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Tag Archive: The Last Samurai


47 Ronin movie poster

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.

Keanu Reeves 47 Ronin

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:

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Templar cover art

Review by C.J. Bunce

In Jordan Mechner’s new hardcover novel-formatted graphic novel Templar from First Second Publishing, he follows a small band of “everyman” Knights Templar as they attempt to escape the actual erasure of the brotherhood by the current papal regime and minions of the King of France in Paris in the year 1307.  Cinematically rendered–as that term can be used to describe Disney movies such as Aladdin or DreamWorks’ Prince of Egypt, husband and wife artists Alex Puvilland and Leuyen Pham pack in 468 pages of simple yet effective panels that put a historical note on these almost mythic equivalents to the Japanese samurai and the precursors to the space fantasy Jedi Knights.

Mechner pulls themes from a myriad of favorite films to tell the story of Martin and his lost love Isabelle as they briefly reunite during a manhunt for Martin and a ramshackle gathering of fellow Knights who pursue a legendary treasure trove (that ultimately includes the Lost Ark of the Covenant) they believe to be stored in the basement of the villainous Nogaret, which they hope to use to finance a defense against the papacy and the king.  But they are up against a changing age similar to that of The Last Samurai, where the elite guard has served its purpose and now must go.  Martin’s role is like that of William Wallace in Braveheart or Robin in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  The Knights Templar are like the Spartans of Frank Miller’s 300, but without their last stand at Thermopylae.  We get to know the smaller subset more closely, loosely based on an actual group of men who were thought to have escaped being burnt at the stake, these men wander about as a jovial sort despite their lot like the cast of A Knight’s Tale or Robin Hood’s Merry Men.  Isabelle is a well-cast Marion, too, with elements of Blakeney’s wife in The Scarlet Pimpernel. 

Templar interior page

Along the way we meet a kind old Templar Grand Master who, based on a historic figure, is imprisoned and tricked by the King’s men.  His role is that of Thomas Aquinas in A Man for All Seasons–caught in the Catch 22 of the medieval world where you either confess and die a heretic or refuse to confess and die a heretic.

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