47 Ronin is a fantastical retelling of history, based on the legend of a group of samurai who avenged their master’s honor. The movie combines the legend of the actual 47 Ronin, a little re-writing and a dash of Japanese mythology. Overall, I found that it was a fun ride and a very pretty movie to watch — the backdrop and costumes for this film was gorgeous.
Yes, 47 Ronin has gotten blasted by critics, but for me, there is something to be said for this movie even existing at all in Hollywood.
Recently in our world, Felicia Day made a compelling blog post in which she also included these statistics.
Most lead characters and lead actors of movies are white. Period. I even dug up a recent study to back that up, like this is some fucking term paper or something: Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8% of speaking characters were Black, 4.2% were Hispanic, 5% were Asian, and 3.6% were from other (or mixed race) ethnicities. Just over three-quarters of all speaking characters are White (76.3%).
Marketing for 47 Ronin pushed Keanu Reeves (who we absolutely adore here on Defective Geeks, by the way) as the leading and starring actor of this movie. It makes sense to front a movie with a recognizable and familiar face, of course, but what pleasantly surprised me about 47 Ronin is that Reeve’s character, Kai, was not the only lead.
The movie stuck to its origin and handed its biggest role to a Japanese actor, Hiroyuki Sanada (Oishi). In fact, most of the speaking roles for this movie were given to Japanese actors which is absolutely rare for a Hollywood produced movie. Although Kai played a big role in the plot, the whole story was moved and carried by the Japanese leads. They didn’t just play background actors or became human props. The movie was purely about them, their motivations and their heroisms.
There is still a strange phenomena in the United States in that most movie audiences still find it uncomfortable to watch actors with thick Asian accents. Unless it’s for a comedic purpose, it seems hard to swallow a dramatic story when performed through these accents. Even though it is not the same case with European or Australian accents. I am not sure what to make of this but I noticed that criticisms on Rotten Tomatoes talk about how the actors could ‘barely speak English.’ This absolutely rubbed me the wrong way because the entire dialogue of the movie was in English and if anything else, all the actors spoke the language really well. I didn’t think it impeded their performances at all.
I felt the samurai’s determination to avenge their master’s death. I felt Ko Shibasaki’s character’s grief. I laughed at the comedic timing of some of the samurai. I was enticed by the ‘Witch, played by the forever-amazing Rinko Kikuchi. I loved evil-witch-Rinko!
I also want to note that I appreciated how the movie used Japanese mytho, like the kitsune, without having to dumb it down for Western audiences.
This movie was beautifully created and my favorite part is the wedding scene with the kabuki performance. It was an absolutely gorgeous choreography and Sanada delivered a tantalizing performance.
47 Ronin is a misunderstood and beautiful film. I could also talk about how it is easy for so-called movie critics to brush off a fantasy genre film. Fantasy gets a bad rep most days. Yes, this movie may not be accurate at all but this isn’t a history lesson — it’s a completely fantasy based story.
Enjoy a great piece of fantasy and action, give this movie a chance. 47 Ronin will be out on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 1, 2014!