The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Sorry, people who love both Gary Oldman and Akira: the two will reportedly not merge. But the good news is, another tenacious figure from Christopher Nolan's Batman universe has been offered the The Colonel role that Oldman turned down: Ken Watanabe.
We've been hearing a lot about the developing remake of Akira, the 1988 anime sci-fi feature. So far, Garrett Hedlund is still the only actor officially cast—he'll be playing Kaneda, the hero of the story and young biker who becomes involved in the quest to stop his newly psychokinetic best friend Tetsuo from destroying the city.
Others still in question for Akira roles include Kristen Stewart, Keira Knightley, Alden Ehrenreich and Helena Bonham Carter.
Those looking forward to the remake (there are quite a few purists out there who aren't on board with a live-action take on the celebrated film) might be disappointed by Oldman's dismissal of the role. However, Watanabe has a pretty impressive resume under his belt; the actor was arguably the strongest player in Nolan's Inception.
As news continues to accumulate about Akira, we all have our hopes, and our doubts. But if Watanabe signs on for The Colonel, I think we can all at least nod in subtle approval.
If you're going to remake the classic anime Akira as a live-action Hollywood film, you might as well shoot for the stars.
Kristen Stewart has been cemented as one of the biggest stars of today, thanks to her Twi-normous vampire series, Twilight, and its so-close-we-can-taste-the-glitter next chapter Breaking Dawn Part 1. Vying for some of her star power are the people behind the developing Akira remake (a team that includes director Jaume Collet-Saura and writer Steve Kloves). Stewart is being reached to play a romantic interest for the protagonist Kaneda and the story's primary heroine: Kei.
Stewart is not the first teen twi-dol to be reached for an Akira role. Back in March, it was reported that Robert Pattinson was among a slew of young heartthrobs wanted to play the Kaneda character—a part that inevitable went to Garrett Hedlund. Others in talks for Akira roles include Ezra Miller and Alden Ehrenreich, both for the second lead male Tetsuo, Keira Knightley for an undisclosed role, Gary Oldman for the Colonel and Helena Bonham Carter for Lady Miyako.
So, what will Akira fans think of Stewart's casting? Hard to say. On the one hand, anime aficionados might be averse to Twi-casting in this particularly cherished piece of the medium. On the other hand, it's unfair to discount Stewart's talent just because of the palpable schism between people who like Twilight and people who like anime. On a third hand, anime needs more vampires. Right? ... Right?
Damn you, Warner Bros. You had to twiddle your thumbs and wait for all the right pieces of the puzzle that is Akira to fall into place on its own, and now that hesitation has caused Albert Hughes to walk away from the project. That's right, folks: Akira is now without a director or star, and it seems very unlikely that this ambitious film will ever get made.
Deadline just broke the news that Hughes, who recently made The Book of Eli at the studio with his partner/brother Allen, has departed the adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo’s seminal graphic novel and will move on to pursue other gigs at WB. It's just one of many problems that the film has faced on its way to a start date, though the most troubling issue thus far has been casting the teenage characters at the center of the sci-fi tale. Originally the studio wanted young up-and-comers, and was considering everyone from Zac Efron and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield for the roles of Tetsuo and Kaneda, but after a change of heart (and a ballooning production budget) decided the film would require an ultimate A-lister. Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves were offered roles but smartly turned them down, as the characters are teens and both of the actors are pushing 50.
All these game-changing plans must've been awfully frustrating for Hughes to deal with, so it's no surprise that he's dropped the film. WB will now seek out another director to fill the void, but I've got plenty of reservations about the project moving forward. As my colleague Peter Hall put it, with Akira you either go big or go home. If the company is balking over the high price tag, it should just cut its losses and move on. Sure, Akira COULD be an enchanting, philosophical science fiction epic for the ages, but it needs to be treated with utmost respect. You can't cut corners on a movie like this. Whoever steps in to Hughes' shoes needs the full support of the studio, and unless Warner's are ready to give a filmmaker whatever he/she needs to make this happen, I'd rather just watch the anime over and over again.
Warner Bros. adaptation of Akira has potentially found its star -- and, well, for a movie as exciting as this, it's about the most boring casting rumor we've heard yet. The Hollywood Reporter and Vulture both report that the studio has reached out to Keanu Reeves for the lead role; yes, another white dude starring in a very non-white movie to, assumedly, make the $230 million budgeted film an easier sell. Reeves reportedly beat out a bunch of other uninspired white guy choices for the role of Kaneda, including Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Franco and Robert Pattinson.
In the film, the Japan-set story will be westernized, just as the lead role has been, changing its setting from Neo-Tokyo to New Manhattan. The story will still, we think, follow Kaneda as he rushes to save his friend Tetsuo from a world-destroying government project. And, hey, maybe this casting decision will launch Reeves into a career of being celebrated by cyberpunk culture as the actor who played one of science fiction's greatest heroes; because, you know, he hasn't done that already, already or already.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter, Vulture
The Twilight hunk, fellow Brit and new Spider-man Garfield and X:Men star McAvoy will duke it out for the role of Tetsuo in the movie project, according to reports.
Meanwhile Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix are being considered for the opposing role, Kaneda, the leader of a biker gang who tries to save Tetsuo from a medical experiment, reports Deadline.com.
Back in November, Zac Efron was supposedly offered the lead role in the live-action adaptation of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo's epic 6-volume graphic novel. This sent the internet up into chaos, because obviously, fans of epic graphic novels aren't really known to hang out with the High School Musical crowd.
But it looks like that rumor was just a rumor because Deadline reports now that the Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have established a shortlist of actors for the role, and to make the list, you apparently just need to be a mildly successful white dude. Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield and James McAvoy are in the running for the role of Tetsuo; Garret Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake and Joaquin Phoenix are all fighting for the role of Kaneda.
The film, adapted with a re-write by Steve Kloves and to-be-directed by Albert Hughes, follows a biker gang member who is turned into a psychopath psionic by a secret military project. Interesting? Yes. But unfortunately, there's still no confirmation yet on what character Joseph Gordon-Levitt will play in The Dark Knight Rises. Wait -- that's what we were talking about, right?
February 11, 2011 11:55am EST
I hope that I'm not alone in feeling fatigued with the almost daily casting rumors that set James Franco to play everything and everyone from Oz, The Great and Powerful to pornographer Chuck Traynor. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy. He's funny, he's cool and he's got genuine chops. But he's just not right for every role.
That's what makes the latest rumor, which just hit the web courtesy of ScreenCrave, even more nauseating. According to the source, Franco may be next in line to take the lead in Warner Bros. always-developing, never-shooting adaptation of the epic anime Akira. Zac Efron was attached to the project last we heard, but now it seems that Franco has pushed him off the line. What a surprise.
If you're not a nerd, you probably don't know what Akira is. You fail. The story's themes are all-encompassing and quite cerebral, but to break it down as best as I can, I'll say that it is a story set in a dystopian Tokyo and centers on a member of a biker gang who turns into a raging psionic psychopath that only two kids and a group of fellow psionics can stop. The destruction caused is devastating as are its implications about government and humanity. In short, it's science fiction at its best.
Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way is producing the feature, which is said to be directed by The Book of Eli's Hughes Brothers. DiCaprio was once set to star in the role that Franco may be getting (that of Kaneda), the gang leader who is friend to Tetsuo, the dangerous psionic. Lucky Leo would be a better fit for the part, but at almost 40 years old now (Titanic was a looooong time ago) he's too old to portray a teen biker. Efron is actually closest in age and look of Kaneda, but Franco obviously has more street cred. And balls. However, I'm at the point of Franco oversaturation. He seems to be rumored for nearly every big role up for grabs these days and that just seems a bit unfair. I say give Joseph Gordon Levitt a shot. Give Emile Hirsch a shot. Give SOMEBODY ELSE a shot before Franco dies of exhaustion.