Sometimes fascinating historical nuggets don't translate into feature-length features very well and the new film Emperor (opening today) is the latest example of such.
Following the dropping of the atomic bomb and the Japanese surrender that marked the end of WWII, an American General, Bonner Fellers (portrayed by Matthew Fox), is asked to determine if the Japanese Emperor Hirohito (Takataro Kataoka) was in fact guilty of war crimes for being involved in the decision to attack Pearl Harbor. Overseeing the investigation - or more accurately, standing idle while awaiting investigation results from General Fellers - is the legendary General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones). The American public - and the world - are looking for some culprits to pin Pearl Harbor on, so finding the Emperor of Japan guilty seemed more like a legal formality than a serious inquisition.
The final results of General Fellers investigation are interesting - in that this is a little-known part of WWII - and history buffs my be thoroughly engaged. But as a film the story is paper thin and director Peter Webber does very little to spice things up or to make this a visually interesting journey.
Because there seems to be little material to work with, we get a back story told in "Lost" flash-back style, where we learn that General Fellers has had a relationship with a Japanese lady (Eriko Hatsune), therefore he may be bringing in some personal biases to the case. This story goes nowhere, and slowly, adding little depth and working only as filler to Fellers' investigation.
The movie is a slow, grinding bore to sit through, made occasionally interesting whenever Tommy Lee Jones appears on screen (and he is not on screen nearly enough, as this is Matthew Fox's film). His arrogant, distracted General MacArthur fits perfectly into Jones' canon of crotchety, glib hard-asses that he's built his career around.
But Jones is not enough to save this empty film. It would be better time spent to Google General Bonner Fellers than to watch Emperor.
Genre: Drama, War, History
Run Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Matthew Fox, Kaori Momoi, Eriko Hatsune
Directed by Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring, Hannibal Rising)
Opens locally on Friday, March 8, 2013 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time