Initially, I was skeptical about the concept of actor Keanu Reeves’ presence in the new film 47 Ronin. My concern coming from the initial trailers showing a white man entangled in the world of the samurai, which looked dangerously close to the plot line of The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. I went in with this stigma in mind, but the film surprised me.
47 Ronin is based loosely on a celebrated traditional Japanese tale. There is a historical basis for the storyline, but like all stories from long ago, in any culture, many liberties have been taken to keep the story relevant and accessible to an ever- changing culture. There are many articles in circulation condemning 47 Ronin for its historical inaccuracies in regards to the original tale and its portrayal of ancient Japan on the whole.
These people are being far too hard on a highly interpretive medium. Over the course of the film, I was actually slightly bummed that there was not more use of “Kai’s” hidden demonic abilities. By the end, though, I was praising the film for the sparse use of supernatural elements. Say what you want about the stereotype of associating these types of elements with ancient Japan in film, but at least they did not go the route of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In my opinion, there was a tasteful use of supernatural qualities. There was just enough to keep the attention of our otherwise ADD-stricken society. Hey, they’re trying to sell tickets.
47 Ronin actually mirrors the position of our society. The original tale was about the samurai class as it fought to keep its identity. They were warriors without a war, and a class without a function. As Fight Club eloquently points out, “we are the middle children of history.” We, as a society, feel generally lost. We feel that we have no purpose. This story is about finding your purpose and place in the world, and defending it with every part of your being. The actual story of what happened is quite interesting and highly debated. The movie touches the main points in the plot–the act of disrespect, the feuding houses, the concepts of unflinching respect and honor—but provides its own twist for the sake of entertainment value.
In the film, Lord Asano and his family are setup by Lord Kira. The act of disrespect Lord Asano is accused of perpetrating is punishable only by death. The Lord accepts this so that his family and those who live on his lands will not be punished, and he can meet his end honorably through the act of ritual suicide known as Seppuku. Oishi, Lord Asano’s chief guard, knows that this has been a setup and vows to take down Lord Kira.
There are two parallel storylines that play out during Oishi’s quest to avenge his Lord. Kai, Keanu Reeves, is the outcast of this society. He is seen as lowly as a dog to many of the inhabitants of the community, but he accepts his humble life. The second storyline follows Kai’s love interest in Lord Asano’s daughter Mika. Their love is forbidden, and ultimately, it not allowed to blossom. Oishi, after years of imprisonment, realizes that he will have to rely on Kai’s assistance in order to clear Lord Asano’s name and bring honor back to the land. Kai has a showdown with the demon who raised him, and this is one of the few instances we see his powers in action.
In the end, Oishi and Kai lead the 47 ronin samurai (samurai without a master) to victory against the warriors of Lord Kira. However, they had been ordered not to take revenge upon the date of Lord Asano’s suicide. For breaking this direct order they are all sentenced to death. Oishi asks the honorable Shogun Tsunayoshi for forgiveness, and for his men to be allowed to die with honor. Kai and Mika manage to meet before the large Seppuku ritual. They express their love simply and acknowledge that since they were not allowed to act upon their love in this life—they will search for one another in their next lives until they can truly be together.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would highly recommend it. Don’t listen to all those naysayers out there harping on the historical accuracy of the film. The underlying message comes through just fine, which is the point in the first place. After all, Beowulf is one of the most celebrated tales from our history, but do we really believe that a man defeated dragon-like creatures on land and in the sea? Just go watch this entertaining film with an amazing cast and crew.Google+