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.
Here’s the bottom line: Nicholas Hoult is better than Robert Pattinson.
Stay with me now — before you work yourself into a huff and unleash your super fandom death-stare, let me just clarify some things for you: I’m a full-fledged Twihard. Sigh. Yes, it’s true. I may not walk around with fangs or wear an exact replica of Bella’s engagement ring, but there was once a time when I would openly say to my college roommates, "Oh my God he is such an Edward!" and you could find me excitedly standing in line to see the midnight premiere of [insert Twilight movie here]. Let's just say it is was a dark time in my pop culture-centric life.
So you can imagine my skepticism when I originally saw the trailer for Summit Entertainment’s next supernatural-filled romance flick Warm Bodies. To paraphrase Mean Girls: Stop trying to make zombie movies happen! It’s not going to happen! A zombie is so not the same thing as a vampire — they're way more disgusting. And as far as leading men go, how could this dude in a dirty red hoodie even compare to the perfection that is Edward Cullen?
But then I saw the movie. And let's just say the hilarious, tongue-in-cheek teen rom-com sparked a change in my former vampire-loving heart.
Unlike the Twilight Sagas, Warm Bodies does not take itself too seriously. For one thing, all five Twilight vampire flicks are narrated by Bella Swan, the world’s most melodramatic and monotone teenager, whereas Warm Bodies is verbally guided with the quick-witted and highly sarcastic thoughts of R — a zombie who is trying to deal with his love-struck feelings for a perfectly healthy human. And while Twilight was a romantic drama with a few chuckle-worthy lines thrown in, Warm Bodies is a romantic comedy with a ton of laughs, giggles, and gasps thrown in. It’s definitely a movie that your boyfriend wouldn’t mind being dragged to. And we have Nick Hoult to thank for that.
True, Pattison and Hoult have some things in common: they’re both British, sexy as hell, and portray undead yet overly romantic monsters. But in the race for who is the better heartthrob, sorry y’all but Hoult wins by a landslide. Here are just five reasons this is true:
1. He dated Jennifer Lawrence. Jennifer Freakin’ Lawrence! Also known as Mystique, Katniss Everdeen, a Golden-Globe winning actress, and the world’s most entertaining interviewee ever. She’s pretty much the epitome of perfection: guys want her, girls want to be her best friend, and she just wants to be her honest, overly blunt, amazing self. And Hoult dated her for over two years! Although the two big-screen stars have recently split, they’re said to still be on great terms. In other news, Pattison is still shacking up with the unfaithful and forever awkward lip-biter Kristen Stewart. Blegh!
2. He’s endearing. As someone who has seen About a Boy seven and a half times (you know, give or take), I was worried that interviewing Hoult would erase all the fond memories I have of him looking adorable while belting out “Killing me Softly” on an auditorium stage. However, in person Hoult is just as sweet, humble, and charming as one could hope. And of course his devastatingly handsome face, British accent, and electric blue eyes, don't hurt his appeal.
3. He’s got TV cred. Hoult is not just another blockbuster babe; he’s also spent his years building up his résumé as a small screen sweetheart. Most notably, Hoult unleashed his inner bad boy as Tony in the UK hit Skins.
4. Movies galore! Unlike R-Patz, Hoult is not going to be forever pigeon-holed as a guy who makes a good zombie (how's that for a compliment?). Hoult's acting roles stretch across all genres. He’s put the fairytale fans under his spell with the upcoming action comedy Jack the Giant Slayer opposite the amazing Ewan McGregor, and in 2014, sci-fi nerds fans all across the world will camp out for days to watch Hoult revive his brilliant role of Beast at the midnight premiere of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Plus, thanks to Warm Bodies, it’s just a matter of time before Hoult is cast as the handsome lead in some genuinely sweet romantic drama, a la The Notebook.
5. He's a great actor. Hoult's performance in Warm Bodies is believable, hilarious and unique. And all he really did was grunt! It’s hard enough to give a swoon-worthy lead performance, but take away the dialogue and you’ve got a whole new set of phonetically-fueled problems. Needless to say, Hoult handled the extra challenge, like everything else, with aplomb.
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[Photo Credit: WENN; Summit Entertainment]
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