I expected to be disappointed.
I always find Sanada Hiroyuki in bad films about Japan made by Hollywood, and it’s a little sad because he’s such a capable actor with great intensity in his roles. But I guess either him or Watanabe Ken will always be in demand for Japanese-themed English films, and who would turn down a paycheck?
As for the actual film, meh. It started off bad already, with all that bullshit romanticisation of Japan about demons and spirits when everyone knows that’s fantasy. Then we get Kai, the character invented for Keanu Reeves to play, with blood from an English father and Japanese mother. And as much as I like Keanu, his best film is still The Matrix. His deadpan style, emotionless face and just a feel of general apathy doesn’t really convey a sense of hidden passion or anything. It’s just…so dead. I mean, he can only do so many roles, and this is definitely not one of them.
That really just set the stage for a movie that made me wince at all the factual errors they made about the Tokugawa period, which I must admit I only learnt about this semester. But I did learn it, and there are so many historical inconsistencies just to make the plot work that I could only shake my head in disbelief.
The shogun does not visit the daimyō. The daimyō are instead forced to visit him, and have to spend exorbitant amounts of money to do so; which was a way that the Tokugawa shogun actually controlled all those feudal lords. And why the shogun would even know of the names of Asano’s men is suspect; calling out Oishi’s son by name is just ridiculous.
Also, I expected the fox demon to, well, be a fox demon. But she turned out to be some flying fish thingy at the end. And the entire plot hinged on her actions, which is a pretty poor plot if you ask me. And frankly, the actress playing Mika looks a better fit for the demon than the actual actress who played her; I expected sharper features to better mimic the narrow snout of a fox. But then again, she’s not actually a fox demon per se…
Also, while I think the makeup for the tengu is pretty good, seriously, all that stuff about them giving the swords and having raised Keanu and stuff? It feels so annoying. It, along with basically everything about the plot, detracts from the actual story of the 47 Ronin, who deserve better than having Keanu being forced to take the limelight from them.
Also, that forbidden love thing with Mika is so cliché. And again, it’s all for the benefit of making Keanu the protagonist, and as a plot device to get things going.
So, ratings? One, maybe two stars. It’s a pretty dreary affair, with little entertainment value, too much CGI, not enough plot (and crappy plot otherwise), factual errors that drive me nuts, not enough character, and the only thing worth watching for is Sanada Hiroyuki and his performance as Oishi, which was pretty darn good in my opinion. And the actress playing Mika is pretty, I guess. God, that’s what I’m resorting to. Shallow thoughts to make the film seem worthwhile.
I never knew she was in Battle Royale though. That was an epic film, if any. But it’s been years since I’ve watched it, and I could never recognise actors/actresses I’ve only seen in a single film. Well, make that two now.