Blu-Ray Review: 47 Ronin

By Jamie Ruby

47 Ronin47 Ronin is based on a legend from 18th century Japan that tells the tale of a group of 47 samurai warriors who become what's called ronin when their master is killed, as they attempt to reclaim the honor of their master.

The movie, directed by Carl Rinsch, starts by introducing the samurai warriors and their master Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) of Ako. While hunting in the forest Lord Asano finds a boy about his daughter's age, Kai (Keanu Reeves), but he is a half-breed (half demon). Lord Asano saves him against the samurai's wishes and takes him with them.

47 RoninNo one ever accepts Kai because of what he is, except for Lord Asano's daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki). She befriends Kai and eventually they fall in love.

During a tournament to welcome the Shogun (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) to Ako, one of the guests, another samauri leader, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) of Nagato, is after Ako, so the witch (Rinko Kikuchi) working for him bewitches Lord Asano to attack him during the night as part of his own evil plot to take over Asano's kingdom.

Shogun Tsunayoshi finds out and Lord Asano's punishment is death. The Shogun gives Ako to Lord Kira and then tells the ronin that they are not to seek vengeance for their leader. 

Lord Kira locks up the former head samurai Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) and banishes the group of ronin and tells them if they ever return they will be killed. He plans to wed Lord Asano's daughter, and to be cruel he sells Kai into slavery.

The film revolves around the ronin's fight to seek vengence for Lord Asano and how Kai helps them with that quest to regain their honor, and of course to also save the girl.

Overall it was an enjoyable and even compelling film, though it could have been better. I felt that the movie dragged a bit, as what to me was the main part of the drama, the ronins' quest to avenge their master, didn't begin until the film was over half over. Some of the character development I did enjoy, I just felt that too much time was spent fleshing out the events leading to the main event to the detriment of the film.

Though I did enjoy Reeves in the film, his character and storyline weren't integrated as well as they probably should have been. And while Reeves fit the role well and was enjoyable as the hero, the person who stood out the most was Sanada. I believed his dedication to Asano and his will to fight until they had avenged him.

One thing I'm not sure how I feel about is the ending; it was two-fold for me really. On one hand it was beautifully tragic, yet on the other hand I felt left unsatisfied. I understand that as a film based on something the events should unfold as they did to stay true to the original story, yet I still felt like maybe it could have been wrapped up in a different way or at least part of it could have played out a bit differently up until the very end to give the audience some more satisfaction. The ending was beautiful yet still fairly predictable and didn't play off as powerfully as I think the director had intended.

I will say that the visuals were spectacular. The landscapes and sets were beautiful and there was a lot of attention paid to detail. The costumes in the film worked well and were befitting of the style and culture.

The special effects were of course blockbuster-worthy, especially the Kirin chase and the battle with the Nure-onna.

Overall, however, I really did enjoy the film and recommend it. Unfortunately I only was given the 2-D version to review, however; it looks like it was probably even more spectacular in 3-D.

Bonus Features:

Deleted Scenes
Mika Regrets Her Love for Kai
Mika Attempts to Poison Lord Kira
Oishi Attemps to Buy Kai from the Dutch Captain
Isogai is Entranced by the Witch

All of these deleted scenes would have fit nicely back in the story, so I assume they were removed for time. I particularly liked the scene featuring Oishi.

Re-Forging the Legend
The feature is about bringing the story and world to life with both the huge practical sets and the CGI extensions, as well costumes and such. It also talks about how the armour was reproduced in plastic which was surprising and interesting. It also talks a bit about the seppuku scene.

47 RoninKeanu and Kai
This feature is about Kai and what Keanu Reeves brought to the character. Those involved with the film also talk about how he is very collaborative and wants to be involved in all aspects of production. There is also a bit about Kai's relationship with Mika.

Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin
This feature is what you would expect: fight training. The stunt coordinator and actors talk about their sword training and different styles and approaches.

Myths, Magic & Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin
This feature is a behind the scenes look at the making of the film using stunts and special effects. Scenes explored include the Kirin hunt and how the creature was made, creating the CGI movements for the Oni ogre, the design of the Tengu bird like men, and the CGI effects for the kitsune witch, as well as for Kai's battle with her as the Nure-onna.

Besides these features there are also preview trailers playable from the menu including Oblivion, Battleship, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Battlestar Galactica, and The Bourne Legacy.

The discs comes in the usual blu-ray clamshell case with cardboard slip cover. The case contains of course the blu-ray and DVD discs as well as a code for a digital HD version that works with iTunes or UltraViolet

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