In 2013, Universal Pictures releases 47 Ronin, the first film directed by Carl Rinsch, the first and, so far, the only film he has ever directed. Why? Because 47 Ronin was one of the biggest box-office flops of that year, and also one of the biggest flops ever in the history of film. The movie just made around $150 million against a budget that was reported to reach $225 million. The film was a financial disaster, but it didn’t do well either when it came to critical or audience appreciation. Now Netflix brings us a sequel no one asked for and that seems to be as cursed as the original film.
Blade of the 47 Ronin is a film directed by Ron Yuan and stars Anna Akana, Mark Dacascos, Teresa Ting, Mike Moh, Dustin Nguyen, and Daniel Southworth. The film tells the story of Luna, a young outcast who falls into the middle of a war between clans for the control of The Witch Blade, an ancient magical weapon. Anna will find herself in the care of one of the clans as they believe she is the one that can fulfill an ancient prophecy, as she is the last descendant of the 47 Ronin.
It is very strange to make a sequel out of a movie that wasn’t particularly loved or successful, so when Blade of the 47 Ronin was announced, it came as a surprise. However, after seeing the final product, it is clear that the movie only attached itself to the 2013 movie because it needed some sort of support to be made. Right now, Hollywood cares only about franchises, even if it means being part of an unsuccessful one. Blade of the 47 Ronin has very little to do with the original, both in terms of story and even quality.
The original film had amazing visuals, but it lacked a compelling story or solid characters. Blade of the 47 Ronin is just like the original, but it also lacks the incredible visuals of the original. The movie feels very much like a low-budget straight-to-video film, and it takes itself way too seriously at times for what it is able to accomplish. Is Blade of the 47 Ronin the cringiest movie of 2022? Yes, it probably is, thanks to a terrible script that struggles to tell a coherent story or have meaningful dialogue, and also terrible acting.
One of the first things that will jump at you from the screen is just how non-cinematic, Blade of the 47 Ronin is. Ron Yuan is a very experienced actor and performer, but his role as a director is very limited. Here, you can see that his experience when making an action film is truly none. Thus, what could at least be a movie that displays the wonderful work of stuntmen and action doubles, becomes a sluggish series of fights with zero intensity or meaning within the story the film is trying to tell.
The film also lacks its own identity. It seems the movie is happy with copying and pasting several elements from other movies and mediums and thinks that is enough to give the film its own look. Of course, the John Wick franchise is looming over the movie, as it tries to copy the neon aesthetic that has made that franchise stand out from the rest. However, the neon palette is done in a less subtle way, and when you can see the lights posted on the walls and floors with no other purpose, the illusion disappears very quickly.
The movie also seems to be trying to have this anime-like quality that fills the movie with its cringiest moments. You see, anime, being an animated medium, can allow itself to be exaggerated in ways live-action can’t. So when Blade of the 47 Ronin tries to give anime quirks and looks to its characters in the same way an anime would, the result is characters that feel completely unbelievable and moments that end up having the opposite effects that were intended.
Most scenes have absolutely no shape. Especially in the beginning of the film, where Yuan can’t use fighting as a crutch to fill the moments. It is at this stage of the film when characters need to talk and establish themselves, that the script and dialogue just fail to do any of it. It is here that the movie reveals itself to have just terrible acting. For example, Anna Akana, the film’s protagonist, is delivering quite a terrible performance. It makes you wonder why she or her character is the protagonist of the story, when Teresa Ting’s performance and character are quite more compelling.
The costumes also work against the movie. We are dealing with a secret society of samurai that still dresses the way they used to hundreds or even thousands of years ago. It feels like a copout in order to not do the work and redesign the samurai aesthetic for the modern world. Many characters also have different hair colors, another sign that the movie wants to be a live-action anime, but doesn’t realize it doesn’t work that way.
Blade of the 47 Ronin is a poor attempt at creating a franchise from an already disgraced IP. The movie is filled with bad acting, and boring action sequences, and other than seeing Dan Southworth walking around dressed as Vergil, there are very few things to save from here.