Home Reviews We review 47 Ronin – 47 Shades of Dismay

We review 47 Ronin – 47 Shades of Dismay

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I was fortunate enough to go to a pre-screening of trailers for movies to be released in 2014 a few months ago and squealed like a little pig when I saw the extended trailer for Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin. It looked like everything I could dream of. Samurai, katanas that zinged, fantastic demons and magic! To my friends I likened it to a sort of hybrid between Conan the Barbarian and my all-time-favourite Zatoichi (The Blind Swordsman). Instead what I got was a mishmash of The Last Airbender and Pathfinder. What could have been a decent Samurai fantasy is split at the seams by inconsistent focus, poor character development (read: none), and so many failed opportunities it would have Donald Trump screaming ‘You’re fired!’

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Loosely based on the legend of the 47 Ronin who avenge their master, the new adaptation suffers from the producers’ insistence that ‘The One’ Keanu Reeves take the centre stage, when the story is actually about Oishi, played by Hiroyuki Sanada (Wolverine, upcoming Helix). Indeed the first half of the movie IS about Oishi and his mission to avenge his master who is wrongly forced by a witch’s machinations to commit seppuku. 

Kai, Reeve’s character, is a halfbreed, someone brought up by demons and as such possesses some of their powers (which we are only teased with). This makes him visually more appealing than the humans so at any opportunity he is called upon to flair for the audience. But that is just it; it’s just flair. Don’t get me wrong, the fight scenes are more than competently put together but their relevance seems contrived, if not completely irrelevant at times. For example, we have Reeves help out our weapon-less Samurai by fighting 10 people and claiming their tools of destruction. But this isn’t enough. Next we need to have a battle with some monks (the ones who brought him up and are in need of some serious facial surgery) in order to get better, supernatural weapons. You can feel that this scene was originally put together to only include a test for Oishi but someone decided let’s have Kai break out some moves to make it look cool – which it does but to the detriment of the story. This side-lining of the main character gets very repetitive and frustrating and breaks the story into small little episodes that feel like a youtube series.

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This also leads me to one of my biggest gripes about the movie and that is you don’t care one bit about the characters. I think the writers try and hide behind the idea that Samurai do not show their emotions to cover a shallow script, but then you have a scene where a fatty Samurai bathing is the comic relief; placed to lighten the tone, in a SAMURAI MOVIE!?  To say it stands out like a sore thumb would lose the opportunity to include how said sore thumb was lobbed off with one of the super sharp katanas!

It is very obvious that the script was hacked up and put back together more times than Frankenstein’s monster; production issues coupled with the producers’ concerns that the movie wouldn’t be universally accepted (it wasn’t), the sudden desire to make it 3D (which really doesn’t work as 3/4 of the movie is set in the dark), and the desire to change the original script so that Reeves was more integral did the movie no favours. And I know it is superficial when faced with all of the above, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that had the whole cast used Japanese instead of poorly articulated English it would have added a much-needed level of depth and immersion.

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So far it isn’t looking good for a movie I really wanted to win, but I do have to point out some elements that were done quite well. Firstly there are some amazing set pieces. The colours used, sets and costumes are at times breathtaking. Some of the fights scenes are a lot of fun but as said above fall short where they could have soared. In the first scene we are treated to, I was reminded of the fight scenes from Avatar which had the audience punching the air with a ‘hu ha’. Then there is Kai. I think Reeves did a very good job in convincing us of his fighting ability and it shows that he spent a long time training for the movie. However, he is a flipping halfbreed demon with magical powers, yet we only see these manifest in him moving like an oil painting and cutting fire? They could have done a great deal more. Lastly the dragon was beautifully done and acted out by a convincingly freaky Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim).

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When I walked out of the cinema I thought to myself that was a fun movie but as the hours ticked by I increasingly became agitated that I had been taken for a ride, and a bumpy one at that. I also became aware that what I had just watched was slipping my mind, like I had just woken from some weird dream where I/they/he/she were the lead character. What happened again? Who were the characters? Why didn’t they do this instead of that? It didn’t really matter in the end as the whole thing was a katana-dripping bloody mess. A crying shame for a movie that should have been the Lord of the Rings of Samurai and not the Starship Troopers 3 of space marines.

Last Updated: January 8, 2014

29 Comments

  1. My most anticipated movie of 2013 was the biggest let down. Did you see the poster with the four characters…one is THE BANDIT…that guy was on screen for like 10 seconds. The greatest thing about this movie is the trailer

    Reply

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      January 8, 2014 at 10:01

      I agree 100% with the trailer comment.

      Reply

    • RinceThis2014

      January 8, 2014 at 10:08

      I know! Loved the posters, thought very cool. Maybe they can make a ‘director’s’ cut, as in, get a new one…

      Reply

    • Will

      January 8, 2014 at 10:13

      Haha why was he in the movie poster? do you think they cut out scenes about what Keanu did for that year? maybe it was meant to be a bit harder than just walking in there and rescuing him.

      Reply

    • Matthew Holliday

      January 8, 2014 at 10:42

      but most movies trailers are better than the actual movie.
      its not just this one.

      Reply

  2. Will

    January 8, 2014 at 09:59

    Totally agree with this review, it had such great potential, but just failed hard. It seemed the magic that was placed in this world was more of a plot device than immersed in the main story.

    Reply

  3. Alien Emperor Trevor

    January 8, 2014 at 10:07

    I think I would have enjoyed it more with subtitles, the characters would have maybe expressed a bit more emotion in their voices if not hampered by a second language. It definitely did not live up to the promise of the trailer.

    I don’t regret seeing it & I was entertained, but it’s not something I’ll ever want to watch again. It was a bit to drawn out, the pacing was okay, I don’t mind that it moved fairly slowly, just felt too long overall.

    Reply

    • Ricardo Harvey

      January 8, 2014 at 10:10

      I was too disappointed to be entertained. I also remember turning to my brother and saying this would be so much better with subtitles.

      Reply

    • RinceThis2014

      January 8, 2014 at 10:13

      Did you know that most of the cast didn’t speak English and had to learn it phonetically? Apparently they said their lines in Japanese first, then followed up with English when the camera was turned on. That is NOT how you go about making a movie. Just look at the Last Samurai!

      Reply

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        January 8, 2014 at 10:15

        I think you’re right when you said this movie reeks of interference.

        Reply

        • Kervyn Cloete

          January 8, 2014 at 10:52

          The problem was two-fold. On the one hand, the director Carl Rinsch showed crap loads of potential in his short films/ad work (and at one stage was set to direct the Alien prequel that eventually became Prometheus), but he has never ever done anything of this scale. Handing him the reins to a $220 million dollar movie on his feature film debut was a bit silly, and it showed in the fact that he often had problems with managing the production stuff, couldn’t work out designs in time with the VFX guys and the previously mentioned mess he made of how to handle his Japanese actors’ lack of English.

          The second problem came when the film was done with principal photography and Rinsch turned in his first cut to the studio, which saw Reeves’ Kai as just a minor character in the whole thing, not even around after the first act. Universal flipped, coz how dare you make a samurai movie and then not give your only white Hollywood star the main billing, right?

          They ordered several rewrites and reshoots, expanding Reeve’s place in the story until he was now the central-ish protagonist. Rinsch fought them on this, and it’s been rumoured that one stage, Universal execs physically kicked him out of the editing room, and edited large portions of the movie themselves, before they let him back in.

          Rinsch has since said that he was never kicked out, it was just a minor spat, but there are plenty of reports that state otherwise. Either way, nobody is denying that the entire production was a complete nightmare, and Universal have already stated that they have begun the process of writing it off as $175 million loss. Ouch.

          Reply

          • RinceThis2014

            January 8, 2014 at 10:57

            220? Thought the budget was 175 and it took in just over 23 mil?

          • Kervyn Cloete

            January 8, 2014 at 10:59

            After the reshoots, if you added in advertising costs, it ballooned to about $220 mil. Universal expect to just recoup the advertising costs.

          • RinceThis2014

            January 8, 2014 at 11:03

            Holy shit, I didn’t see that. So the same as Avatar… WOW. That is a serious bomb, especially after The Lone Ranger…

          • Kervyn Cloete

            January 8, 2014 at 11:20

            Thanks to other movies in their stable like Despicable Me 2 and Fast 6 killing it at the box office though, Universal won’t feel it as hard as they set their biggest box office haul of all time last year. But still, $175 million is $175 million.

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            January 8, 2014 at 11:26

            Thanks for the info. Explains a lot.

          • Lardus-Resident Perve

            January 8, 2014 at 16:19

            Makes more sense now. I still liked it enough, but not one I will run to the stores to buy once released on disk.

      • TiMsTeR1033

        January 8, 2014 at 10:39

        Last Samurai was brilliant!

        Reply

        • RinceThis2014

          January 8, 2014 at 10:40

          It was so much better than 47. I actually went home after watching 47 and downloaded Last Samuri just to redeem what samurai should be like!

          Reply

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            January 8, 2014 at 11:27

            I believe you mean you watched it on Netflix.

          • RinceThis2014

            January 8, 2014 at 11:27

            That’s what I ‘meant’ 0-O

    • Matthew Holliday

      January 8, 2014 at 10:41

      But America…

      sounds pretty much like how i felt about “man of taichi”
      i was looking for the “revolutionary new camera things and stuff” we were promised, and just didnt feel it.

      but i 100% agree with you, every movie that used subtitles ever, was better than english japanese, or english chinese, or english germans, or english russians, or pretty much every country where english isnt the first language, and used it in a movie.

      Reply

      • RinceThis2014

        January 8, 2014 at 11:22

        They apparently didn’t want to ‘alienate’ the audience by making them read… Riiiiight…

        Reply

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          January 8, 2014 at 11:24

          Reading *spit* Yes, that explains why I didn’t pay to watch Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon at the cinema twice. The only time I’ve NEVER done that.

          Reply

          • RinceThis2014

            January 8, 2014 at 11:27

            HAHAHA! That was an awesome movie. I watched 5 minutes of it dubbed in English but the water in the toilet from my vomiting stopped me from hearing anything more…

  4. oVg

    January 8, 2014 at 12:54

    47 lines of dialogue. FUCK THIS FILM.
    Another film designed around SHIT 3D. The entire cinema spent 90 minutes in fidget pain. Shuffle shuffle yawn yawn slurp slurp… IT WENT ON FOREVER.

    Walk from door to door on ceremonial display to another door. Spend 5 minutes delivering your lines that would should normally take 20 seconds. Walk back to the other door, take 2 minutes watching walk… BLAGHHHhhhhhhhhh bollocks film

    Reply

    • Andre116

      January 8, 2014 at 13:32

      If you can’t make it good, make it 3D.

      Reply

  5. Kervyn Cloete

    January 8, 2014 at 13:14

    Just realized something: Why does Keanu Reeves have a lightsaber in that first pic?

    “Use the Force, dude!”

    Reply

    • CodeName Tailgunner

      January 16, 2014 at 14:32

      lol

      Reply

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