On paper 47 Ronin sounds like a compelling proposal to marry a time-honored Japanese classic tale with a kind of modern The Lord of the Rings style take on the material. While this might initially sound jarring a close look at Japanese entertainment be it feature films, TV series or anime shows a strong supernatural trend where demons either co-exist or openly oppose the human world. This at least lends some credibility to 47 Ronin where the filmmakers have decided to amplify the source material with the addition of ogres, mystical powers and huge rampaging monster boars. The fact that the resulting film is so decidedly bland and unfocused is a real wonder as it feels as if too many competing interests have caused the film to simply go awry at nearly every turn.
Director Ronny Yu’s Saving General Yang attempts to weave a traditional war story that focuses heavily on themes of familial loyalty amidst a roiling time in Ancient Chinese history when the throne was under siege from an invading barbarian horde. All the ingredients seem to be here including massive clashing CG armies, political gamesmanship and of course, emotionally wringing moments set to an appropriately moving soundtrack. Nevertheless, it all never really works as it should as the final product comes off as inherently bland with occasional bouts of extremely manufactured circumstances that really derail the film, especially as it enters its third act.