47 Ronin review

By Max Maier | Apr 08, 2014

Before I delve in, this movie is based on apparent actual Ronins years ago. Remember that as I continue.

Keanu Reeves as a Ronin. And that's not the worst part of the movie. This is a tale about revenge in a Japanese land of honor, with Samurais, a magical witch, and giant beasts. Yea, remember that "based on actual Ronins" thing?

The story opens up, explaining to us that Keanu Reeves' character, Kai, was found outside the dark forest where evil Tengu demons dwell. So the clan from the town of Ako, led by Lord Asano, that finds him treat him as a slave because he is a "half breed". Cut to several years later, and we find that Ako will be hosting the apparent "Ruler of Japan" Shogun and a rival clan led by Lord Kira. We soon dicover that Kira has a witch by his side whose power set is never fully explained. Kira wants to take over Ako and grow in power I assume, because Kira doesn't get much development past that. Lord Asano's daughter, Mika, of course, loves Kai. We never find out why, or their past together, they just do.

So, with everyone in Ako, Kira has the Witch poison Asano into striking Kira, so that he looks like a dishonorable host. So the Shogun has Asano executed, because, tradition. And because of this, the Shogun declares that in 1 year, Mika will marry Kira so there is no more fighting amongst clans. He also tells Oishi, the right hand man of Asano that he, and no one from Ako may seek revenge for Asano. Kira then immediately banishes Kai, because, racism, and Kira disbands all samurai from Asano in place of his own men. One year later, it is time for marriage. But Oishi won't stand for it, o he waits till the last minute to gather up the Ronin and find Kai to take them on a mission to kill Kira and avenge Asano before the marriage is sealed.

You know, sometimes a premise has promise. Sometimes, it looks like it is going to be at lest decent. Then it flops in your face and makes you question your judgment. As you can judge from my summary, some things are just put into the story without any background information, or hastily rushed in to make room for slow scenes of these tired stereotypical characters who we are never given the proper means to care for. Kai is just a dude raised in the forest by Tengus, and his character is just your rogue, misunderstood boring as sandpaper butt kicker who just does what he does. There is no personality to him. Same goes for most of the cast.

Oishi was a complete jerk in the beginning who we are just supposed to root for as he goes after Kira. and the other Ronin? One of them is Oishi's son, another is a prick who doesn't want to listen to Oishi, and another is the fat comic relief. That's it, that's your diversity of your 47 Ronin. Heck, it never even really feels like there are 47 of them out there. Kira is just a power hungry cry baby whose motives are never really explained and never really justifies being a decent villain because there is no depth to him. Mika is the love interest, nothing new or interesting. The only one with personality is the Witch, who is annoyingly dark and psychotic for no reason, and we never learn about her. She is just, for whatever reason, working for Kira. And she can do so many different things, just because. She can teleport through her gown, she can pull dark essence from Kira and turn it into a spirit spider that poisons Asano into attacking Kira (oddly specific), and shapeshift. She turns into other people, a white fox and a dragon. Seriously, how?! They just expect us to sit back and be like "Oh, ok, cool." I'm sorry, throw us something here!

And that is a big problem with the story. It leaves out so many things that they should explain to us, and instead put in several filler scenes that do nothing but idle time inbetween the few action scenes. There is one scene with the Witch spying on people in a bar that I think literally achieved nothing. And that cool guy with the skeleton tattoos on the cover? He is in the movie for 3 seconds and is just at the slavery ring Kai is at, disappointment. If the story focused on actually giving us proper back story and depth to these characters before going on this revenge quest, we could've actually been invested. But instead, we just get the boring old same stereotypes that don't carry any heft in the story.

The few action scenes we get are pretty decent actually. The effects are pretty to look at, and I just wish we got more interesting fights, like the dragon fight, or the champion battle near the beginning. These were cool, and I wanted more.

SPOILERS AHEAD for this last problem:

The ending. It is so stupid. I understand that in Japanese culture, around this time, respect and honor is everything.

Now, the Shogun banned Oishi from pursuing vengeance. After Oishi and the Ronin kill Kira and avenge everything, the Shogun says that Oishi showed bravery by avenging their leader and revealing Kira's treachery and killing him. This shows that the Shogun's judgment at the beginning of the film was wrong and that he trusted the wrong people. The jerk Shogun STILL makes Oishi and the Ronin kill themselves for disobeying the order!!! Now, I get it, the Shogun is the top guy, and they did disobey him, so the they must be executed because that's how the Japanese culture demands it, but mother of God that is so stupid!!! The Shogun was wrong in his judgment and Oishi and the Ronin basically saved the day and quelled the evil threatening the land, but The Shogun still has them killed. I'm sorry, even if it is accurate to Japanese culture, it is still friggin stupid and sends a bad message. And if you want to argue realism, there was a witch that turned into a dragon.


47 Ronin is bad. It is a bad movie. The story is poor with an awful ending, the cast members give dry performances and there isn't enough action to keep you from looking at your watch pondering when it's going to end. I can't recommend this to anyone outside of someone wanting to laugh at a bad movie, but even then, I'd recommend saving your money. 


I give 47 Ronin, 1.5 unjustified beheadings out of 5


Seriously, send this movie to The Matrix  

Comments (2)
Posted by: Rachel Robles | Apr 09, 2014 11:49

I have to disagree with you about the ending.


The story of the 47 ronin is a cultural Japanese true story that's been elevated to legendary status. It's on par with the U.S.'s tales of the Alamo — a few good men against overwhelming odds and certain death.


Understanding Japanese society at the time, it doesn't matter that the shogun was wrong. What matters is that the samurai under him disobeyed him and dishonored their names and their families. Honor was everything to a samurai. The only way to restore their honor was with an honorable death by seppuku.


The point of the story is the samarais' loyalty to their maligned lord. They knew that their actions would end in death and they did it anyway to right a terrible wrong. It's an incredible and remarkable story. When I found out about this movie, I knew the average American viewer wouldn't understand the significance of the end. And that's okay. It's not our culture.


As for Keanu Reeves playing such an unnecessary character? He actually wasn't supposed to be the main character. In the original script,  he had all of 15 minutes of screen time and Oishi was the main focus. The studio execs freaked out because they paid all this money to have Keanu Reeves in the movie; so the film was recut and re-edited to give him more screen time. They also freaked out because an action movie with a non-American lead tend not to do as well in American theaters.


And of course they added magic and supernatural elements. They can't just make an excellent, historically accurate movie about a famous Japanese story in America and expect it to make money.


I went in with low expectations and really enjoyed myself. Is it the greatest movie ever? Not by a long shot.

Posted by: Max Maier | Apr 15, 2014 18:42

Thank you for your feedback!
Yes, I do understand the aspect about the shogun and the execution. They stuck to history, and somewhat paid respect to this legend. It just, doesn't make a good ending for a story. Yes, I know it would be a disservice to change their fates, but they added a witch who turned into a dragon, elements of the story were changed. I understand why they did it, I just think it is still a bad ending for this story. Even the legend itself, it is ridiculous that that was their fate. But it is a result of the time.

If you wish to comment, please login.