So, I confess I tend to avoid films starring Keanu Reeves. He’s just not one of those actors I prefer (although, he doesn’t actively annoy me). Also, I studied Kendo, jujitsu, and enjoy things samurai-related. It appeals to my inner warrior, and hey, female samurai actually existed, as opposed to the European knights who were all male all the time (as far as we know). That said, the trailer for 47 Ronin instantly turned me off from the film. The reason why has everything to do with The Last Samurai, another movie I avoided in theaters but saw at home. The Last Samurai highlights the historically non-existent role of a white samurai from North America who through his super powers of whiteness, American-ness, and dudeness attempts to save a group of samurai from progress — or something. Ugh. Just… ugggh.
And then came 47 Ronin. The special effects looked damned pretty. The combat appeared to be better than movie average. The costumes were gorgeous. As a fantasist, I looked forward to seeing Japanese mythology desplayed on the big screen. On top of it, the film had a predominantly PoC cast — unlike The Last Samurai. All these things made me want to see it, and yet, the trailer warned me off. Largely, I blame Hollywood’s default trailer setting: white straight male saves the world. I can’t help feeling that doing so worked against the film in this case. I saw quite a bit more backlash against 47 Ronin than I did against The Last Samurai. Of the two, the second deserves the verbal beating more. 47 Ronin made a good effort. Mind you, it isn’t perfect. No work of fiction is. Could more progress be made in the realm of inclusiveness? Hell yes. Was progress made? Compared to The Last Samurai and The Last Airbender? Hell yes. At least 47 Ronin didn’t give only white Americans all the important, positive roles. Sometimes, I worry that we get so involved in whether something is perfectly inclusive and end up discouraging the film companies from investing in more inclusive titles. I believe we should be more demanding of media when it comes to inclusiveness. I do. But in this case, I feel 47 Ronin got a bad reputation it didn’t earn. It’s a fun SF film. See it.
—————————————————— Although, a white samurai did exist… in the early 1600s, and he was English.