Last Samurai meets Wuxia with surprisingly enjoyable results
47 Ronin 3D Blu-ray Review
Keanu Reeves’s biggest film since the Matrix saga is a critically derided box office bomb, but it’s actually pretty enjoyable.Blending a Japanese variant on the Chinese Wuxia-style fantasy, period adventure, and sword-based martial arts combo, with a Last Samurai-esque vibe, 47 Ronin feels both familiar and quite novel at the same time. It’s a tale of a foreigner, out of his depth amidst a tightly-knit warrior clan, who have little time for him, and even less respect, but who – when it comes time to fight – are prepared to accept him amongst their numbers, allowing him the opportunity to finally prove his worth.
It also attempts to have its cake and eat it. And that’s probably its biggest flaw. Almost everything about the production – which was notoriously troubled, pushing the release date back not once, but twice, and undergoing reshoots in the meantime – smacks of compromise.What the film really needed to do was go full tilt and become pure Wuxia fantasy, but it holds back its own characters until the last possible moment, instead throwing ostensibly real-life 18th Century samurai into a fantastical situation. It should have either adapted the tale in the Brotherhood of the Wolf kind-of way, where it’s clearly fictional, but nothing is completely out of the realms of the known world; or, alternatively, gone pure fantasy and had its villains and heroes, painted as larger than life, running-up-walls characters a la Crouching Tiger, who wield magical swords against mystical enemies.
Either way would have worked out far more successfully than this, and both ways would have been enhanced by being presented in Japanese rather than English.
That said, if you can accept the fact that this is more of a melting pot of ideas; a fusion of cultures and languages; of history and fantasy – East meets West; Seven Samurai meets Lord of the Rings, you might forgive its flaws in favour of the opportunity to watch something a little different.
47 Ronin 3D Blu-ray Picture Quality
47 Ronin gets a technically impressive video presentation, both in 2D and 3D, although it’s the 2D variation that stands out as near-perfect; the 3D counterpart being proficient, but not necessarily astounding, unsurprisingly so considering that the 3D theatrical presentation was also largely unimpressive.
The High Definition 1080p/MVC-encoded 3D presentation comes framed in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. Although it is not completely devoid of standout sequences – the hunt for the CG beast, the super-sized samurai fight, and even the final battle have some impressive touches – the overall presentation is far from inspiring, providing a by-the-numbers 3D presentation. It does not detract from the piece, nor does not look completely flat, 2D and incompetent, but it also does little to help positively promote the need for 3D in the first place. There’s some depth to the backdrops, with some of the more lavish vistas looking particularly good in terms of breadth and expanse, and the characters occasionally have a nicely rounded feel to them, but the 3D is neither particularly necessary, nor particularly enhancing of the main feature, often drowned out by the darker sequences or diminished by the faster cuts.
Although the 3D is competent, its uninspired implementation will leave most preferring to just watch the near-perfect 2D alternative.
Certainly the 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition 2D video presentation is hard to fault, similarly offered up in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen, and really not leaving you missing much from the 3D alternative. Indeed, the top-scoring video is only brought down to a 9/10 by the 3D score.
The cinematography, in particular, is striking, making up for the marginal loss of depth in some of the broader shots, and leaving you instead taking in the gorgeous vistas. Detail is also resoundingly good, allowing for fantastic observation of skin textures, clothing weaves and set nuances, and with no signs of digital anomalies coming as a side-effect – no unruly edge enhancement, no excessive DNR application, no banding, blocking or crush (although a hint becomes more evident on the 3D counterpart). Contrast is suitably tweaked, as per the style of the feature, but black levels are deep and rich, allowing for strong shadow detail. Indeed it’s hard to fault this 2D video presentation in any way.
47 Ronin 3D Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also excellent, a thoroughly immersive lossless mix which enhances the feature at every stage, and often sweeps you up where the story leaves off.
Whatever reservations you might have about the movie, this release sure as hell delivers a fantastic demo experience.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout the piece, from the rousing speeches to the shouts and screams right down to Reeves’ more quiet, contemplative musings, all presiding over the rest of the track where necessary. Effects are myriad, and the frequently fantastical flourishes sound excellent, exceptionally delivered and using the full expanse of the surround array. The soundfield crafted is precise and potent, with plenty of LFE punch offering weight to the musket blasts, whizzing arrows, sword-based clashes, and roaring mystical beasts. The score further enhances the feature, in particular the action sequences, whilst reflecting the attempted gravitas in some of the more sombre moments.
47 Ronin 3D Blu-ray ExtrasThere are four Deleted Scenes and four small Featurettes. The 8 minutes of Deleted Footage don't reveal a more decisive mystical OR realistic period actioner in the making, and the four short Featurettes never really get to the core of the production, although they offer some reasonably interesting insight into the topics covered, including Keanu & Kai - reflecting on the main character; Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin; Re-forging the Legend - offering a lightweight overview, including a look at the original legend; and Myths, Magic & Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin. Far from bare-bones, there's some interesting material here, it's just a shame we don't get a more substantial Documentary or a Commentary.
Is 47 Ronin 3D Blu-ray Worth BuyingIf you watch it with an open mind, and accept the fact that this is more of a melting pot of ideas; a fusion of cultures and languages; of history and fantasy – East meets West; Seven Samurai meets Lord of the Rings, you might forgive 47 Ronin its flaws in favour of the opportunity to watch something a little different.
An unusual film; an excellent presentation.
Certainly the 2D/3D combo package affords fans excellent video presentation (although it's questionable whether or not the 3D is entirely necessary) along with superb sound and those who are intrigued should certainly consider a rental.
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