Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Last Samurai: or, Dances with Wolves, Revisited

This is a perfect example of a movie that could've achieved greatness, but fell short and remained only decent.


Lush cinematography, excellent acting all around, good special effects, interesting storyline--technically well-done.


Where to begin? This film reminded me so much of Dances with Wolves.Man is disillusioned and bitter about life. Man is discarded by his own people. Man meets folk of a different culture. Man learns they are far more benevolent and civilized than his people. Man joins them. Man aids them in fighting those whom he originally worked for/lived with. Get the picture?

Cruise's character served in the Indian wars in the past, reluctantly taking part in an Indian village's massacre. The movie gives no real context to these events, and portrays the Indians as peaceful victims. Additionally, the colonel he serves under, who plays a role in the later acts of the film, has no inner life or motivations for his actions. He's the typical cartoonish villain, committing evil acts for the mere pleasure of doing so.

Worse, the colonel visits Cruise later, asking him why he hates his own people so much. Here, the director could've redeemed his earlier lapses by having Cruise explain that he hates how events have played out, but doesn't hate his people or country. Instead, Cruise refuses to answer him.

Lastly, the tactics of the Samurai in battle were puzzling. One minute, they'd devise an ingenious method of wreaking casualties on the enemy; the next, they'd do something outlandishly stupid. I had a hard time believing men who trained for battle all their lives would be so foolish.

All in all, a disappointment. Two-and-a-half Stars.


Anonymous said...

The Year is 1793, as England prepares to enter what history will label the “Napoleonic Wars”; a young man of seventeen enters service in his Britannic Majesty’s Royal Navy. “What is your name son?” asks an officer to a young man newly reporting on the bridge. “Hornblower, Horatio Hornblower, sir.” stammers the nervous youngster. “How unfortunate for you”, is the gruff reply. So begins the swashbuckling adventures of our young hero striving to earn a career as an officer in England’s Royal Navy. Hornblower is attentive in learning his responsibilities as a midshipman and contentious of his honor and status as a gentleman.

Master and Commander lacked the plot, detail and intrigue of the Horatio Hornblower series. To compare M&C to HH is almost a waste. M&C is a cheep knock off, of a great series. Big budgets and special effects can’t make up for poor story telling.

If you want great storytelling, centered on adventure, comradeship and integrity get all the movies in the Hornblower series. If you want some pasty Englishmen, whining about his bug collection, and how unfair it is to fight for King and country when there are butterflies to chase, get M&C. One note of praise for M&C, watching it gives one a good idea how long a sailboat takes to get from England to the south pacific and back again.

Anonymous said...

The Master and Commander verse Horatio Hornblower post was Res. Sorry about that Wes.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that Samurai and Dances were similar in the plot.
Although both where quite well shot. I did like how the widow that Cruise was staying with never did give in to his lustful glances. If I remember correctly Dances w/ Wolves, Costner's character does have a relationship with one of the Indian ladies.
I thought the head Samurai did a great job acting his part, very enjoyable.


Nate said...

Hrmmm... don't like Cruies... Like Costner... Loved LS, hated DWW...


Wes said...

pretty bizarre, Nate. LS certainly had its high points, though.