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.
Many have been quick to judge Keanu Reeves' 3D samurai epic 47 Ronin, following the blockbuster's release date shuffle from Nov. 2012 to Feb. 2013, and then again to Dec. 2013. Rumors the film was in trouble were only made foggier by announced reshoots that took place earlier this year. But so far, zero footage from the feature debut from commercial director Carl Rinsch has been released, providing little insight into the look and feel of the finished product.
A year out from 47 Ronin's release means we may not see trailer for a some time, but stunt coordinator Gary Powell tells Hollywood.com that Rinsch's continued work on the film is all happening to strengthen the story and tone. "It was a quick couple of weeks reshoot, story points and all that," says Powell. "It will make the film better. I have not seen it, but all the visual effects people [say] there are a hell of a lot of visual effects. But it looks really nice."
Powell, whose recent credits as a stunt coordinator include The Bourne Ultimatum, Unstoppable, and the upcoming Bond film Skyfall, was also able to shed light on what to expect on the action side of the film. "[There is] a lot of fighting. We have a pretty good horse chase at the start of it, with this mystical creature. Keanu did a lot of action on that."
Powell describes 47 Ronin as a tough tonal balancing act between realism and a fantastical edge that lends itself to a big blockbuster. He notes that the reshoots were brought on to help solidify the two sides of the story, but that Rinsch was dedicated to reality from the very beginning. "The fights are more believable than, say, the ones that are around a lot these days," says Powell. "Where you slice someone in the face and spin around six times before you hit the floor. Carl can't stand that stuff, basically."
But 47 Ronin doesn't skimp on the imaginative either. Powell notes that he and Rinsch threw "a few sweeteners in there for the kids," when it came to the action sequences. The story of the 47 samurai who embark on a journey to avenge their master takes a few nods from Japanese anime. "It definitely has that tone to it. There is a huge eight-foot samurai in it, and that sort of thing. We play with the fantasy side of it quite a bit, but we want to keep it believable."
47 Ronin stars Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kou Shibasaki, and Tadanobu Asano and arrives in theaters Dec. 25, 2013.
Check back soon for our full interview with Gary Powell and the amazing stunts of Skyfall.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
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Carl Erik Rinsch made a huge splash in the advertising industry with his high-concept storytelling. That brought Hollywood to his doorstep and he was quickly attached to a handful of exciting science fiction and fantasy projects (Logan's Run and The Creature From The Black Lagoon among others) that were too pricey for established action directors to work on. We've been hearing his name for years now but haven't seen one of his films go into production. So when he was hired by Universal Pictures to helm 47 Ronin, a period-set samurai flick with Keanu Reeves headlining, I was skeptical about its priority at the studio.
Now it seems the project is finally getting underway as Variety reports that a quartet of foreign actors have been cast. Right off the bat, I'm stoked about Asian actors playing Japanese characters. I'm glad that Universal isn't pulling a Last Airbender and hiring SoCal American's to play hardened feudal warriors. Authenticity will be in tact in this film and I'm enthusiastic, especially since there are a few bad-ass actors involved. Let's have a look.
First we have Tadanobu Asano, who is perhaps best known for his leading role in Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer as well as the lauded Mongol. He'll become even more recognizable this year when he co-stars in Thor and will have two big Universal films to open in 2012 (including this one) because he's got a part in Peter Berg's Battleship. Next up is Rinko Kikuchi, a feisty little thing who was seen showing her hoo-ha in Babel and added international flavor to Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom. Most geek worthy is Hiroyuki Sanada, who appeared in The Last Samurai, Rush Hour 3, Speed Racer and the final season of ABC's Lost as an enigmatic protector of the island known only as Dogen. Finally we have Kou Shibasaki, a singing sensation who made her film debut in Kinji Fukasaku's acclaimed Battle Royale. Have a look at them all below (thanks to CS for the photo mash-up).
You may not be familiar with all of these actors, but that's not the point. The point is that the the famous fact-based story about a band of samurai swordsmen who avenge the death of their master in 18th Century Japan will look and feel like a genuine period piece, not just a soulless Hollywood product. Chris Morgan (Wanted, Fast Five) penned the screenplay for this epic actioner, which is on course to release on November 11th, 2012 in 3D.
February 10, 2011 12:25pm EST
Warner Bros. has been trying to mount a big-budget remake of the sci-fi survival tale Logan's Run for years now. Bryan Singer and Carl Erik Rinsch were both attached to direct at different times, but the studio could never get the project off the ground. Now there's a new creative team boarding the film: director Nicolas Winding Refn and Oscar-nominee Ryan Gosling, who just finished shooting the action thriller Drive together.
Genre loving scribe Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) penned the screenplay for the picture, while WB-based producers Joel Silver and Akiva Goldsman will produce. Production is set to begin in the fall.
For those who shamefully don't know what Logan's Run is, the story centers on Logan 5, a "Sandman" whose job it is to put to permanent sleep those who try to escape mandatory death, the downside of the blissful existence in the domed city that protects the inhabitants who survived a 23rd Century apocalypse. But as his own expiration date rapidly approaches, Logan realizes the error in his ways -- and in the philosophy of his civilization -- and before you know it, the hunter becomes the hunted.
The only problem that I see with this development is that, since the project has long been delayed, rival studios have made films that borrowed elements of Logan's Run. Fox's upcoming thriller NOW comes to mind, as does Searchlight's acclaimed Never Let Me Go (which Garland also adapted) and even Universal's Repo Men and DreamWorks' The Island. Of course, Logan's Run IS the original and still has surprises up its sleeve, especially with a filmmaker like Winding Refn, who has thrilled audiences with visceral back-to-back features Bronson and Valhalla Rising. I'm also very excited to see Gosling finally take on a tentpole picture, as he's stuck to indie fare all these years while studios were practically knocking down his door to lead a handful of franchises.
It seems that if you want to make a big budget, CGI heavy action/thriller, the best way to get noticed is to make a short film, wait for it to become an internet sensation and then allow the studios to come knocking on your door.
Following Sony's acquisition of Pixels and the career boost that Carl Erik Rinsch got with his short The Gift, the latest pick up is The Raven, bought by Universal Pictures and not to be confused with John Cusack's Edgar Allan Poe thriller of the same name. Ricardo de Montreuil, the original’s writer and director, will direct the feature though he has handed over writing duties to Justin Marks. Mark Walhberg is attached to produce and star in the project. Perhaps Wahlberg really wanted to make a movie with a bird in the title since he was rumored to be involved in The Crow remake though that is no longer happening.
As far as the short goes, it looks pretty dull. Sure the CGI is great and it looks crisp and clear, but the story doesn’t seem all that interesting. Montreuil had the set up of something good - a totalitarian government and a dude with super powers - but it seemed really bland. I don’t care that this guy has powers, I don’t care about the (very Star Wars inspired) robots. The story just didn’t engage me at all. But perhaps Sony, Marks and Wahlberg can improve it when they expand the narrative.
Source: Universal Pictures
Universal just set a bunch of release dates for some of their bigger upcoming movies. Are you intrigued? Yes, of course you are. Let's take a look.
Larry Crowne - July 1, 2011
Tom Hanks is directing and starring in this comedy-drama about the titular Larry Crowne, a middle-aged man who goes back to college when he is fired from his job. He smokes pot, joins the ultimate frisbee team, and gets into all sorts of hilarious collegiate hijinks. Wouldn't that be funny? No, actually he falls in love with his professor, played by Julia Roberts. Yawn.
Safe House - February 10, 2012
Denzel Washington is a hardened criminal (sure) and Ryan Reynolds is a young CIA agent (why not) in this action-thriller from Swedish director Daniel Espinosa. When a team of baddies destroy the safe house in which Washington is being held, the sardonic young Reynolds has to guide him to safety. It's like 16 Blocks, except Mos Def is Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis is Ryan Reynolds. And Washington won't have a speech impediment, hopefully.
Contraband - March 16, 2012
Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale are going to star in this remake of the 2008 Icelandic film Reykjavic-Rotterdam, in which the protagonist is a former smuggler trying to go straight, who gets roped in for one last job. Because there aren't already enough movies with this plot line, Universal is going to bring you another, and you're going to sit and watch it goddamnit. Baltasar Kormakur, who directed the original, will also be helming the English-language Marky-Mark version.
Untitled Judd Apatow Movie - June 1, 2012
'Untitled Judd Apatow Movie' is not the title of this untitled Judd Apatow movie, which is being written, directed, and produced by Judd Apatow. Or maybe it is? Has Judd Apatow's cultural relevancy reached such a point of critical mass that his only logical path now is to get all self-reflexive and make meta Judd Apatow movies about the process of making Judd Apatow movies? Maybe this will be a groundbreaking Charlie Kaufman collaboration. I would watch that.
The Bourne Legacy - August 3, 2012
Tony Gilroy will be directing the 4th installment of the Bourne franchise, which means Matt Damon won't actually be in it. Matt Damon told Universal he wouldn't star unless they brought back Paul Greengrass to direct. Universal laughed and decided to call his bluff. But no, Matt Damon is serious about not being in the next Bourne movie. And Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. So why are we still talking about this? Is anyone seriously interested in seeing a Bourne flick without Bourne in it? No? Okay then, moving on.
Ouija - November 9, 2012
Michael Bay's company Platinum Dunes is going to produce the hell out of this movie - as Michael Bay is want to do - with a rumored $80 - $100 million budget. Hell yeah! Enough with these pussy-footed $15,000 budget Paranormal Activity-type films. Anyway, this is a movie about a board game that people use to communicate with the dead.
47 Ronin - November 21, 2012
Keanu Reeves will star in this epic period film, based on the true story of a group of samurai in 18th century Japan who avenged the death of their master in a famous revenge-attack in 1702. Carl Rinsch, a promising commercial director we've had our eye on ever since we saw his very cool 2010 video short The Gift, will direct. Plus, Keanu is half Asian, so thankfully we won't have to deal with another brow-raising Tom Cruise-Last Samurai situation.
Snow White And The Huntsman - December 21, 2012
Tom Hardy (Inception) is rumored to be playing The Huntsman and Angelina Jolie the evil queen Ravenna in this reimagining of the classic fairy tale from spec scriptwriter Evan Daugherty. While I'm naturally skeptical of this project, The Playlist got their hands on the script and said it was "actually very strong, one of the better action-adventure scripts we've read in a while." Rupert Sanders will direct.
The Dark Tower - May 17, 2013
Oscar-winning director Ron Howard is set to helm the first of what Universal is setting up as a trilogy of films based on Stephen King's popular Dark Tower series, about the gunslinger Roland Deschain, who - long story short - sets out on a quest to find a tower-nexus at the center of his universe. This one's still a long ways off, but fans of the seven-book epic are already excited. You should be too, assuming Universal doesn't screw this one up. A TV series is also in the works.
Warner Bros. has been trying for some time now to move ahead on a remake of the 1976 film Logan's Run - itself an adaptation of William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson's 1967 dystopian novel - and now the project has acquired a screenwriter, Alex Garland, who will work with director Carl Erik Rinsch.
Garland is not a stranger to writing about dystopian worlds: his past work includes 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and the upcoming sci-fi drama Never Let Me Go, whose trailer we showed you yesterday. So Logan's Run, which is about a 'Sandman' whose job it is to hunt people who try to 'run' on their 21st birthday in a 22nd century society where an age cap is strictly enforced, should be in extremely capable hands. Director Carl Erik Rinsch should likewise inspire confidence: although he isn't yet well-known , the Ridley Scott protege has created some of the most imaginative commercials in recent memory (check out 'The Evolution of Technology' below), and his recent sci-fi short 'The Gift' confirms that this is a director to watch closely. Plenty of industry insiders have already taken note, and Rinsch has been tapped to helm a new 'Alien' prequel, is developing a remake of Creature From The Black Lagoon, and is in pre-production on his samurai epic 47 Ronin. Long story short: this is a director who is about to blow up in a big way.
With the incredible talents of Garland and Rinsch behind it, I'd say Logan's Run has more than a fair chance of being a real cinematic triumph. As always, keep checking in to Hollywood.com for more updates as they come in.
'The Evolution of Technology' Commercial:
'The Gift' - Carl Erik Rinsch
It's truly unbelievable that I even know WHO Carl Erik Rinsch is. The respected commercial director has built a name for himself this year with the remarkable short The Gift and by attaching himself to any sci-fi action tentpole he can get his untried fingers on, from the Keanu Reeves starrer 47 Ronin to Universal's anticipated remake of The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
There is no word on which of those will come first, but Rinsch isn't wasting time lining up his future schedule. Aside from the Lagoon remake, The Hollywood Reporter scoops that he's now in talks to take on the long-in-development Logan's Run redo at Warner Bros. Joel Silver is producing the update of the classic 1976 sci-fi thriller about a future society that demands the death of everyone upon reaching a certain age. Anyone who veers from that destiny is dubbed a "runner" and is hunted by operatives known as Sandmen. Protagonist Logan is a Sandman who is forced to go on the run.
The project has been set up at WB since the 1990's and saw renewed interest in 2004 when Bryan Singer signed on to develop and direct, but when the filmmaker jumped ship to helm Superman Returns, movement stalled. Since then, Robert Schwenke, Joseph Kosinski and James McTeigue had been courted for gig but ultimately opted out.
Don't get too excited, fanboys. We've got a ways to go before Logan's Run will hit the big screen again as the studio will likely hire a new writer to polish the script before production begins and that leads to yet another problem. Had the film been produced and released when originally intended, it could've been a big hit. Unfortunately, recent films have borrowed generously from Logan's plot, from Michael Bay's The Island to this April's flop Repo Men. It could turn out to be a case of too little, too late. Regardless, if you're not excited about the prospect of Rinsch as a blockbuster filmmaker, check out The Gift below:
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
So many shorts to adapt, so little time. Late last year Sam Raimi paid top dollar for Fede Alvarez's internet sensation Panic Attack, starting a trend that has continued with Carl Erik Rinsch's The Gift kicking off a bidding war between major studios. Today, another web short has been optioned by a top-tier entertainer, and given the star power and strength of his studio connections, we may actually see this get made.
THR's Heat Vision Blog reports that Adam Sandler, through his Sony-based Happy Madison production company, will develop a big-screen take of French filmmaker Patrick Jean's Pixels. The much-buzzed-about short featuring 1980s video game characters (including Space Invaders, Frogger and Pac-Man) attacking New York City got a thumbs-up from filmmaker Edgar Wright and became a viral hit in April, leading Jean to a contract with William Morris Endeavor.
The project is still in the early stages and no writer is on board but the plan is to make a Ghostbusters-style action comedy in which characters come out of a video game to wreak havoc in the real world. It's a great concept that has broad appeal and, with a perennial hit-maker like Sandler involved, should gear up for production soon. Check out the original short film below: