Keanu Reeves stars in the action-adventure epic, 47 Ronin. After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and reclaim their honor. This band of ronin must seek help from Kai (Reeves)—an enslaved half-breed they once rejected—in their ultimate fight for redemption in a savage world of mythic and wondrous terrors. Kai becomes their most deadly weapon and the heroic inspiration for these outnumbered warriors to confront their enemy and seize eternity.
47 Ronin, the film, is fantastical remaining of he famous Japanese legend of the “Revenge of the 47 Ronin,” where 47 masterless (Samurai without masters are called Ronin) team up to avenge the death of their master. In this Lord of the Ring’s scale of a film Kai is a “half breed” taken in by a sympathetic Lord Ako (Min Tanaka) and raised in the easy of samurai. Kai is looked down by some of the other clansmen, because he’s obviously not one of them. Some years later, Kai (Keanu Reeves), now a man, tried to do good by his clan who took him in instead of leaving him to do die out in the forest. During a tournament with the visiting Shogun (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), Lord Asano is corrupted by a witch (Rinko Kikuchi) and almost kills Lord Asano’s rival Lord Kira of Nagato (Tadanobu Asano). This is the catalyst that sets off the coming chain of events, because once the master and clan are disgraced death awaits.
Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) who was Lord Asano’s right hand man and confidant takes up he mantle as the “mentor-leader” of the now formed 47 Ronin, but first things first. He’s has to track down Kai, because the Kai he knew is no more. The legend basics of 47 Ronin are pretty simple mechanics. These masterless samurai have to get revenge on the person who betrayed their master. Kai is the interloper character, because he’s obviously different and has a secret. He’s also in love with Lord Asano’s daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki). Yeah, it’s complicated in that respect, I guess.
I would say that underneath it all 47 Ronin is not a bad film at all. It’s got plenty of action, gorgeous costumes, cinematography, etc. Yes, the story is somewhat thin, but who know if that could have been beefed up with the untold footage that was supposedly shot. This film, after all, is 2-years in the making. The scale is enormous and it really does play as a Lord of the Rings meets 12 Assassins. In 47 Ronin mystical beasts and sorcery inhabit the world. You have giant ogre’s engaging in pit fighting arenas for gambling pirates along with shape shifting witches, owl men with super powers, and giant samurais in metal armor laying waste to everything in their path. You had me at the trailer.
Keanu Reeves fares well in the limited screen time he’s allotted as the conflicted Kai. He knows he can never have a peaceful life with Mika and that he will always be an outsider looking in. Now the person who truly stands out in 47 Ronin is Hiroyuki Sanada as Oishi. He just exudes this badassery that makes me want to fight alongside him. He’s very cool and charismatic but weighed down by a heavy heart due to the betrayal of his master. He’s on a quest to avenge him by any means necessary. Rinku Kikuchi as the witch is just downright delicious and revels in her evilness. Lord Kira, who comes in and takes over the kingdom, is slime and deserves what’s coming to him.
There’s obviously more to the 47 Ronin mythos than meets the eye but what I mean by “more” is that the film was delayed for a long time before it hit theaters. First time feature director Carl Rinsch was given an insane amount of money to craft this tale. Then there were countless reshoots, Keanu’s role was actually increased (even though he’s not the main focus on the finished product), because in the original cut (from what I’ve read) Oishi was the main star, but that’s not very marketable in the U.S. Also, the one omission that bugs me is the deletion of the tattooed pirate. He has one line in the film and is never seen again while being prominently featured in the trailer with two guns, jumping around, and in all the posters and whatnot. It’s wishful thinking on my part but I hope that there’s a director’s cut in the future with more footage restored, because it would add more to the film overall. In fact, as much fun that I had with it, I think more is better. 47 Ronin is a special case.
I would recommend 47 Ronin, because even as a “time waster” it’s better than a lot of feature films that are out there right now. Ignore the haters and give it a spin. You may be surprised.
Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Clarity/Detail: I saw 47 Ronin in theaters in 3-D and thought it looked good. I’m not a fan of post conversion 3-D, so I figured that this 2-D Blu-ray presentation would be of the highest caliber. Indeed it is, with exception to the color palette, which I talk about down below. I will say that contrast levels remain steady and never look boosted. Sharpness levels are also on par. It is a damn good-looking Blu-ray.
Depth: Yes, there was pop, but I do believe there would have been better pop had the colors been boosted a bit during the transfer – more on that in the Color Reproduction section.
Black Levels: Black levels are deep and without crush.
Color Reproduction: This one is a bit mind boggling in that for being such a “colorful” and lush production in terms of costumes, sets, and whatnot, the colors seem awfully muted. Where Tarsem (The Fall, Immortals, The Cell) spins the color wheel off of the rim, the final color separation in 47 Ronin is nowhere near as dynamic as it should be. Color banding is not a problem either.
Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look natural and without flush or anomalies. Unless someone is sickly, poisoned, dying, etc., you will not see anything out of the ordinary here.
Noise/Artifacts: Nothing to see here, as this video presentation is absent of dirt, debris, and any and all artifacts.
Audio Formats: English DTS HD-MA 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1, DTS French 5.1, and DVS (Descriptive Video Service).
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Dynamics: Yeah, check the gate, because 47 Ronin on Blu-ray sounds phenomenal! It’s got a plethora range, during the more reflective and subtle scenes, to the outright action packed ones. Explosions, wild beasts and monsters all sound like they’re right there waiting to eat and pounce on you, and not necessarily in that order.
Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer channel does its duty and lays in some very low-end rumble to the bass proceedings.
Surround Sound Presentation: The rear channels are extremely aggressive without intruding into the main stage out front. Check out the scenes during the beast stampede in the beginning and you too will feel as if you’re being launched through the field. The pit fight with the large mutant is also stellar, as you will need to duck your head to avoid getting with the chain-mace.
Dialogue Reproduction: 47 Ronin, being an English speaking adaptation with a 99% Japanese cast speaking in English could have been problematic for those who haven’t mastered the language but in no way was able to not understand what was being said. Dialogue levels were always clear and crisp including the many scenes of hush and exotic whispering.
Even more than the movie itself, I was so looking forward to what I initially thought would be a heap of features just piled on over one another but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Deleted scenes and a few, far too small, featurette segments populate the Blu-ray. Color me disappointed.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 7:42) – These deleted scenes could have been restored just to add a bit more depth to the overall finished film, in my opinion. There are still scenes that were used in the trailer and marketing materials that didn’t even make it to the deleted scenes section – that’s kind of aggravating. Oh well.
Re-forging A Legend (HD, 6:44) – Talking head fluff with the cast and crew and what it took to bring 47 Ronin to the big screen.
Keanu & Kai (HD, 4:00) – Keanu Reeves talks about embodying Kai and what a conflicted character he is terms of identity and over the love of a woman.
Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin (HD, 5:54) – This is a very neat featurette that covers the fight choreography. My favorite segment is the one with the big guy who portrayed the giant armored Samurai. The guy is literally that big in real life. He stands 7’7. And I thought I was getting short!
Myths, Magic, & Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin (HD, 7:35) – This featurette combines all of the elements present in 47 Ronin and sort of expands on them in terms of how they went about filming them. The stunt work and visual effects all came together as one cohesive unit. It was cool too see that the same actor who played the Samurai also mo-capped for the mutant pit-fighter with the chain-mace. That was a bit of legitness, right there.
Yeah, 47 Ronin is nowhere near as bad as you have probably heard. The fact that it’s been delayed for a long time does not mean it’s not a fun an entertaining film. I feel that folks just got caught up in the drama that went on behind the scenes as opposed to just taking the film at face value. It’s Samurai meets Lord of the Rings and it’s valid just for that. The Blu-ray has above average video, reference sound, and below average extras but the overall score of the final product is still very much recommended. See it and have yourself a good time.
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