Underrated Fantasy Movies: 47 Ronin

There are three main reasons why 47 Ronin was such an underrated fantasy movie and unfortunately, they’re very important reasons that could have led to a more successful outing had they been given the kind of attention they need. Critics definitely roasted this movie and fans could even be heard to accuse it of using the ‘white savior complex’ even though Keanu Reeves’ character was written in as a half-breed that didn’t belong to either ethnicity that could have been claimed. His character, Kai, was more or less reviled in the society he found himself a part of and his standing among the samurai was that of a man that had been taken in by the lord as a child but never given much more than was needed for him to survive. In other words, he was an outcast that was shown mercy and allowed to live among the nobility as their glorified servant. But even servants have to be useful in the movies at times, so Kai was well-trained in many ways and was taught to be obedient and humble himself before his betters more often than not. 

One aspect of this movie that didn’t work however is that it came out during a time of year when it made little to no sense to see a samurai movie appear. Had it been released in the summer or early fall it might have had a little more impact and even resonated with the audience at that time. Then there’s the idea that at this point in his career, Keanu Reeves was definitely in a lull since it had been a while since the most recent Matrix movie came out, and his time as John Wick hadn’t started yet. In other words, it wasn’t the right time in his career to star in a movie such as this, and it’s fair to say that a lot of people didn’t know what to think of his role. 

On top of that, there was so much time taken for editing and fixing certain issues that came up with the effects that it missed its original release time, which only made things worse. The story is something that actually might need the least amount of work to make things stand out in this movie since Kai’s tale is one that appears to be the underlying thread that the story needs to really push itself along. The overall story of the samurai of Ako and their lord’s disgrace due to magical treachery is something that feels a little commonplace since this type of story has been seen many, many times before. But a half-breed Japanese/English individual who is not only taken in by a lord but has every intention of seeing his lord’s house and lineage continue by doing the unthinkable, putting on a samurai’s armor to fight for the honor of the house, is kind of an interesting story. Of course, when this is discovered the lord is disgraced, but when he attacks a visiting lord due to being manipulated by witchcraft, he’s forced to commit seppuku, ritualistic suicide, and his samurai are branded as ronin and disbanded. 

But the time the head samurai, Oishi, is released from his imprisonment, which is meant to temper his feelings of revenge, he goes in search of the other ronin and also seeks out Kai, who has been sold into slavery and is forced to fight to the death continuously while those that watch urge him to greater violence while making money on his kills. After Oishi assists Kai in escaping the two of them rejoin the other ronin and seek out the tengu, the mystical creatures that took Kai in initially when he was abandoned as a child in their forest. After passing a test to ascertain several swords with magical properties from the tengu, the ronin then seek to avenge their lord by making a plan to assassinate the rival lord whose sorceress forced their lord to dishonor himself and is essentially responsible for their shame. After a long and drawn-out fight, the ronin, those that are left anyway, are still forced to commit seppuku since the shogun, the overlord in other words strictly forbade them to seek vengeance, but couldn’t deny them the honor they had earned in trying to earn back honor for their lord. 

At the end of the day, this wasn’t a bad movie really, but those three elements that were mentioned at the top did really muck things up in a big way since Keanu Reeves is now one of the most popular men in show business, but there was a time when he wasn’t doing much. Plus, the release of a movie like 47 Ronin in anything but the summer feels like it would have been dicey no matter how good it could have been. 

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