47 Ronin (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus watches Jedi Master Ted Gon Jinn Logan battle the supernatural....
When a witch infiltrates a kingdom and though underhand manipulation causes the death of a samurai master, a group of abandoned ronin recruit British-Japanese outcast Kai (Keanu Reeves) to help plan their revenge. Vastly outnumbered, Kai and the other ronin engage in a bloody battle with supernatural forces in an attempt to free their kingdom and regain their people’s honour.
47 Ronin is another brave move from Keanu Reeves, who's past brave moves either delivered lacklustre results such as Johnny Mnemonic or mega hits such as the game changer that was The Matrix, so hats off to him for taking yet another chance on an off beat project, bucking the trend of same old-same old that fills up our big screens.
Now despite appreciating a change of pace, from the get go Ronin 47 looked like it was going to be a bit boring, well to me it did anyway. Despite its flashy super natural elements and swooshing swords this one failed to excite me with trailers. Well other than making me consider Keanu taking on the role of a Jedi Knight in the new Star Wars films, which I still stand by as a good option for a future Star Wars episode, somehow I think Keanu's sometimes odd dialogue delivery would fit Star Wars dialogue like a glove. Anyway, I didn’t rush to see 47 Ronin because I was so underwhelmed with the advertising campaign but now it arrives on DVD and I have a review copy, so time to wade in.
Take Star Wars add a cup full of Lord of the Rings, drop in a dash of Princess Mononoke and a sliver of Pirates of the Caribbean. Be sure to take out any and all humour and lastly sprinkle with countless other Japanese fantasies and/or dynasty based epics and there you have 47 Ronin. Now if that sounds appealing you’re in for a treat with Keanu’s latest outing. Weirdly, with all those elements thrown in and so much going on in a plot that both moves slowly and also rushes through big events, the film struggles to find its drive and takes a good hour to feel like its caught up on establishing a base to jump off from. Even then it continues to stop and start and just when everything is in place the big showy CGI elements the film promised in trailers wind up being sort of underwhelming, not at all that fun and over really quickly.
Now, that doesn't make it boring. The film is actually quite entertaining despite the facts it's only really dealing in well trodden in elements and done to death story beats. Keanu is solid in his Jedi... errr I mean Ronin guise and is clearly the most likable character in the film most of the time. Unfortunately the film isn't very focused on character and it’s hard to pick a main one, making this a film that's easy to write off with “those guys, have to beat those guys” rather than getting involved in the stakes and the individual journeys. As mentioned before its because everyone is sooooo serious all of the time. I’m not against this sort of thing, given that most blockbusters have the ill placed light comments popping up all the time that ruin dramatic beats but when all of your main characters have the same strong, silent, brooding attitude, it all becomes that little bit too sober and I craved a little more humanity to slip out of the characters at times. Instead it was all honour, legacy and living by a code for what seemed to be the entire run time, which just didn't anything to drive the film forward for two hours.
The presentation here is clean and fresh and all the things you’d expect from a new big budget release from Universal. Detail is crisp and edges are about as good as DVD can muster, with close ups looking pretty great and wider shots losing the quality a fair bit. The primary colours seemed pretty muted to me but having not seen the film before, I’m not sure if that was the case theatrically. The colours seemed more vibrant in the trailers but I guess that’s not the best thing to compare to.
The day lit scenes have a sometimes creamy soft appearance and this also holds back some of the colours from truly leaping off of the screen as it gives the image a bit of a sunblasted appearance at times. It also makes the, what seem to be lavish;y dressed sets look pretty fake, which is also a shame. Night set scenes thankfully avoid getting grubby and remain well detailed, well lit and full of the required amounts of colour rather than a wash of murk. All in all this is a good looking DVD but falls noticeably short of an HD presentation. It handles all of its elements well but has no pop to make it special (sort of like the film itself).
The Dolby Digital track is well layered with a lot going on in the rears to build the films mood. The score is fairly consistent, unpinning every event on some level or another and working at all times. Dialogue is clear and central and sits well within the lively front elements even when they at their most dynamic and the epic nature of the film is sold well with the mix.
The bass that pushes the oomph of all of the film's fantasy events delivers the adequate amount of rumble and while it takes a while to really kick off the power it brings to the score and action keeps most scenes feeling large in scale and drama. This is a solid mix throughout but the real show off moments are quite far apart due to the level headed and slow moving plot.
Yeah, there’s none. Not even a Qui-Gon Theodore Logan EPK.
47 Ronin actually turned out to be exactly as I thought it would be from the trailers. It’s perfectly watchable but it's just all a little flat and has all been done before better elsewhere. I dug Keanu in Ronin mode but his character soon turned a bit dull once we’d found out about his mysterious past and he fell in line with the other rather forgettable characters filling up the rather underwhelming quest to save the kingdom. The DVD looks great by DVD standards and the same can be said about the audio but with no extras, this one comes with very little wow factor.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 12th May 2014
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French
Subtitles: English, French, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish
Easter Egg: No
Director: Carl Rinsch
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki
Genre: Action, Adventure and Fantasy
Length: 113 minutes
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