A ballooning budget, reshoots, editing room wrangles and more have long marked "47 Ronin" as a cinematic poison apple. And certainly, with a weak opening earlier this month in Japan, where the story is common and has been retold numerous times, it seemed the writing on the wall. But was the negative buzz fair? After all, "World War Z" went through its own turmoil and emerged victorious, with a sequel on the way, so perhaps the same could happen for Keanu Reeves' samurai blockbuster, right? Well, probably not.
The first reviews are here, and they are for the most part, pretty brutal on the movie, though some note that at the very least, it looks good and the action stuff works. Carl Rinsch's feature film debut may boast handsome visuals, but it appears it lacks anything resembling excitement, even with CGI monsters and more. And given that Universal is half-dumping this movie, with only a handful of critics getting an advance look, that kind of speaks for itself. So before you buy your ticket on Christmas Day, check out what critics had to say below:
The Hollywood Reporter: "While the reported $175 million budget is evident in the handsome production values of Carl Rinsch’s ambitious first feature, it falls short on character definition, emotional involvement, narrative drive and originality, with a protagonist played by Keanu Reeves who often gets bumped to the sidelines."
Variety: "Keanu Reeves is the draw but not the star of this visually dazzling but thoroughly bogus update of one of Japan's greatest legends....As impressive as these visual elements prove to be, the film struggles to grab and maintain audiences’ interest, whether or not they know the underlying legend by heart."
Forbes: "Separated from financial concerns, '47 Ronin' is a solid B-movie action drama, telling a classic story with just enough action and plenty of mood and visual beauty...The film is well acted and handsomely staged, with a story that mostly makes sense and an ending that stays true to itself. It is all-but-sure to get lost in the Christmas season shuffle in America, but it deserves to find an appreciative audience somewhere down the line."
Digital Spy: "47 Ronin is a model of consistency. It's unfailingly atrocious from start to finish."
Slate: "This story has been retold many times by Japanese artists, most famously by Kenji Mizoguchi in his 1941 epic 'The 47 Ronin,' and Rinsch's film represents Hollywood's attempt to bring this story to non-Japanese audiences. But the filmmakers seem to have decided that the only way Western audiences would be interested in it would be to jazz it up with supernatural elements such as shape-shifting witches and baroque monsters. While adaptations such as Mizoguchi's placed an emphasis on the nuances of traditional bushido codes of honor upon which warriors based their behavior, this botched vision accepts their nobility at face value and sees the story merely as a springboard for high-flying action and CGI special effects."
Total Film: " 'I will search for you through 1,000 worlds and 10,000 lifetimes!' Reeves promises his beloved. Anyone who sits all the way through this glossy folly will know exactly how that feels."
Twitch: "Taken as pure preposterous fantasy, there is some B-grade fun to be had from '47 Ronin,' and audiences unfamiliar or disinterested with the original story or its importance could conceivably have a good time. However, anyone with more than a passing knowledge of Japan, its history, or even just its epic back catalogue of samurai cinema will struggle to see the film as little more than a baffling fairground attraction devised by a boardroom of ignorant bean counters."
The Wrap: "There’s so much wrong with '47 Ronin' that I’ll start with what Keanu Reeves’ samurai tale does have going for it: Kinetic action scenes with swords blazing and colorful mythical beasts."
Jakarta Globe: “ '47 Ronin' has the look of an epic action movie, but does not offer enough thrills to live up to that name."
Broward Palm Beach New Times: "Despite the lavish temple sets, the robed pageantry, the principled sexlessness, and the strident talk of honor and ancestry, this Hungarian-shot bore is so indistinct it reeks of no place more than Hollywood, where the fascinating specifics of history and legend are ground into universal mush."