Thursday, January 24, 2013

’47 Ronin’ search for ‘honor, revenge and impossible love’ on Christmas 2013

HeroComplex The saga of the 47 ronin is based on 18th century historic events but as the story settled at the center of Japanese consciousness — it’s been described by scholars as ”the national legend” – it was enlarged and embroidered to fit the needs of folklore. And now comes Reeves, Universal Pictures  and director Carl Erik Rinsch to adapt that grand old tale of battle and duty into a 3-D spectacle film for 21st century audiences. The epic has been adapted for the stage, film and television again and again (of the films, 1962′s”47 Samurai” and 1941′s “The 47 Ronin” are the best known to Western audiences), but this version will shine an intense spotlight on Japan with a cast of top stars from the country’s film scene, including Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Kô Shibasaki and Rinko Kikuchi, the Oscar-nominated actress from “Babel.”

That scrutiny, however, is a sword that could cut both ways. This version is set in a world of witches and giants, making this a battle epic more in tune with  ”300” than, say, ”Gladiator,” at least as far as fantastical elements. More than that, Reeves portrays Kai,  the son of an English sailor and a Japanese woman and a character created specifically for this Hollywood retelling. The 46-year-old actor chose his words carefully on the topic of tilting the classic to fit modern popcorn imperatives.

47 Ronin(1941) Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
“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,” Reeves said. “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.”

Reeves said Kai is “the half-breed, the outcast in the group” who joins with Oishi (Sanada), the leader of 47 ronin. 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.

In Kai, Reeves has found a character who is the outsider who wants to find his place. “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.”

Reeves said language has been a bit of challenge (“We do the scenes first in Japanese [to get everyone on the same page] and then do it in English”), but he’s found an esprit de corps with his fellow actors and a deepening fascination with the story that looms so large in Japanese hearts.  Most of all he’s been invigorated by the challenge of the fight scenes. “I haven’t done two-handed sword before so it was pretty cool to learn the basics and I’ve been building on that.”

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