47 Ronin is the latest movie starring Keanu Reaves. It is a retelling of an ancient folk tale of the Japanese culture. It is set in ancient Japan in time where fantastical monsters, witches, and demons were real. Keanu Reaves plays Kai, a human half-breed (Caucasian and Japanese) servant in the house of a powerful Shogun. Because he is a half-breed, his is of lowly stature. No one respects him, except the Shogun and his daughter, both of whom care for him. The daughter, in particular, falls in love with him. The story begins with Kai and a hunting party tracking a mythical beast. Although Kai’s skills lead the party to the beast, they disregard his warning and advice, and try to take the beast out immediately. The result is nearly a debacle, with the beast tossing Samurai around like toy dolls, until Kai heroically slays the beast to save one of the Samurai. Unfortunately, that Samurai takes the credit for the kill and still treats Kai with scorn. At the time, Kai sees a white fox whom he later learns is a witch bent on doing his lord harm. With her magic, she bewitches the Lord’s champion so that Kai must fight in his place to protect the family honor. Unfortunately, in the midst of combat, his deception is revealed. His opponent is about to execute him, when Mika (the lord’s daughter) rushes to his side. His life is spared, but at the cost of great honor. Then, the witch bewitches the lord causing him to attack a guest. From such dishonor as that, only ritual suicide can offer any cleansing. With the lord dead, the enemy shogun is given permission by the Emperor to marry Mika. The lord’s samurai are banished as ronin (masterless samurai) and Kai is sold into slavery. What follows is the story of the ronin’s revenge with the help of Kai. Strengths: the acting was fine (although I think Keanu was a little forced in places), the action was excellent, and the special effects were good. I liked the sinister Japanese witch and I liked the characters Kai and Mika. Feminists might object that it’s all about the men going to rescue the poor helpless damsel—which is true—but it’s basically an ancient fairy tale: cut them some slack! Weaknesses: I think I expected too much, because it did not fully grip me. The story was straightforward and logical, and maybe a bit too simplistic. Still, it was an enjoyable way to pass the afternoon.
I’ll give 47 Ronin three and a half or maybe four stars out of five.
Remember: I’m still running a contest with a signed hardcover copy of my novel Drasmyr ($25 value) and a Drasmyr bookmark as the prize. You can find the details of the contest: here. I encourage everyone to sign up for my newsletter and post a response.