47 Ronin (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 22-May-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Deleted Scenes-x 4
Featurette-Re-forging the Legend (6:44)
Featurette-Keanu & Kai (4:00)
Featurette-Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin (5:54)
Featurette-Myths, Magic & Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin (7:35)
More…-Ultraviolet Code
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 118:35
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Carl Rinsch
Studio
Distributor
Universal Sony Starring Keanu Reeves
Hiroyuki Sanada
Ko Shibasaki
Rinko Kikuchi
Tadanobu Asano
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Ilan Eshkeri


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French dts 5.1
Italian dts 5.1
German dts 5.1
Spanish dts 5.1
Hindi dts 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Hindi
Dutch
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Arabic
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The story of the 47 Ronin, masterless samurai who avenged the death of their master, is one of the most famous in Japan. The story has been filmed at least four times that I know of, and now comes the Hollywood version called simply 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves. This 47 Ronin features mythical beasts, demons and a shape changing witch and so is no more realistic history than, say 300 was a serious representation of the Battle of Thermopylae. But forget those who criticise 47 Ronin for playing loose with Japanese history and legend; instead think of it as a fantasy action / revenge story set in medieval Japan that is exciting and colourful, with a moving ending that does not, in this case, stray far from the legend.

     As a boy, the half cast Kai (Keanu Reeves) is taken into the household of Lord Asano. He is shunned by the lord’s samurai, including Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), and although Lord Asano’s daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki) comes to love Kai they know that this love can never be permitted. During a visit by the Shogun Lord Asano is put under a spell by a shape changing witch (Rinko Kikuchi) who is in league with the evil and ambitious Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano). After an incident Lord Asano is ordered to commit seppuku by the Shogun, Lord Kira acquires the lands of Lord Asano and is set to marry Mika in 12 months, Kai is sold into slavery, Oishi is thrown into a dungeon and Asano’s samurai are disbanded to become ronin, masterless samurai. After 12 months and with the wedding of Kira and Mika pending, Oishi is released, apparently broken in mind and spirit. But he is not, of course. To restore his honour and bent upon revenge for his master’s death, Oishi finds and rescues Kai from slavery and gathers together the masterless samurai. The forty seven ronin make a pact to attack Lord Kira’s castle, knowing that even if they succeed in killing Lord Kira their own deaths are a certainty.

     The director of 47 Ronin is Carl Rinsch. This is his feature debut and at times it feels as if his control of this epic, big budget film could be firmer. There is nothing wrong with his direction as such, but the film lacks invention; it is too busy ticking all the boxes of fantasy adventure including hero shots against widescreen landscapes and a swelling orchestral score while Rinsch relies upon tracking shots that have been done countless times before and some of the editing, especially of the final fight sequence, is quite clunky.

     The acting in 47 Ronin also varies considerably. Keanu Reeves is Keanu Reeves, but in a role that requires stoicism and subdued emotion his customary woodenness is not much of a hindrance. However, the other wooden acting comes from Ko Shibasaki as Mika, so the love angle, and their relationship, is neither convincing nor interesting. However other roles are better, especially Hiroyuki Sanada, who gives a subtle and powerful performance as Oishi, while Rinko Kikuchi as the witch is extremely evil and extremely sexy, and gets most of the best lines as well.

     On the other hand 47 Ronin speeds along during its less than two hour running time, the costumes and sets are stunning and the action varied. Cinematographer John Mathieson is no stranger to epic productions, having been DP, for example, for Ridley Scott on Gladiator (2000) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005). Filmed in Budapest and London, and featuring scenes in spring and winter, the sets of 47 Ronin, including the dark and forbidding castle of Lord Kira, are beautiful to look at and the costumes are replete with colour: Japanese samurai armour always look great on the screen and the reds, blues and golds here are spectacular. 47 Ronin commences with an action sequence involving the tracking, chase and killing of a large, mythical CGI beast, and the action seldom lets up from there. The combat is however varied, loud and chaotic, and includes single combat on board a ship, fights with shape changing demons, an ambush and the spectacle and mayhem of an all-in attack upon a castle featuring explosions, arrows and massed swordsmen. There is also a 3D version of the film, and while the 3D effects are not overdone, some of the sequences would look spectacular.

     47 Ronin is colourful and exciting, the fights are chaotic and varied, the sets and score are epic and the ending moving. It is a “re-imagining” of the legend of the 47 Ronin, made for a non-Japanese audience, but it does retain enough of the story about honour, duty, loyalty and revenge to be recognisable.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     47 Ronin is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, close to the 2.35:1 original theatrical ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Filmed using digital Arri Alexa cameras, the print is sharp and detailed with every glint and sheen off the samurai armour visible while the sets, such as Lord Kira’s castle, look spectacular. The film has those glossy digital colours, which in close-up on the costumes and armour are beautiful. Some of the wider CGI shots, such as the reveal of the ships in harbour, are less successful and look softer. However, blacks and shadow detail are solid, skin tones thankfully do not evince that digital yellowish tinge, contrast and brightness is consistent.

     I did not notice and marks or artefacts.

    Subtitles are available in a range of European languages plus Hindi and Arabic.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of English DTS- HD MA 5.1 or French, Italian, German, Spanish and Hindi DTS 5.1 dubs at 768 Kbps.

     As might be expected this is an aggressive audio mix. Dialogue was clear, even with the Japanese accents, and centred. The surrounds and rears were constantly in use for the score, weather effects, horse’s hooves, the crash of swords and blunt weapons, battle cries and the whiz of arrows. There are plenty of directional and panning effects as well, such as the whoosh of the beast’s tail and the flight of arrows, while the sequence with the whispers in the demons’ forest is effective and enveloping. The sub-woofer ably supported the thud of hooves and the beast, the footsteps of the giant samurai, drums, the explosions and music.

     The orchestral music score by Ilan Eshkeri was suitable heroic and epic, but also worked well during the quieter moments. It was well represented in the mix.

     The lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Other than the deleted scenes, the rest of the extras are better than average EPK sections with behind the scenes footage and interview segments. Most feature the director Carl Rinsch and star Keanu Reeves plus others as noted.

Deleted Scenes

    There are four deleted scenes, none essential, although a bit more of the witch is a good thing. They are:

Re-forging the Legend (6:44)

     The filmmakers acknowledge they are “re-imagining” the Japanese story. This featurette also looks at the sets in London and Budapest, the costumes and some of the visual effects. Additional comments from producer Pamela Abdy, Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada, the costume designer, supervising art director, and visual effects supervisor.

Keanu & Kai (4:00)

     About Keanu and his character in the film.

Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin (5:54)

     Behind the scenes footage of some of the fight sequences, as well as rehearsals. Extra comments from stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell, co-writer Chris Morgan and various actors.

Myths, Magic & Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin (7:35)

     Pre-viz of some of the beasts and creatures, behind the scenes shooting showing green screens and the prosthetics. Extra comments from a stunt rider, stunt co-ordinator, producers, prosthetics make-up artist, visual effects supervisor and actors.

Ultraviolet Code

    The Blu-ray comes with an ultraviolet code for digital download of the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This release is the same as the Region A US version of 47 Ronin except for language and subtitle options.

Summary

     This version of 47 Ronin is a re-imaging of the famous Japanese story that adds mythical beasts, demons and a shape changing witch but it retains enough of the basis of the story about honour, duty, loyalty and revenge to be recognisable. I am a sucker for large scale, spectacular fantasy adventures and considered in this light, rather than as a serious retelling of the legend, 47 Ronin delivers.

     The video and audio are very good. The extras are worth watching and are the same as available in other regions.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, June 09, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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