If you’re a history buff, then “Emperor” could engage you. But then again, how many times did you fall asleep in history class?
Even though it’s just 98 minutes in length, this account of how the United States and Japan interacted with each other immediately following the events of dropping the Atom bomb at the close of World War II, is plodding along. In fact, the only stay-awake aid is when Tommy Lee Jones is on the screen; for you constantly rack the brain wondering if his eyes are growing testicles (Wrinkle-mania).
Taking place in Japan, General MacArthur (Jones) is appointed the transitional leader of what’s left of the bomb-ridden country, and is tasked with a game-changing decision: Should the Emperor be tried, and most likely executed, as a war criminal. MacArthur pretty much has made up his mind on the matter (kill him) but is willing to do the necessary due diligence in finding out whether the god-like worshiped leader did give the orders to attack Pearl Harbor. Assigned to gather evidence in this bureaucratic web is General Fellers (Mathew Fox). He must tip-toe around Japanese cultural and politics in order to meet key people in the Emperor’s cabinet. Problem is he also has a personal agenda that he attends to while conducting this delicate investigation.
The personal matter is what drags this flick to near annoyance. Prior to the war, Fellers fell in love with a Japanese exchange student (Eriko Hatsune) while studying at an American university. When she had to return home, and with the war revving up, he kept tabs on her in order to keep her away from possible bombing locations. And while that could add a nice layer to the intrinsic key plot, it just isn't developed enough for one to care what happens. The filmmakers should have just bagged this whole subplot, for it bogs down the already borderline zombie paced tale.
Delivery-wise, this is paced similar to the all-talk/no action “Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy.” Another cinematic comparison way to put it is “Rising Sun”, sans the charisma. And while the acting is spot-on, you begin to think a straight-up documentary on the History Channel may have been a more riveting way to go. Trying to transform this material into a compelling drama just didn't have the ammo powder to initiate an entertaining spark.
Overall, “Emperor” is a dry and cardboard telling that doesn't have much to offer besides a few interesting facts and some decent acting. You’re probably best served to just go read a Wikipedia page.
Emperor is rated PG-13 and opens in the Tampa Bay market on March 8th.