Movie Review: The Last Samurai

If you like the idea of a round eyed, pretty boy teaching the Japanese what being a samurai is really all about, then you’re going to love “The Last Samurai”. Of course, there are also some great action sequences & lots of “Return of the King” like walking around sequences featuring Tom Cruise and Samurai “Bob,” but at least this movie doesn’t feature hobbits hugging each other incessantly.

As I said, there were some truly impressive combat sequences in the movie, which is great news since it’ll keep you from focusing too hard on the convoluted, bottomless, well of nonsense that is the plot. Try to follow this if you can; the “good guys” are the samurai, rebels who are rebelling against the emperor, who they consider to be a God by the way, for his own good. Later in the movie, we find out the Emperor can apparently stop their “rebellion” at any time just by asking, but instead he hires Tom Cruise to kill them all. O….K. Know why the samurai are rebelling? Well, they’re basically luddites who want to “preserve” Japan’s traditions. Traditions which include defending the Emperor with swords, bows and arrows. Meanwhile, the bad guys are the eeeeevvvvviiiilllllll Americans who want to sell the Japanese rifles, canons, and gatling guns and the Japanese capitalist who want to modernize the country.

You almost have to think there wouldn’t have been a movie at all if a conversation like this had happened,

Head Samurai Guy: Emperor, we are rebelling against you so that you will see value of the old ways.

Emperor: I see. Well, let me ask you a question; if the Russians show up and start shelling our coast with cannons, what do you propose to do about it?

Head Samurai Guy: We will die bravely in a vain attempting to row out to their ships!

Emperor: Well see, I don’t want you to “die bravely”. I want you to fire cannons back at them and sink their ships. You know what else? I don’t want people to spend all day riding across country on horseback carrying a letter when they can use a telegraph to send it immediately instead. Furthermore, do you understand how convenient it is to take food from one side of the main island to the other on a railroad?

Head Samurai Guy: Yes, but…

Emperor: But? Did I hear you say “but”? Ok, let’s try something…I want everyone who’s a living God in this room to raise their hands right now (raises his hand). Are you raising your hand? No, you’re not are you? So let me tell you what you’re going to do; You’re going to learn to use a rifle, use a cannon, & use a gatling gun. You’re also going to teach your men to do it. Now, if you don’t want to ride on the railroad or use a telegraph, don’t do it. Spend your time making tea, tending your orchard, preying to Buddha, or whatever it is you primitives like to do to pass the time. But, you’re going to stop rebelling and get with the program, do you understand me? Kneel before ZOD!

Head Samurai Guy: (Kneels) Yes Emperor, I will obey.

That’s probably all it would have taken to save thousands of lives and keep us from having to watch a drunken Tom Cruise alternately mope over his past and moon endlessly over how great the samurai culture was.

So is it a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”? Well, if the idea of seeing “Dances With Wolves” redone with better battle sequences and samurais instead of Indians is your cup of tea, then it’s definitely a “thumbs up” for you. Otherwise, let’s just call it a thumbs in the middle. If you think seeing great action outweighs the nonsensical plot, catch the film. If not, then be happy that I saved you from wasting 2 1/2 hours of your life.

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