Thursday, January 2, 2014

47 Ronin (Movie 2014 version)

So 2014 has started off pretty good for me. I finished a good book, knocked out a couple of miniatures, and even took my mom to see 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves among others.

It was not what I thought it was. This may be because the advertising did the movie wrong. For example, if you look at the poster I've got up here, we've got some freaky looking dude with awesome tattoos. Yeah, he's in the movie for like five minutes at most. The ads that I saw for the movie, were heavy on the supernatural action. There is that, but it is well spaced, almost secondary to the whole gist of the movie, which is the based on the tale of the 47 Ronin. Which by the way is an amazon kindle book for like $2.99 in a few varieties.

For me, the movie has more than enough to make it enjoyable. The costumes are fantastic, the landscape is lush and inspiring, the soundtrack is great, the visuals are stunning. The fight scenes are well done with numerous pieces of action that could fit into several genres. The story or at least the themes and elements that make the story so well loved, are close enough to the original that Keanu's role for me at least, wasn't a major distraction.

I'll be discussing specific spoilers below so if you'd rather have none, read no further.

1. The Outcast. Keanu Reeves is the outcast character Kai, a 'half' breed who was left to die and taken in by Tengu and escaped them and served the Lord Asano.  Now that in and of itself may make some people groan that 'Kai' has too much spotlight but interestingly enough, the key things that COULD have made Keanu too overbearing, at least for me, are absent. For example, he is a loner, but that's because he is a social piranha. He has a specialized set of skills and knowledge, but for much of the film, those things are useless. He's a great fighter, but he gets stomped on by the champion of the enemy, who appears to be a giant suit of animated armor as we never see the actual person under it.

But outcasts are fun. Games are filled with them. It's been a while since I've played Legend of the Five Rings, but that was one of the few games I remember, at the time at least, that being a Ronin sucked. There wer mechanics built into the game that made it hard to keep up with the clan samurai if you weren't one of them.

And Kai is outcast in that way too. He is not samurai. HIs social status is low and while a retainer for the lord, and having the love of the lord's daughter, and even some friendship among the samurai, he is treated poorly by most of them and yet knows his social standing and what role his future will take if he stays there.

2. Good planning is rewarded. One of the things that surprised me a bit was that the plan of the Samurai, for the most part, goes fantastic until it comes time for the very end game itself at which point something goes wrong, but it goes right for so long I was like, "Man, are they going to just pull the whole thing off without a hitch?" The planning works well and if your players have great plans and ideas, those should be rewarded.

3. Mini-Quests: When the 47 Ronin lose their master, they disband save for Kai who for some reason, instead of being killed, is just sold into slavery. One of the first things the Ronin do when getting back together, is seek Kai for his help in dealing with the witch of the enemy. Kai is a slave on a dutch island filled with all sorts of crazy characters and is fighting for his life in a gladiator arena when first spotted against what might as well be an ogre. The escape from slavery is short but well acted with lots of swordplay and a dash of fire to give the pursuers something else to think about. But men with no masters have no right to say, bear arms, especially katanas, the soul of a samurai.

Kai however, raised by Tengu, has the solution in something he calls, if I'm not remembering wrong, the Forest of Swords where the Tengu will give the samurai a gift of katanas if they can pass a test. It's a quick jaunt and showcases some very interesting visuals on the Tengu here who do not appear to be the traditional versions I've seen, and it has something for both the 'mundanes' and for Keanu himself to do.

Heck, part of the problem some may have had is there is too much in the time frame and that there needed to be more bits and elements given here. If this had done well, perhaps we'd have seen a movie showcasing what Kai was doing in the dutch island as a slave, perhaps we'd get to see some more of the giant warrior or the pirate with all the tattoos. A lot of potential in all those great sets and costumes.

4. Rivals: Spider Man, Bat Man, and other super heroes, have their very own rogue's gallery. Many super heroes do. Many characters in Manga, like Goku do. They have that one enemy that keeps coming back and who keeps increasing their own power in order to either beat the other character or simply to be the best at what they do. I thought for sure that after Kai was curb stompped by the big armored samurai that there would be a rematch but nope, that sucker gets blown up by explosives. It's a great scene and reminds me at least, that not everything has to come to one on one combat.

47 Ronin may not fit everyone's bill. It veers a bit from the historical version. It's heavily advertised with fantasy elements but doesn't have a LOT of them in there but at the end, I enjoyed it.