I hate it when Hollywood chickens out on the ending.
Yes, Steven Spielberg, I’m looking at you. When I watched War of the Worlds for the first time, I was thrilled. It was the most fun I had watching a Spielberg flick since Jurassic Park. Yeah, it dragged a bit in crazy Tim Robbins’ basement, but still, it was mostly Tom Cruise, action sci-fi magic.
Until the end. You know, when the dead son magically reappeared for the big, warm, huggy family reunion. Because despite the evidence showing that all human life that was on the wrong side of the ridge when the aliens lit them up was incinerated to dust, Tom Cruise’s boy survived. Yippee.
I was miffed at best. I’ve pretty much refused to watch Spielberg since. It was just so galling, to undercut the tragedy of that moment and the degree to which it fueled Cruise’s character to work that much harder to save his daughter and himself.
(Spoilers ahead. You were warned.)
I thought that’s what director Carl Rinsch was pulling in 47 Ronin, as well. For acting against orders, the shogun demands the ritual suicides of the ronin. As they begin the ceremony and are about to disembowel themselves, the shogun halts the proceedings.
“Oh great. They’re going to $#@!& this up.”
But Rinsch didn’t. The shogun refused to end the bloodline of the chief ronin, allowing his son to be spared. Then, the ceremony resumed and the remaining ronin kill themselves.
Yes, it’s a tragic ending. But it’s true to the story. The ronin knew if they survived the attempt to free their lord’s daughter and avenge his death that their reward would be execution. That was the hill they had to climb. And they did so willingly and with honor.
If you’re looking for an Oscar winner, you’re in the wrong place. This movie has lots of genre-bending, supernatural, ass-kicking fun. It also has its faults. 47 Ronin attempts to do a little bit too much, there are some pacing issues and it’s probably too long. That said, it’s the best Keanu Reeves performance since The Matrix, and the movie as a whole stays enjoyably true to the kung fu and samurai film traditions from the far east.
And the ending brings it full circle, rewarding and, perhaps more importantly, respecting its viewers.