Thursday, May 15, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs: 47 Ronin

2013, Carl Rinsch -- download

Honestly, I knew from the trailers that this was going to be a movie I would enjoy. It looked like it was taking a traditionally sombre historical samurai drama and adding fantasy elements to it, much like Chinese wuxia is wont to do. I have nothing against sombre samurais but I am all for that that. Adding any D&D to my swords & samurai fiction is a bonus for me. But the general banter on the Internet, especially from those who loved the original material, felt this movie was to be nothing but doggerel. And let's not forget the expanded role of white man Keanu Reeves, the almost lone white man in the movie.

The original tale is straight forward enough. A daimyo, lord of a domain in feudal Japan, is manipulated into assaulting a representative from the Shogunate during a state affair, by the representative himself. Basically the guy was such an ass, the daimyo attacks him. This is a horrible offence and as punishment, he has to commit ritual suicide, his lands confiscated and all his loyal samurai become lordless -- ronin. They take revenge against the ass, condemning themselves as well but honouring their lord.

The historical tale is time honoured but like much of history, tragic but dry. The movie adds elements of Japanese fantasy, including giant beasts (kirin?) and mystical monks (tengu) and witches. Keanu is along as a half-breed who is a key figure in the manipulations against the shogunate. His punishment is to be sold to  the Dutch colony on the coast, a place of slavers and pirates. But he is asked back by Oishi,  the leader of the now ronin to help avenge their dishonoured Lord Asano. It may be vast and sweeping and full of colour & beauty, but I can understand why the did not resonate with American audiences -- it was still very Japanese in sensibilities but I imagine their audiences were of the opposite opinion. Still, I rather like it and it will probably join my shelf of Sword & _____ films.