47 Ronin (2013 film)
|Directed by||Carl Rinsch|
|Produced by||Pamela Abdy
|Screenplay by||Chris Morgan
|Story by||Chris Morgan
|Music by||Ilan Eshkeri|
|Editing by||Craig Wood|
Mid Atlantic Films
Moving Picture Company
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||118 minutes|
47 Ronin is a 2013 American fantasy action film depicting a fictional account of the forty-seven Ronin, a real-life group of Ronin (masterless samurai) in 18th-century Japan who avenged the death of their lord (stories, plays and other dramatic performances of the 47 Ronin story are commonly referred to as Chūshingura in Japan). Produced by Universal Studios, the film was directed by Carl Rinsch and stars Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. Filming started in Budapest in March 2011; it moved to Shepperton Studios in London and was concluded in Japan.
Although it grossed close to $150 million worldwide on the strength of overseas receipts, the movie failed to break even and Variety reported the film as a costly box office disaster which left Universal Studios deeply in the red for 2013. With an overall loss of around $152 million, it is the biggest box office bomb of all time, a record previously held by the film Mars Needs Moms.
In late medieval Japan, Kai is a half-Japanese, half-British outcast who lives in the domain of Ako, ruled by the benevolent Lord Asano Naganori, who found a young Kai lost in the forest and accepted him into his household. Despite being scorned by the samurai due to his lowborn status and mixed ancestry, Kai falls in love with Asano's daughter, Mika.
Before a visit from Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Lord Asano is visited by the Shogun's master of ceremonies, Lord Kira, who becomes attracted to Mika. He arranges a duel for the entertainment of the Shogun between his best warrior, the Lovecraftian Samurai, and one chosen by Oishi, principal counselor to Lord Asano. Ako's champion, Yasuno is found by Kai to be incapacitated before the duel by the sorceress Mizuki, working for Lord Kira.
Kai secretly dons Yasuno's armor and fights the Lovecraftian Samurai, but his disguise is broken and he is sentenced to punishment. Later that night, Mizuki bewitches Asano into believing Kira is raping Mika, causing Asano to attack an unarmed Kira in delirium. While the offense for attacking a Shogunate official is execution, the Shogun allows Asano to die with honor through seppuku, grants the domain of Ako to Lord Kira, and brands Oishi and his men Ronin. Kira demands Mika's hand in marriage on the spot, but the Shogun grants her one year to mourn the death of her father, and forbids the Ronin of Ako from seeking vengeance. To ensure there is no interference, Kira imprisons Oishi in an outdoor pit to break his spirit.
Nearly a year later Oishi is released by Lord Kira's men. He reunites with his family and asks his son Chikara to aid him in reuniting the Ronin including Kai who has been sold into slavery. Oishi finds Kai in the fighting pits of the Dutch colony of Dejima. In their for swords to arm themselves, Kai leads them to the Tengu Forest, a mystical place he escaped from as a child. Kai instructs Oishi to never draw his sword while in the Tengu temple and continues alone to another room to face the Tengu Master, who once trained Kai in the fighting ways of the Tengu. While Kai fights the Tengu Master in a battle of wills, Oishi watches his men being slaughtered by the Tengu. Oishi follows Kai's advice to never draw his sword and the illusion vanishes when Kai is victorious in his duel, the Ronin are given Tengu swords. Armed with their new weapons, the Ronin plan to attack Kira on his pilgrimage to a shrine as he seeks blessings for his wedding to Mika. The procession is a trap and the group is ambushed by Kira's forces led by Mizuki and the Lovecraftian Samurai. Several of the Ronin are killed, and Mizuki, believing to have slaughtered them all, takes Oishi's sword and presents it to Lord Kira as a trophy. Mizuki later taunts Mika with their death and attempts to manipulate Mika into despair and suicide.
Having survived the attack, Oishi and Kai rally the remaining survivors. With help of a band of traveling performers loyal to the memory of Lord Asano, Kai and Oishi infiltrate Kira and Mika's wedding ceremony, giving Mika an opportunity to flee as the Ronin scale the walls and attack Kira's men. As the Ronin are fight for their lives, the Lovecraftian Samurai is destroyed by a gunpowder explosion, and the battle turns against Kira's men. Kai and Mika attempt to escape together, but are attacked by Mizuki, who takes the form of a dragon. Kai draws on the mystical powers of the Tengu he possesses, and ends her life. Oishi emerges with Kira's severed head, and Kira's men surrender.
- Keanu Reeves as Kai, a former slave who joins the Ronin. Reeves' character is half-Japanese and half-British; the character was created for the film.
- Hiroyuki Sanada as Oishi, the leader of the Rōnin.
- Kou Shibasaki as Mika, Lord Asano's daughter and Kai's love interest.
- Tadanobu Asano as Lord Kira, Lord Asano's rival daimyo and the one responsible for arranging the killing of the Rōnin's master.
- Rinko Kikuchi as Mizuki, an odd-eyed witch who serves Lord Kira
- Min Tanaka as Lord Asano, the former master of the Rōnin.
- Jin Akanishi as Chikara, Oishi's son.
- Masayoshi Haneda as Yasuno
- Hiroshi Sogabe as Hazama
- Neil Fingleton as Lovecraftian Samurai, an enormous samurai who serves Lord Kira.
- Takato Yonemoto as Basho
- Hiroshi Yamada as Hara
- Shu Nakajima as Horibe
- Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shogun Tsunayoshi
- Togo Igawa as Tengu Lord
- Yorick van Wageningen as Kapitan
- Gedde Watanabe as Troupe Leader
- Rick Genest as Foreman
47 Ronin is the directorial debut of Carl Rinsch based on a screenplay by The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift screenwriter Chris Morgan and The Wings of the Dove screenwriter Hossein Amini brought in for rewrites. The film has almost nothing in common with the original historical epic, being set "in a world of witches and giants." The studio Universal Pictures first announced the project in December 2008 with actor Keanu Reeves attached to star. Variety reported, "The film will tell a stylized version of the story, mixing fantasy elements of the sort seen in The Lord of the Rings pics, with gritty battle scenes akin to those in films such as Gladiator." Universal planned to produce the film in 2009 after finding a director, and in November of that year, the studio entered talks with Rinsch to direct the film. For Rinsch, who has filmed "visual and stylish" blurbs for brands, the film was his feature film debut.
In December 2010, the studio announced that the film would be produced and released in 3D. Between March and April 2011, five Japanese actors were cast alongside Reeves: Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Kou Shibasaki, and Jin Akanishi. According to Variety, Universal chose them to make the story more authentic instead of picking actors that would be recognizable in the United States, despite the screenplay bearing no resemblance to the origin story of Chūshingura. Universal provided Rinsch with an initial production budget of $175 million despite his complete lack of feature film experience, which The Hollywood Reporter considered to be a "large-scale, downright risky" move. Filming began on March 14, 2011 in Budapest. Origo Film Group contributed to the movie. Production moved to Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom; additional filming in Japan was also planned. Reeves said that scenes were filmed first in the Japanese language to familiarize the cast, and the scenes are filmed again in the English language. The actors' costumes were designed by Penny Rose, who said, "We decided to base it on the culture and what the shapes should be—i.e., everyone's in a kimono—but we've thrown a kind of fashion twist at it. And we've made it full of color, which is quite unusual for me."
Reshoots were done in London during late August 2012, delayed by the Olympics and the filming of Reeves' directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. In addition, the studio added a love scene, close-ups, and individual lines to boost Reeves' presence, which added significantly to the overall budget of the film.
47 Ronin was originally scheduled to be released on November 21, 2012, then moved to February 8, 2013, citing the need for work on the 3D visual effects. It was later postponed to December 25, 2013, to account for the reshoots and post-production.
The film opened initially in Japan in the first week of December 2013, where it opened to 753 screens nationwide and only grossed an estimated US$1.3 million, opening third behind the debut week of Lupin the 3rd vs. Detective Conan: The Movie and the third week of the Studio Ghibli film Kaguya-hime no Monogatari (The Tale of Princess Kaguya). Variety called the poor Japanese debut "troubling", considering the well known local cast and the fact that the film is loosely based on a famous Japanese tale. The evening tabloid newspaper Nikkan Gendai stated that its dismal performance were "unheard of numbers" generated by Japanese distaste for to a Hollywood rendition of Chushingura bearing no resemblance to the renowned historical epic.
In the United States, the film grossed US$20.6 million in its first five days of release, opening in ninth place at the box office. It also grossed US$2.3 million for a fifth place debut in the United Kingdom.
47 Ronin was both a commercial and critical failure, failing to impress Japanese audiences where studio expectations were high. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 12% rating, with an average score of 4.1/10, based on 66 reviews; the consensus states: "47 Ronin is a surprisingly dull fantasy adventure, one that leaves its talented international cast stranded within one dimensional roles." The film has a score of 29 (out of 100) on Metacritic, based on 21 critics.
Kirsten Acuna of Business Insider believes that the film flopped for three reasons. First, it opened in December when there is over-saturation of films for the Christmas holiday. Second, the film was “too long in the vault” undergoing editing and lost momentum. Third, audiences have not been drawn to Keanu Reeves since the first Matrix film more than 10 years ago.
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- Official website (Japanese)
- 47 Ronin at the Internet Movie Database
- 47 Ronin at Box Office Mojo
- 47 Ronin at Rotten Tomatoes
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- 47 Ronin at AllMovie