Thursday, 20 September 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #955: What Just Happened?

Looks like Universal is going to stuck with another overpriced turkey just like their recent bomb Battleship.  Word is that the production of their film version of the legend of the 47 Ronin is an unmitigated disaster with an already big budget ballooning up to $225+ million, expensive re-shoots, and now the director Carl Rinsch has been shit-canned and the editing taken over by the studio.

For those of you not familiar with late medieval Japanese narratives, the 47 Ronin is a true story that has been elevated into folklore.  In the 18th Century a powerful lord (daimyo) was forced to commit ritual suicide for assaulting a Shogun's official that insulted him. the dead lord's 47 samurai retainers were now without a master, called "ronin," and decided to face almost certain death by seeking revenge against the Shogun's official.

Spoiler Alert: They all die in the end, but die believing their honor was intact.

The story has been adapted six times for film and television in Japan. So doing it one more time for Hollywood should be a no-brainer, right?

This is Hollywood and Universal Pictures we're talking about here. If there's a way to screw something up and spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing it, they will do it.

Here's how they did it:

1. First they tried to implant a Hollywood star into the movie, and apparently didn't prepare the film for it. You see there is no way in hell a major studio would spend their money on an all Asian cast. So they inject Keanu Reeves, who is like 1/8 Asian, to play a "half-white" ronin who joins the group. 

However, judging by the reports of the re-shoots, the filmmakers didn't realize that the studio was assuming that the white guy was going to take on the heroic leadership role and win the day for everyone.

This meant that they had to re-shoot the big final battle, add love scenes, and close ups of Reeves to make him stand out from his 46 comrades.

Because, Xenu forbid that a Hollywood studio allow Asian actors to be the true stars of an Asian story.

2. They reworked the story into a big 3D fantasy adventure instead of the real-world revenge tale. That means tons of CGI monsters, stunts, and special effects. Which means tons of money.

3. They hired Carl Rinsch. I have nothing against the guy, and he may be an extremely talented filmmaker, but I looked him up on IMDB and was stunned.

His entire filmography consists of three short films and then a $200+ million mega-blockbuster.


Shooting a short film or video is one thing.

Shooting a mega-budget action-fantasy blockbuster is a completely different thing.

I read that he the protege of Ridley Scott, and while that's all well and good, hiring him for this movie is the cinematic equivalent of tossing a small child who is only learning to swim into the ocean during a storm while carrying a backpack full of bricks and telling him to swim ten miles to an island without losing any bricks.

If he had some more experience of Hollywood he would have figured out that he would have to make Keanu the central hero, and the star of the final battle scene, and prepared the film accordingly.

In the old days the studio would start you off on their "B Movies" then the smaller scale "A Pictures" and then, once you've proven your ability in long-form storytelling, and managing complex productions, you got assigned to direct the big money epic.

Both Universal and Rinsch would have been better off just making the original story of the 47 Ronin the way it was recorded in history, sans monsters, with an all all-Asian cast on a more modest budget. Then they might have had a chance at a profit, something they probably don't have now.


  1. Blast Hardcheese20/9/12 7:24 pm

    Off the top of my head, some Asian actors who aren't exactly unknown here in 'Murica:

    Ken Wantanabe
    Jet Li
    Chow Yun Fat
    Jackie Chan
    James Hong

    Yes, many of them are Chinese not Japanese, but still...and if you're going to get a white guy, why Keanu? No offense to Mr. Reeves, who by all accounts is a very nice guy, but this ain't exactly in his wheelhouse.

    And I won't even address putting fantasy CGI BS into the 47 Ronin story. Have we become so numb that a blood-soaked tale of careful vengeance needs 'spicing up'?

  2. Rainforest Giant here,

    In Keanu's defense he looks fairly Asian. Nearly as much as Bruce Lee's kids. Wiith the right make up he looks the part. Besides, if Heimdal can be black and king lear everything from Asian to Apache, no one gets to complain about inventive casting.

    The story is solid, I watch the two part version at least once a year. It has a mindset as alien to western minds as anything on star trek so any westernization changes the story. I can't see going with a BMW director I can see adding an American star. Hollywood can screw up anything give them umpteen bajillion dollars big stars and a good story and they can make a hash of every from Superman to Heaven's Gate. No reason they shouldn't FUBAR this.

    So you looked at DC's messed up live action division what about the animation division? They've got some pretty fair voice actors, they rarely produce anything too horrible. Is there a way to transfer that to live action success? I know animation success doesn't always translate e.g. John Carter but something is better than nothing.