The legend of the 47 Ronin has been told and retold and numerous books and at least seven movies. This includes a Dark Horse comic book titled 47 Ronin which just wrapped up its five-issue series last month. The unrelated Universal Pictures movie 47 Ronin was originally scheduled for release November 21, 2013, then it got bumped to this February and now to December 25, 2013. Usually that kind of movement signals a potential bomb. The trailer for the film has some surprisingly good elements, however, despite some obvious quirks.
The first questionable element is star Keanu Reeves, who in past performances never seems to play anyone other than the same Keanu Reeves character we’ve seen over and over again. Maybe beyond the goofy teen in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but not far off the characters he played in Parenthood, Point Break, Dracula, Much Ado About Nothing, Speed, The Devil’s Advocate, The Matrix Trilogy, Constantine, The Day the Earth Stood Still. You could almost say he is like John Wayne or Arnold Schwarzenegger in this regard, but he’s not remotely as iconic and has yet to have a standout performance despite heading up some big films.
The trailer shares a lot in common with the preview we showed here at borg.com of The Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, released just last week–both centering around a fish-out-of-water white man in Japan. Was 47 Ronin pushed because the studio didn’t want it to compete with The Wolverine? Reeves has his fan base, but his popularity wouldn’t seem to stack up against the multi-faceted Jackman.
The new film also seems to echo elements of Tom Cruise’s character and story in The Last Samurai. The creators had to have contemplated audiences making this comparison. Again, fish-out-of-water white guy in Japan with ancient cultural themes. It begs the question of whether Hollywood only thinks American audiences can get sucked into Japanese warrior-themes films without an American or Australian (for Jackman) as designated film tour guide. The long-term success with American audiences of Akira Kurosawa films such as Seven Samurai, which needs no Anglo character hook, should at some point lead us to create a big-budget picture without the hook.
Check out the trailer for 47 Ronin:
Putting that all aside, the trailer for 47 Ronin is very well done. The sets and scenery are beautiful and epic. Keanu Reeves may have his best chance at being taken seriously as an actor here than ever before. The fantasy elements look great, despite some Matrix comparisons. Great animal CGI like with The Golden Compass. Big, cinematographic imagery. Will 47 Ronin get it right, or is this just another good publicity trailer?
47 Ronin hits theaters Christmas Day 2013.