“47 Ronin” is based on real events that took place in ancient Japan about a group of rogue samurai who go to great lengths to avenge the dishonouring of their master. This modern version is based on the same theme but with added special effects and a love story to give it another dimension.
A group of samurai warriors seek justice for their master Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) who was duped by a sorceress’s spell. Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the master’s right hand man, finds Kai (Keanu Reeves) and the rest of the group that has been in exile in order to fight against the villan Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano). All this occurs in direct defiance of the Shogun’s (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) orders to not retaliate. It leads to a carefully plotted showdown and those of you who are familiar with the history of “47 Ronin,” already know the ending. But since this is Hollywood movie-land and the story has been modified considerably from the facts of the original story, they could have certainly done something better with the ending.
Having seen the 1941 remake of “47 Ronin,” obviously both versions are very different to say the least. While the older version is definitely more traditional and centered on the samurai fights and code of honor, the modernized version veers off into other places. Taking an important part of Japan’s history and infusing it with a dragon, monsters and other dark creatures doesn’t quite mesh well in the film. If it had been a bit more mystical/spiritual, the film could have been more captivating.
This was a first feature for director Carl Rinsch. Surely it was no easy task for him to bring all the elements together but such a film requires a great deal of sensitivity as it is a Hollywood team taking on a Japanese story with mainly Japanese actors. The idea of a Hollywood/Asian fusion film is a good one in order to get a larger film audience but there is a delicate balance that unfortunately isn’t quite there. The main characters could have been further developed so that the audience could feel some affinity towards them. The film may have also been better off having subtitles, thus allowing the actors to speak in their native Japanese. Apparently there was a separate Japanese version made of the film, so that may fare better than the English version.
The romantic relationship was a good addition to the story as it was not part of the previous version but since it does not have anything to do with the original story, they could have surely come up with a more suitable conclusion to the film, while still maintaining the general idea of the original version.
It is also available in 3D, but there were not so many effects that it made a big difference in the viewing experience. A good idea for a film but the presentation could have been better.