Can director Carl Erik Rinsch balance a fantastic epic featuring giants and witches with one of Japan’s legendary tale of loyalty and sacrifice? That’s the question circling 47 Ronin but star Keanu Reeves explains how the film plans to honor the Japanese people who have grown up hearing this tale while still creating a widely-accessible tentpole flick. Says Reeves,
“Japanese kids grow up with this story told to them. They hear it from family and they learn it in school, it’s part of the culture. It’s been made into movies many times and on television. It’s like our westerns, the story keeps being told. It’s been reworked in some ways [for this new film] but with great care and respect.”
Hit the jump for more details on the project including a synopsis. The film also features Japanese stars Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Kô Shibasaki, and Rinko Kikuchi. 47 Ronin is set to open in 3D on November 11, 2012.
Reeves will play Kai, “a half-breed, the outcast in the group who joins with Oishi (Sanada), the leader of the 47 ronin.” Here’s how Hero Complex breaks down the plot:
The troupe of banished samurai long to restore their honor and find vengeance against the treacherous Lord Kira (played by Asano, who is in theaters now as Hogun in Thor) who was responsible for the death of their master. Kai is the uneasy compatriot in their company and his standing will be questioned even more as he falls in love with Mika (Shibasaki), daughter of the fallen master. The film presents a quest where the ronin (the term for samurai with no master) face trials that test their mettle and their loyalty to one another.
Reeves explained what intrigued him about the character.
“There’s a sadness about him and I admire the grace he shows in response to other people’s feelings. He doesn’t have anger about the way he is viewed, but there is sadness and I’ve found that an interesting thing to work with.”
Here’s Reeves exploring sadness:
The film will reportedly be more along the lines of 300 and Reeves’ character was specifically created for this re-telling. While some may call foul that a non-Japanese actor is playing a Japanese character (or in this case, half-Japanese character), there’s an economic reality that the film needs a name star to merit a budget that can accommodate witches, giants, epic battles, and “a stylized approach and sheer scale.” Also, since the character is Japanese, we’re not looking at a Last Samurai situation.
Where I get slightly worried is that one of the credited screenwriters is Chris Morgan (Fast Five). However, Hossein Amini co-wrote the script and while he still has some duds to his name (The Four Feathers, Killshot), he also penned The Wings of the Dove and Nicolas Winding Refn’s upcoming thriller Drive, which received strong reviews at Cannes.
The film is also taking an interesting approach to the language barrier as Reeves tells Hero Complex that “We do the scenes first in Japanese and then do it in English.” Finally, for those who have wanted to see Keanu wield a samurai sword, Reeves says “I haven’t done two-handed sword before so it was pretty cool to learn the basics and I’ve been building on that. There’s a definite style to this sword and it’s very fast I’m trying to keep up and learn as I go.”
I wouldn’t worry too much about his swordfighting skills. As long as the 47 Ronin have a Keanu Reeves, their victory is assured.