Imagine, if you will, a movie about the Alamo that features a Bollywood actor with a steampunk missile launcher killing Mexican cyborg assassins, led by a ninja who’s really an alien. That’s pretty much what 47 Ronin is doing to a Japanese national legend, much to the amusement of the Japanese.
It’s kind of a shame, actually, because this looks pretty good for what it is: A big-budget version of a high-fantasy wuxia movie, only with all the pretentious trappings Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon made mandatory dumped in favor of CGI. OK, so it doesn’t look like a classic, but that said…
It does look pretty cool, in a goofy sort of way. It’s just a very bizarre switch from the actual story: A daimyo was antagonized by a shogunate official into attacking him, essentially ruining the daimyo’s family and forcing all his property into the government’s hands. His retainers were made ronin, essentially humiliated for their boss’ screwup.
So the ronin sat and waited for two solid years, gathering intel, pretending to be losers, failures, and drunks, before storming the official’s house and killing him in revenge. They did this knowing they’d be ordered to commit suicide for the crime, but they valued their honor above all.
Yeah, this movie has taken a few liberties, as you might have guessed. On the other hand, adapting it straight has been done dozens of times on film, so much so that in Japan it’s an entire subgenre, practically, so there’s really no point in a straightforward Western version. Still, we are talking “Amitabh Bachchan at the Alamo with a rocket launcher”-grade silliness here, like we said, and we’ll see if that helps or hinders the movie.