Directed By: Carl Rinsch
Written By: Chris Morgan & Hossein Amini
Screen Story By: Chris Morgan & Walter Hamada
Based on: Chushinguara
Cinematography By: John Mathieson
Editor: Stuart Baird
Costumes By: Penny Rose
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Tabanobu Asano, Jin Akanishi, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa Rinko Kikuchi, Natsuki Kunimoto
While hunting in the forest, Lord Asano of Ako and his samurai find a young half-breed and take him with them to live in the castle. Several years later, Lord Asano holds a tournament to welcome the Shogun to Ako. The night after the tournament, Lord Asano is bewitched into hurting Lord Kira of Nagato, and is punished into committing seppuku by the Shogun. Realizing that it was a Lord Kira’s evil plot, the samurais and the half-breed sets out for revenge against the Shogun’s order
The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2008 Blacklist; a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.
The main problem with the film is that. While I understand technology is changing and most of the times video games now look as vivid as movies and vice versa. That is the problem here it feels more like an interactive video game stuck on demo mode as you can’t interact. Yet are thrown right into the action to watch the heroes fight against evil and tyranny. Which is not as exciting as it sounds.
The action would be captivating if half the time the characters were fighting just plain old human being warriors. Instead most of the time they are fighting CGI spirits, Wizards, and monsters. Even when in competition there will be some kind of CGI human/monster hybrid. Like that will excuse the violence and let it be more graphic as they aren’t slaughtering humans.
Based on a true story. The fantasy elements mixed with classic samurai legend. Though with all the special effects this could have been more of a animated film.
The one thing the film has going for it is that while Keanu Reeves is the star the film allows others to be the heroes and the brave ones. He is co-leader of them, but fits more as part of a troop or ensemble. Rather than a one man army who happens to have some sidekicks.
I also give the film credit for having a downbeat ending. That is something you don’t see in a big budget film.
It’s not surprising that this film was a nightmare for the studio and the filmmakers as the film seems to have a blockbuster scope, but has the soul of a smaller more traditional character story. So it is often times at odds with itself. Then when you hear about what went on behind the scenes you aren’t too shocked
When executives at Universal saw an early cut of the film in 2011, they had concerns about the story and ordered script changes. They also slated another week of shooting to make Keanu Reeves’ character more integral in the film’s finale.
The film’s budget ballooned from $175 million to $225 million. Between the costs of production and advertising, it needed to gross $500 million to break even, a figure that it did not even come close to. Only bringing in $150 million
Carl Rinsch clashed with Universal over the final vision of the film. Universal wanted to make an effects-driven fantasy blockbuster akin to Avatar or The Lord of the Rings, while Rinsch envisioned the film as more of a drama such as Gladiator or Kingdom of Heaven. One hell of a studio film directorial debut. He was supposedly rumored to have been kicked out of the editing room during post production. As his vision for the film was reportedly and art house Samurai film.
Well with a budget that big he should have known better.
What I do appreciate about the film is that it has many artistic flourishes that soon become forgotten due to the over abundance of CGI. Which is a shame because in many aspects the film seems devoted to trying to create the time period and seeming like a picture more about the culture. Up until Keanu Reeves comes into the film even though at times he almost seems to fade Into the background. Though he is our introduction and guide throughout the culture and situations.
There is an attempt at creating a grand vision for the epic storytelling that feels deeper and more heartfelt then movies such as 300. The Production and costume design are gorgeous and have the feeling and looks of the period
Here the film like the character feels at odds or battling itself over it’s identity as it plays into both, but never comes around to be either fully. It has a blockbuster appeal with effects and the romance, but it also has a soulful side of respect, identity and values. Which the whole work ends up suffering from. As it never makes a decision so it never has a definitive vision.
The major problem with the film is it isn’t engaging sure it looks nice, but again as you watch you never feel anything personal or they grabs you. It just constantly feels like the film is going through the motions and still would with or without you. If it has anything to say. It’s not saying it strongly at all.
Even visually there is nothing too special or awe inspiring. As it tries to mix classic with futuristic. Think a less noteworthy Far East version of 300. If you want to see a unique version of a similar story I would suggest 13 assassins by Director Takashi Miike. That film is noteworthy engaging and has a running 30 – 40 minute sequence that is nothing but action.
The film has almost nothing in common with the original historical epic, being set “in a world of witches and giants.”
The film was supposed to come out in November 2012, but after primary shooting was complete and just prior to the release, the studio demanded more scenes for Keanu Reeves to capitalize on his star nature, and insert a love story involving Reeves’ character as well as add in more fantasy battle scenes in the style of The Hobbit or Harry Potter.
This film for all it’s attention to detail and action sequences comes off as rather dull. Which is a shame though it’s preview looked horrible. I Will admit to having a soft spot for Keanu Reeves.