be too addicted to this one. The costumes are superb, and the fact that the movie doesn’t delay in getting into action sequences also helps.
Claws of flaw :: The movie takes the slower path at times, staying away from action and keeping the actors doing nothing. The story moves on through a predictable path, and there are not many things happening out there that you haven’t been expecting for a long time. Also, there are strange things happening throughout the movie – no I am not talking about the mass honour suicides, but creatures appearing just for being there and add to the overall head count of the movie, and the “outcast thing” given too much prominence. The romantic side is also less interesting, and one tends to wonder if there was any need for that, as avenging the master would have been more than enough – but they need some romance, to satisfy that kind of people who most probably won’t watch this movie. They have also made Keanu Reeves’ character not bringing that kind of fun which he is expected to take into a movie.
Performers of the soul :: Keanu Reeves is the star, despite his character being one of the least interesting Samurai ever. But as a character who can bring something into an action movie, this one works perfectly. The star from The Matrix and Constantine is quite brilliant in his portrayal of a character which might not have been even needed in this movie. Did they take that half-breed idea right out of those creatures in Constantine? Our hero is kind of there at the wrong place, but the way in which he manages it has to be appreciated. It is good to see that Rinko Kikuchi takes over so well, and that was to be expected after watching her in Pacific Rim. Kou Shibasaki is beautiful, and Hiroyuki Sanada comes up with a performance that is one step above the movie. Tadanobu Asano’s villain is less explored, even as it is an okay screen presence, which kind of fades in comparison with the witch who runs the evil side.
Soul exploration :: The movie’s story of ronin, the samurai with no master, is more of a story of emotions and honour rather than the typical swords and martial arts flick which is usually expected. The two-handed Samurai stuff reminds one of The Wolverine, and the word “half-breeds” of Constantine. There is a lot of emotional undercurrents going on, but just some of them which affects us. As we are not into the Japanese history or legends, it is almost impossible to have a perfect look into it, and it is not easy to do justice to the same. It seems to treat the same with its CGI creatures, which include a six eyed cattle-like creature, a disfigured monk-like person with superpowers, a huge Samurai figure clothed in what looks like metal and the witch’s own white wolf, weird spider and the serpent-like dragon which breathes fire. There is not much to attach the soul to, right there. One can just embrace this movie for how much it catches your attention in the movie hall.
How it finishes :: 47 Ronin is no 300, and it is not even The Forbidden Kingdom. But that doesn’t take a lot out of its pocket. We watched the movie during an almost full show at a place where English movies are not supposed to attract the viewers especially if any Malayalam movie is running, and so I would say that it is doing okay here, despite all the negativity which has been associated with it in North America and other places and also that low box-office collection which has been associated with this. After all, who can say no to a Keanu Reeves movie with sword-fights shot in 3D? There are more of The Matrix fans around here than one can imagine, and that face of Neo is not something that can easily fade away. So 47 Ronin should continue to do fine for a week, and nothing more, as none of the English movies in the theatre right now are expected to carry over to the next release date.
Release date: 3rd January 2014 (India); 25th December 2013 (US)
Running time: 119 minutes
Directed by: Carl Erik Rinsch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Kou Shibasaki, Rinko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Jin Akanishi, Min Tanaka, Neil Fingleton, Masayoshi Haneda, Hiroshi Sogabe, Takato Yonemoto, Hiroshi Yamada, Shu Nakajima, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.