Has a television show ever caught your attention because it involves some of the elements of past shows you’ve liked? Then you start watching the show and it feels like you need to go back and watch previous episodes so that you know what’s going on? That… to some degree… was my experience with 47 Ronin. Except… there are no previous episodes to fall back on. There’s just one, sloppy, cartoonish, two-hour excuse to make a 3D action film.
The movie is based on the true story (more on that later) of forty-seven Japanese samurai who are exiled after their master assaults a rival and is forced to commit ritual suicide. After two years, those 47 Ronin (Samurai without masters for everyone who paid attention during The Wolverine) unite to avenge their master. Sounds interesting enough, right? Especially to anyone who enjoys a good samurai film.
But, for some reason, director Carl Erik Rinsch and the producers at Universal Pictures figured this source material was too weak to make a regular samurai film. So they felt the need to ingest it with more CGI creatures, 3D effects, and action movie clichés to put shame to even the drollest of bloated summer movies. Not to mention that they added Keanu Reaves as the lead for some reason.
There are a few positives. Some of the imagery is visually pleasing, albeit that is probably more of a credit to Japanese culture than it is to the filmmakers. Hiroyuki Sanada also seems genuine as the Ronin’s leader. But that’s pretty much it. The rest of the film just leaves you wondering if you’re missing something. As if they were supposed to give you a handout prior to the movie that explains why the most powerful villain in the film (Rinko Kikuchi of Pacific Rim fame) is subservient to some random rival clan leader. And why no one in the movie seems to believe in witchcraft despite the fact that there is blatant use of it repeatedly. It just goes to show; sometimes it works better when you just tone it down. Every action movie doesn’t have to look like a comic book.
FINAL GRADE: D+