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Anyone looking forward to The Last Samurai?

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saw the film last night

Postby Aaron » Sat Dec 06, 2003 13:49 +0000

I went with some friends to see The Last Samurai last night, and though it wasn't a prefect film I enjoyed it quite a bit.
When I first read about the film I thought it looked overly-westernized and xenophobic. I mean, "Tom Cruise: The Last Samurai?" it sounds ridiculous.
The movie actually condemns westernization, racism and xenophobia, as it takes place at a time when Japan whas first opening its borders to the West and trying to become "modern" by sacrificing the old ways. The movie is about an American (Cruise) learning to respect the Samurai, etc. and is really as much about the United States as it is about Japan, although most of the movie takes place in Japan. It's nice to see that even in this day and age people can still make movies about the dangers of American imperialism and forigen influence.
So it's very much a western-ized story, it is an AMERICAN film, not a Kurosaua film, and although it's clearly be influenced by Japanese samurai movies, it doesn't try to be one. In this way it bears a lot of resemblence to Usagi Yojimbo -- Stan himself has said that he tells stories about Eastern culture as seen through a Western lens. There were actually parts of this film that reminded me a lot of the panels and pacing of UY, especially a scene with ninjas in the middle of act 2. If the filmmakers weren't influenced by Stan Sakai, they must have at least shared his influences, as a lot of the tone is similar.
The movie is really long and Cruise's acting is annoying at times, especially towards the beginning, but the battle scenes are good and the characters are for the most part well-developed and treated with respect. But just to compare the action with what happens in the pages of Usagi, I'd highly recomend it to any fans of the long-eared ronin.
Aaron
 

Re: saw the film last night

Postby mhirtes » Sat Dec 06, 2003 14:12 +0000

Aaron wrote:I went with some friends to see The Last Samurai last night, and though it wasn't a prefect film I enjoyed it quite a bit.
When I first read about the film I thought it looked overly-westernized and xenophobic. I mean, "Tom Cruise: The Last Samurai?" it sounds ridiculous.
The movie actually condemns westernization, racism and xenophobia, as it takes place at a time when Japan whas first opening its borders to the West and trying to become "modern" by sacrificing the old ways. The movie is about an American (Cruise) learning to respect the Samurai, etc. and is really as much about the United States as it is about Japan, although most of the movie takes place in Japan. It's nice to see that even in this day and age people can still make movies about the dangers of American imperialism and forigen influence.


Let's not get TOO hasty with the "yank-bashing" here. Japan has a lot of cleaning up to do in the racial-tolerance department of it's own (coughcough*Korea*coughcough). In fact, to this day, there are a lot of establishments in Japan that have "Japanese Only" on their doors. The racism is almost like the US South in the early 60's.
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Postby Marshdrifter » Sun Dec 07, 2003 15:29 +0000

Just saw it last night. I think the whole "white guy goes native" concept
works better here than in Dancing with Wolves. It's more acceptable to me
because, even as Cruise's character finds a new life and regained honor with
the samurai, Omura is adopting western culture. The emperor is in the middle
and eventually tries to find balance between the two.

This movie didn't strike me as something that said the samurai needed the
American's help, so much as it demonstrated the diversity and wonder that
can sometimes accompany exposure to a new culture. It also addresses the
notion of cultural preservation and change.

Honestly, I don't think I can get away with saying anything other than this
as I'm a Usagi Yojimbo fan not merely for the stories but for the setting as
well.

It was a good movie with only two spots that turned me off. It should win
an award for best use of ninjas in a Hollywood film. I enjoyed seeing the
Japanese architecture and the intricacies of the samurai armor. Nice work
there.
Marshdrifter
 

Postby tim » Tue Dec 09, 2003 1:11 +0000

i saw this movie and i really enjoyed it. it certainly had problems. i thought that the hans zimmer score was completely overbearing. the last scene was horrendous. some of the dialogue seemed a bit contrived and unnatural. and i didn't like the way that the moral theme eventually devolved into "samurai good, westerners bad." perhaps a bit more of the complexity of the situation could have been carried through to the end of the movie.

the action scenes were incredible (the ninja scene, especially). i felt like most of the violence was presented in a way that really made me cringe. certain scenes dealt with the concept that maybe death wasn't necessarily something to be glorified (of course, slo-mo violin death scenes towards the end might have discounted this). i thought that the movie (for the most part, until the end) attempted to explore the dichotomy of japan's need for modernization to survive in a changing marketplace vs. its need to retain its cultural identity and the emperor's struggle to balance the two, which, by my (admittedly scant) research seems pretty historically feasible.

as for the "bringing in a pretty white boy to make the story accessible to western audiences," i think that evaluation of the story itself discounts this argument. as marshdrifter pointed out, like dances with wolves and glory (the latter being "samurai" writer/director zwick's earlier outing), this is a classic fish out of water story, built around the very concept of a stranger in a strange land. and as this also takes place in the meiji restoration period, it is clearly about the westernization of an eastern civilization, and therefore it would be pretty impossible to tell this story withouth the presence of at least a few white boys.

cruise's acting? as usual, i feel like he made some obvious, melodramatic choices (especially at the beginning). but i liked the way he and the other characters developed their relationships during the second act.

anyway, i liked it. i get why some people didn't. but overall, i think it's great to see a major hollywood production set in this era (i can't think of any other big budged samurai flicks). perhaps this will lead to more films dealing with eastern culture.
tim
 

Postby takematsu » Tue Dec 09, 2003 15:47 +0000

as for the "bringing in a pretty white boy to make the story accessible to western audiences,"... takes place in the meiji restoration period, it is clearly about the westernization of an eastern civilization, and therefore it would be pretty impossible to tell this story withouth the presence of at least a few white boys


I'll grant that last statement, but they don't need to be (a) major characters, and (b) on the anti-modernization side of the thing. It's like having the cast of Independence Day deciding to bring the booger Wil Smith dragged in onto the side of Earth. Instead of locking it up and then killing it a lot. Because the pro-Shogun side viewed non-Japanese people pretty much the way we see the boogers from ID4-- unnatural and dangerous to the local way of life. (:mrgreen: "Do not run. We are your friends.")

Yeah, I should see it so I can complain with authority. You're all allowed to yell at me if I go off on it again without a viewing.
"...[H]uman beings are given free will in order to choose between insanity on the one hand and lunacy on the other..."
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Postby mhirtes » Tue Dec 09, 2003 16:17 +0000

[quote="takematsu"]Because the pro-Shogun side viewed non-Japanese people pretty much the way we see the boogers from ID4-- unnatural and dangerous to the local way of life. (:mrgreen: "Do not run. We are your friends.")

Well, let's not get into any discussions on which race is "better". Idiocy like that led to a REALLY pharked up situation a little over 60 years ago.
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Postby Aaron » Thu Dec 11, 2003 2:02 +0000

The film takes place a couple of decades after Japan had opened its borders to the West, so the xenophobia was dying down at that point. The leader of the rebellion that Cruise's character is captured by had actually played a part in helping the Emperor to modernize Japan, and is clearly open to other cultures (he has even learned English), so it isn't too far fetched to believe that they'd keep him alive. In Usagi's time, he'd obviously be a dead man, but the movie takes place hundreds of years later, at the beginning of the "modern" era.

Of course there were lots of liberties taken, but they're not as heineous as you might believe. A review in my local arts and entertainment rag noted that Cruise's character "seems at least distantly related to the Civle War captain Leroy Lansing Janes, a missionary who led a revolt of his own -- a Christian one -- in Japan during these years, earning him the nickname "the American Samurai." So at least there's some sort of precendent for white boys wearing the swords.
Aaron
 

Postby takematsu » Thu Dec 11, 2003 14:41 +0000

Well, let's not get into any discussions on which race is "better". Idiocy like that led to a REALLY pharked up situation a little over 60 years ago.


Just reporting, not endorsing! Heavens to gimball, No! :oops: and on that note...

Cruise's character "seems at least distantly related to the Civle War captain Leroy Lansing Janes, a missionary who led a revolt of his own -- a Christian one


Huh. {spends moment closing agape jaw} That is news to me, and I'll have to do more reading. I'll respond also to the notion that xenophobia was waning by the time of the events shown-- yes, in some quarters. There was still the rallying cry of "Respect the Emperor, Expel the Foreign Barbarians" which doesn't have a lot of tolerance built in ("Oh, we're fine with the CULTURED foreigners...."). I expect the guys with the repeating rifles were a lot cooler on the whole notion of white guys.

But I think we're all agreed that exclusionary politics of whatever basis are stupid and sucky. We're all the same colour inside, as those who fixate on the outward differences keep proving.
"...[H]uman beings are given free will in order to choose between insanity on the one hand and lunacy on the other..."
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Postby Todd Shogun » Sun Dec 28, 2003 10:36 +0000

The Last Samurai was quite good. Not a blow out all the stops answer to every samurai/Japan/ninja fan's dreams, but definitely well-executed in it's own right. I'd give it about a B+. Definitely worth the money and future DVD purchase (hopefully a Director's cut with extended footage?). There were only a couple times where I was all "aw c'mon, that would never happen!!", but I overlooked those as artistic license/small liberties taken to move the story along at a decent pace. And as pointed out here, it did take place hundreds of years post-UY's time.

But the real treat came when I went to see Return of the King... simply outstanding... too bad it was so short though 8) ... guess I'll have to wait for the extended DVD to get the full treatment.

For now I'll be in hibernation until Kill Bill V2...!
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It was ok!

Postby HOKITA » Tue Jan 06, 2004 7:35 +0000

I loved the scene were the Samurai attack the first time through the Fog and push the rifle men into the Yuri Samurai waiting in the back ground. The Cinematography was absolutely spell bounding and the weapons they had used down to the armor was very well researched. Now if they only could start making more historic films. Samurai history is better than Fiction and if they could use the technology they have now, I can only imagine the epic films they could produce. I mean watch RAN and tell me how unbelievable that would be with today's technology or Heaven and Earth (one of my faves to date) by Haruki Kadokawa. They can truly bring to a silver screen what true Samurai combat was like. I can only dream it happens.
"One who is a Samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind, by day and by night..... the fact that he has to die." - Daidoji Yuzan - 1600's.
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Postby takematsu » Wed Jan 07, 2004 6:12 +0000

Heaven and Earth (one of my faves to date) by Haruki Kadokawa.


I know some folks who were extra Ashigaru in that-- apparently it was REALLY authentic, in that the Ashigaru weren't given anywhere near enough water. Some of the people you see collapsing during the battle aren't following direction....
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Postby takematsu » Fri Jan 23, 2004 20:30 +0000

Bet you thought this thread was going to be dropped.... :twisted:

For Lunar New Year's fun (Merry Monkey, by the way), some friends presented me with an opportunity to see the movie. Given that it was free, and in an environment where I could hoot loudly when necessary, I will grudgingly admit to enjoying it. I'll go so far as to allow that there was a decent excuse for not doing away with Tom, although he could have been beaten up a lot more. It would be a REALLY good movie if he weren't in it, and the props and costumes were fantastic.

I will now shut my yap about it unless directly asked to offer further opinion <cheering, fireworks>
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Postby ziritrion » Sat Jan 24, 2004 0:20 +0000

"The Last Samruai" finally opened in Spain. I went to see it in English, though, because I had the chance to see a few seconds on TV and the dubbing sounded like if the Japanese were Soviet Communists ("Perrrrrfect, the flowerrs arrrr perrrrfect, comrade"). I really enjoyed the first half of the movie, and even a friend who went with me liked it (he is a VERY critic person, he loathed Return Of The King); however, the second half is too predictable. It was nice, though. The costumes and overall feeling were absolutely fantastic. And the choreographies (except the final battle) were very entertaining.

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Postby Onimusha » Sun Jan 25, 2004 6:49 +0000

Hi Guys

Saw this movie 2 weeks ago with my friend and she thought it was great but I personally have mixed feelings about it......

It fits in with the current trend of movie nostalgia where "the olds days were better" theme seem to be quite popular.

However we should realise that the movie makers struck a compromise in the end with the Japanese emperor making a statement to the effect that "modernlisation is good but we should never forget our own culture" or something similar.

Please everyone keep this discussion board gentlemenly and keep the normal "heated debates" to a minimum. I think a lot of us wouldn't want to see this board filled with bad karma, which should be reserved on "less friendlier" boards.

Oh and thanks Stan for such a great comic, the only one that I subscribe to these days. And thanks Todd for such a great looking website. :wink:
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Postby Onimusha » Sun Jan 25, 2004 6:51 +0000

By the way it was filmed here in New Zealand. Not too far from where my folks live. A place called Taranaki. :wink:
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