When mythology is brought to life on the big screen, liberties are usually taken to make the story tighter and more accessible. By condensing the material, it pushes the film closer to a reasonable two-hour length. However, this process can lead to major plot holes and an omission of key backstory or setting. When it works, you get films like “Gladiator” or “Ben-Hur.” When it fails, films like “Immortals” arrive void of any majesty.
The legend of the “47 Ronin” has been told before, but never by Hollywood. In this most recent adaptation, Keanu Reeves stars as a man, living in a culture not his own. Adopted as a boy, Kai (Reeves) becomes a servant of sorts for his unofficial family. Though the entire village deems him second-class, calling him half-breed, he finds acceptance in his keeper and the man’s daughter. When the rule of their community becomes drastically changed by witchcraft, Kai and the samurai sworn to protect their master are banished. When they learn of such treachery, the banished samurai band with Kai to avenge their master’s death.
This film had a lot of potential. Japanese mythology is filled with cinematic tales of honor and vengeance. However, “47 Ronin” seems content to ignore all signs of trying. Everything about the film falls flat, especially the 3D. How a film, filled in 3D, could be executed in such a terrible and useless job is beyond comprehension. It seems to intentional that the extra depth is removed from many shots rather than preserved. This could have been a 3D masterpiece like “Hugo,” but doesn’t bother to take advantage of the gimmick.
The acting isn’t any better. Reeves is known for playing seemingly one-dimensional characters, but everyone on the screen seems to let his acting become the standard. This isn’t to say Reeves is terrible; his persona is well suited for the picture. But everyone feels insincere and bland. Granted, the script does a great job of boring the audience. Despite action scenes that pop out of nowhere, minutes later they are forgotten. Had the film expanded on the fantasy elements and fill in the holes in the story, “47 Ronin” might have been an enjoyable two hours. Instead, the film wastes the talent and time of all those involved. This is the antithesis of a Kurosawa film. .5 out of 5 stars
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