Fascist Pagan Philosophy
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada,
Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi,
Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka,
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 119 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures/Comcast
Director: Carl Rinsch
Executive Producer: Scott Stuber, Chris Fenton,
Producer: Pamela Abdy, Eric McLeod
Writer: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini
Address Comments To:Brian L. Roberts, Chairman/CEO/President, Comcast Corp.
Stephen Burke, CEO, and Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman, NBC Universal
Jeff Shell, President, Universal Studios
Diana Langley, Chairman, Universal Pictures
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
Phone: (818) 777-1000; Web Page: www.universalstudios.com
In the story, Keanu Reeves plays Kai, the product of a liaison between an English sailor and a Japanese peasant woman. The woman abandoned Kai in the woods, and he was raised by a cult of demons worshipping Buddha. Early in the movie, Kai escapes the demons and is taken in by Lord Asano. He grows up to be an amazing warrior, but the other samurai in Asano’s province reject him because of his “half-breed” background. In the meantime, Kai and Asano’s daughter, Mika, have fallen in love, though Kai advises her that, because of his lowly status, it’s not good for her even to be seen with him.
One day, the country’s leader visits Lord Asano. With him is Lord Kira, who has designs on Asano’s territory and is in league with a female witch. The witch puts a spell on Asano’s samurai leader, and Kai decides to secretly replace him an important tournament battle with Kira’s massive champion. However, Kai is exposed and beaten.
That night, Lord Kira’s witch puts a spell on Lord Asano, and he is found trying to kill Kira. Asano has to commit suicide, his samurai are banished, Kira takes over Asano’s fiefdom, and Kai is sold into slavery. Meanwhile, Mika is given one year to mourn her father. At the end of that year, she will have to marry Lord Kira.
Asano’s 46 samurai have now become ronin, the word for a samurai without a master. The leader of the 47 ronin decides to put aside the past and ask Kai to help them. Thus begins an effort to kill Lord Kira and take back Asano’s kingdom.
47 RONIN has some exciting moments, though the characters may seem a little cardboard to moviegoers. The acting is just serviceable. A bigger problem is that the final climactic battle takes place at night and is a little underwhelming.
Some have complained that 47 RONIN has taken a well-known historical legend of Japan and given it a fantasy treatment, complete with some Japanese occultism, including an evil witch. However, the movie is being billed as a fantasy adventure anyway, so the criticism doesn’t wash. What’s more disturbing, however, is that the ending validates the Shinto Buddhist, pro-samurai beliefs that led to the militaristic policies of Fascist Japan in the 1930s and during World War II. Thus, for example, despite some moral talk about justice and honor, the movie still extols the concept of “bushido,” or social obligation, to a strict, despotic system of absolute obedience to a rigid hierarchy. In effect, allegiance to the group and its leaders becomes more important than right and wrong, and more important than the individual and his or her liberty. This is reminiscent of the faulty worldview in the movie THE LAST SAMURAI, though others would say that the Japanese military hijacked the concept of bushido to serve their own, anti-democratic ends.
Overall, therefore, the pagan philosophy behind 47 RONIN is abhorrent, especially because it also supports the idea of being obligated to commit suicide. The occultism in the movie is mostly considered evil, so that aspect is not of great concern. That said, 47 RONIN contains some scary elements in association with the evil witch and the demonic cult that raised the Keanu Reeves character as a boy. The movie also contains some vague, undeveloped references to reincarnation and to the Buddhist culture prevalent in Japan for thousands of years.
Of course, the Christian, Western, and Biblical idea of self-sacrifice does not involve deliberate suicide, but risking your life or giving up your life to save others, especially those who are weaker or more vulnerable. Thus, the individual person under Christ is not obligated to a rigid hierarchy. He is a slave to no man, but a servant of Christ who finds honor in humbling himself and serving others, especially people in need.
47 RONIN is better and more exciting than one might expect, but the climactic battle is a bit underwhelming. The acting is just serviceable. Worse than that, however, the samurai philosophy behind 47 RONIN is the same pagan philosophy that formed the basis of Japanese fascism during the 1930s and World War II. Overall, therefore, the philosophy behind 47 RONIN is abhorrent, especially because it supports the idea of being obligated to commit suicide.