Sunday, March 23, 2014

[Movie] 47 Ronin

47 Ronin is a 2013 American fantasy action film. It was kind of a movie that have epic sneak-peek trailers, only turned to be disappointing when you get to watch it. Yup, I'm not even going to sugar-coat this one. The movie is loosely based on the Forty-Seven Ronin tale from Japan. The tale of of the forty-seven ronins was widely accepted as part of the Japan's history in the era of Genroku, although due to the censorship laws imposed at that time, causes the story to be fictionalized and popularized with the playwright (kabuki and bunraku).

Then, the Hollywood got their hand on this one. First of all, Japanese do loves fictionalizing their historical or mystical tales. They have tales rewritten in a steampunk world, magical planets that resemble Earth, and even a complete alternate reality full of 'what if', like the Space Battleship Yamato animation (the battleship Yamato is a real life battleship, except in the cartoon it goes to space fighting aliens).

So yeah, reboot rewritten stories in Japan is quite common. So common its quite mind-boggling, really, that this movie didn't perform as good as I thought it would be. It was dull, almost lack of any emotions. There are loves story included in this movie, and some variations from the original tale. Namely the witches, demons, slave-trafficking pirates, and a weird looking dragon. But hey, its a fantasy action movie, so why the hell not? But does the variations from the original plot makes its a better tale? Click read more to know more, 'cause its about to get personal.

The story started with the explanation of the theme setting. Somewhere in Japan fantasy land, where the bushido code, samurai and feudal lords thrive in the ancient Japan. To those who know something about samurai, is that they are a caste apart from farmers, merchants, and artisans. In the the old feudal Japan, samurai is the ruling class of the Japanese society. All the feudal lords and members of the Shogunate (feudal militaristic dictatorship government of Japan) are samurais, but not all samurai is a lord. The lesser samurais pledged their loyalties and services to the greater samurai that was given land to rule for their services to the Shogunate. The lesser samurai usually works as their master's bodyguard or warrior in their master's private army. All of these samurais (including the Shogunate) then answer to one and only absolute ruler of Japan, the Emperor of Japan.

Well, due to the urmm.. expanding Imperial bloodline, it is not uncommon for some the Imperial offspring (born from the Imperial household) to bears the title of the Shogun (Shogun is a military commander, regent of the Emperor). Why I'm explaining this? Because in this movie, the story tells that Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayashi visited the land of Ako, which is different from the original tale of the forty-seven ronins.

"I don't know what that is, but I'll slept better with it dead"
I'll get to that later. But yes, the movie starts with a new character, a half-breed (half Japanese and half British) child lost in the woods. He was found by the Lord Asano Naganori's hunting party. Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) is the feudal lord in the Ako Domain. He take in the child, named Kai (Keanu Reeves) into his household and raised him as the household's servant. Kai grew up to be Keanu Reeves- wait no, a strong man with very useful set of skills. He is good at hunting, and he also know how to wield swords well. Which is actually forbidden at the time of Feudal Japan for non-samurai to learn, let alone wielding a sword. However, Kai is not just a non-samurai, he doesn't even look like a Japanese at all. That's because he is Keanu Reeves, you crazies. His history and origin is shrouded in mystery and the fact that he lost around the place of the Sea of Trees, home to the mystical demonic Tengu creatures, the people around Kai treated him with suspicion, fearing that he could be a half-breed with a demon.

But Lord Asano liked him, his own daughter liked him even more. Although Lord Asano never explicitly forbid his daughter from loving Kai, he did tried to remind his daughter of her place. Childhood friend, no more than that, my daughter. Signals from Lord Asano.

The story then takes a twist, where the Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) is coming over for a fighting tournament hosted by the Asano household.Why did I said its a twist? You see, in the original tale, it wasn't the Shogun that came by to the Ako domain. Instead, its the Asano's household that came by to Edo's castle (there is suppose to be another feudal lord named Lord Kamei from Tsuwano Domain) to arrange a fitting reception for the Emperor's envoy. And Lord Kira (Tananobu Asano) was a high-ranking Edo's official that suppose to give instructions in the proper etiquette for the whole event.

But, let get back to the movie. One thing lead to another, Lord Asano strikes Lord Kira. Striking a Shogunate official is one thing, but unsheathing a weapon in the Castle of Edo, the residence of the Emperor and the Shogunate? That is pretty much death sentence, you can't escape from that. So yes, Lord Asano have been ordered to commit 'seppuku' and all of his domain is seized by the Lord Kira. It wasn't his fault though, a witch have tricked him.  

This witch
Mizuko (Rinko Kikuchi), an odd-eyed witch who serves Lord Kira, sabotaged the ceremony hosted by the house of Asano, and bewitched Lord Asano to draw a weapon against Lord Kira, causing his already shamed name to be added with a grievous crime, a crime that is only punishable by death. Lord Asano commit seppuku to retain his dignity as a samurai.

But as a feudal lord, Lord Asano household is quite a size. He have samurai retainers in his service, and with him being dead and all, what would happened to the Asano's household? Not to mention he still have a daughter, Mika (Kou Shibasaki). Who would take care of her from being seduced by Keanu Reeves? Don't worry, Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), Lord Asano's principal counselor and also second in command for Lord Asano's band of samurais, is still there. He can take care of everything. He will not let his master to die in vain, vengeance will be swift.

Wait no, turns out the Shogun did not just command Lord Asano to commit seppuku, but also commanded Mika to be married with Lord Kira, so that the 2 family will be joined to be one. Also, Asano's retainers will be stripped of their status as samurai and branded as ronin, a master-less samurai. Is that all? Well, of course not. Just to be in the safe side, the Shogun also forbid Oishi and his men, from seeking vengeance for their master's death. So, that pretty much puts the nail to the coffin.

Cause the Shogun said so.
And so, the journey began. Wait, what happened to Keanu- I mean, Kai? Because Kai is not a samurai and but a lowly house servant, so it only right that he got sold to a pirate den as slaves. Oishi, after getting detained and roughen up by Lord Kira's men, tries to gather his men secretly to exact revenge. Even though the Shogun have explicitly forbid it, but Oishi is.. well, fuck it, he is a ronin, why should he care anyway. He is out of a job and pretty much live a life of vagrancy of some sort. He divorce his loyal wife to ensure no harm befall her. And while he's at it, might as well recruit Keanu- wait, Kai the demon half-breed.

But this guy won't let him
The full-bodied skeleton tattoo guy here is included in this movie's poster, but he had like only one line in a one short, short scene. All he did was said, "What is your business here, stranger?" to Oishi. One thing lead to another, Oishi got Kai out of that weird place, and gather with the rest of the Avenger team. But they had one more problem. Weapons and armor. With their status as ronin, no one would trade with them because obviously they are now officially a bunch penniless master-less samurai.

Kai suggest that they go and get some from the Tengu, mythical creatures from the Sea of Trees. Oishi at first hesitate because first, its called mythical creature for a reason. And second, he is not sure whether asking help from the Tengu, if they ever existed, is conducive to their health being. But Kai convinces him, its all right. He know how to deal with them. Says the guy who ran away from the Tengu in the first place..

Why u no listen to me?
After some nerve wrecking test of will or some kind, finally they got the weapons they need, and prepare to move against Lord Kira. Steel from the Tengu was fine indeed, but the ronins completely forgot that the bat-shit insane odd-eyed witch is still there protecting Lord Kira. The witch managed to sniff out their plan, because one of the ronin spilled the bean at a brothel. So they got themselves ambushed while trying to ambush Lord Kira, causing many of them to die.

Barely escaped from that terrible, terrible planning, the ronin's Avenger team have reduced number of 47 men. Not giving up, oh hell no, after what they have gone through just to shiv Lord Kira, no way they are backing out right now. Not to mentioned they got the sword from the Tengu, those things ain't cheap. So they regroup, and this time they will ambush Lord Kira nice and proper. They disguised themselves as entertainers and join the troupe that suppose to perform during Lord Kira and Mika's wedding reception.

They almost succeeded, but one of the guard managed to shoot an arrow that almost become a game changer. The whole castle was alerted to their presence, but at that time most of the watchmen have been successfully dispatched, except for that one arrow shooting guard, so chaos and confusion ensues. Lord Kira ran away with Mika, chased by both Oishi and Kai. Mika retaliate against Lord Kira, and successfully go to Kai's side, while Lord Kira continue to run away because Oishi is hell-bent on cutting of his head. The witch attacked Kai and Mika, but got killed because she got stabbed in the head after turning into a dragon. Which is ironic because becoming a dragon is what make her head bigger and easier target.

Stabbed in the head!!
Finally, Oishi caught up with Lord Kira. And he totally cut off Kira's head. But not before he disemboweled Kira in some sort of a 'forced' seppuku to make Kira understand how his lord felt when he commit the seppuku. Wow, this guy is really pissed off about the death of his lord. Never again anyone ever question why he didn't avenged his lord earlier. Because he totally avenged his lord's death, thoroughly as hell. And just for the novelty of it, he took Kira's head, flaunt it to Kira's retainers (probably giving the middle finger as well, cause they now ronins just like him). They all went to the temple where their former master rested, and pay their one last respect, because the Shogun is going to bite their asses.

The Shogun was furious because the ronin didn't obey his command, killed a feudal lord, and cause quite a stir in the affected domains. But the ronin have followed thoroughly of their Bushido code. The Shogun allows them to commit seppuku, so that they may die a samurai's death. Better than being beheaded like a common criminal. So they say. Oh yeah, Kai got punished along with the other samurai too, he was recognized as a Bushido, hence shall commit seppuku. Probably the happiest guy during the whole seppuku event. Because the night before, he and Mika totally shag with each other.

"I love you guys 'cause you guys are so samurai in so many awesome ways..
But no. The punishment is still death. At least seppuku is the samurai way, yes?"

The movie is so dull I might have exaggerate the scenes a lil'bit


  1. Why did the Shogun forbid Oishi and his men from seeking vengeance for their master's death?

    1. Politic, possibly nepotism and favoritism mixed in, you know how it is.


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