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The beautiful disaster of ‘47 Ronin’

The beautiful disaster of 47 Ronin


Examination of this film, which releases nation-wide on Christmas Day, must begin with its first-time director Carl Erik Rinsch.  Before “47 Ronin,” he was known for directing a largely plotless 4-minute sci-fi short film called “The Gift,” as well as a few TV commercials for BMW andHeineken  (I guess he likes robots?). Some of the higher-ups at Universal were apparently very impressed with these, because they saw fit to hand Rinsch a starting budget of $175 million to direct a period piece epic based on one of Japan’s most famous national legends. You can see why he jumped at the offer. If someone offered our videographer Hugh Sullivan $175 million to do a feature after seeing his short films, I expect he would sign on that dotted line, even if said project did involve Keanu Reeves as a samurai.

And so, Rinsch and Co. went to work, intent on adding another stand-out entry to the “white guy inserted into foreign mythos to save the world” sub-genre. But all was not well, and it was quickly clear that things at the London shoot were amiss. Production costs expanded, ballooning up to an estimated $225 million. Numerous delays halted production, leading to reshoots. Even Reeves, the film’s supposed star, was busy during part of its production with his own directorial debut, “Man of Tai Chi.” He eventually was brought back for reshoots to, I kid you not, add him back in to the film’s final action sequence. Apparently he wasn’t a part of it previously? Does that seem concerning?

To say these issues pushed back the movie’s eventual release is an understatement, as it was initially scheduled for December of 2012. In late 2012, Universal clearly voiced its concern when it pulled Rinsch from further work on the film’s editing, putting studio executives in charge who were almost a full hemisphere away from the London shoot.  Go ahead and read the article in that link, and consider that it was posted in September of 2012. You know it’s a bad sign when you can go back 15 months to find an article about all the production problems a movie has been having, and the film still isn’t out.

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Too bad. This movie had such promise. 

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