Starring: Matthew Fox, Tommy Lee Jones,
Eriko Hatsune, Masayoshi
Haneda, Toshiyuki Nishida,
Colin Moy, Isao Natsuyagi,
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 106 minutes
Distributor: Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate
Director: Peter Webber
Executive Producer: None
Producer: Gary Foster, Yoko Narahashi,
Writer: David Klass, Vera Blasi
Address Comments To:Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, Co-President, Roadside Attractions (A subsidiary of Lionsgate Films)
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The story focuses on General MacArthur’s orders to one of his generals, Bonner Fellers, to investigate the emperor’s involvement in Japan’s brutal war crimes and its decision to go to war against the United States. Fellers lived in Japan before the war. So, he’s considered an expert on the people and their culture.
The movie personalizes the story by also showing General Fellers’ search for the Japanese schoolteacher he met before the war. Her father is a Japanese general, so he knows some of the background to the Japanese military’s thinking before and during the war. However, he hasn’t heard from his daughter, who was teaching in one of the cities that was bombed at the end of the war.
Should the Japanese emperor be executed for war crimes? Or, did he have nothing to do with the military dictatorship established by General Tojo? And, will Fellers find the girl he once loved alive or dead?
EMPEROR is correct about what Fellers found out concerning the Japanese emperor’s complicity in the atrocious behavior of Tojo’s regime. However, the movie plays down the Christian, biblical foundations of America’s heritage and its positive effect on MacArthur’s main strength – his talent for geopolitical thinking. MacArthur’s administration of occupied Japan was absolutely brilliant, infused with good old-fashioned American, Christian insights.
Also, Tommy Lee Jones gives a superficial portrayal of the famous general. The movie adds some salty language to MacArthur’s character to complement this problem. However, it does seem correct in its emphasis on MacArthur’s well-renowned obsession for personal publicity.
The love story between Fellers and the Japanese schoolteacher doesn’t match well with the story about Fellers investigating the actions of the emperor before and ruing the war. Thus, the flashbacks to their relationship before the war detract from the story about the investigation. The scenes between Fellers and the girl’s father after the war are less annoying, however, probably because they focus more on the one thing that drives the plot – the investigation into the emperor.
Besides the foul language and the De-Christianization of history, the other problem with EMPEROR is a scene where Fellers confronts a Japanese government official about Japan’s brutal occupation of parts of China, Korea and other places in Asia. The movie accepts at face value the official’s reply that for decades America occupied the Philippines, so Japan shouldn’t be punished for its actions during World War II. This is the kind of ham-fisted, irrational moral equivalence that shows how much dumbed-down modern education has become.
Besides this and the revisionist history, EMPEROR contains some foul language. So, extreme caution is advised.
The flashbacks to the love story between Fellers and the fictional Japanese woman slow down the main story. Also, the acting in EMPEROR could be much better, especially Tommy Lee Jones’s portrayal of General MacArthur. The movie gets the facts about the Japanese emperor correct. However, it De-Christianizes the story of General MacArthur’s brilliant administration of Japan after the war. EMPEROR also has some foul language. So, extreme caution is advised.