Sunday, June 13, 2010

Legend Of The Eight Samurai - 3.5/5

Of all the Samurai films I have seen I have never laid my eyes upon one quite like this. The samurai films I have seen have either been serious art films like the works of Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo) or over-the-top bloody ones like the Lone Wolf and Cub series. Legend of the Eight Samurai isn't overly serious or bloody, but it does have a lot of added fantasy elements and great sense of adventure making for a surprisingly fun time.

The plot, though an old one, actually reminded me of Star Wars which in turn was inspired by earlier Japanese samurai films. The story throws the viewers right into the middle of a complicated plot much like Star Wars and it seems a castle has been taken over by an evil (or "darkside") clan. The surviving princess escapes and must locate eight samurais, whom were born with predestined loyalty to the princess to take the castle back. Most of the plot is introducing our eight different samurai and the adventure and perils our princess goes through in order to locate them. Along the way she is captured by a man who wants to turn her in for a reward but he falls in love instead. The rest of the film is just pure adventure entertainment.

This well-made fantasy samurai epic is brought to life by great sets, lavish production values, interesting characters and good directing. There is a lot of crazy shit going on here to keep people's attention. Perhaps the most crazy sequence include an old woman who rips her flesh off to reveal a centipede of all things that tries to kill our princess. I also dug how our villainous baths in a large whirlpool of blood! The most beautifully shot sequence has to be a sword battle underneath falling leaves of cherry trees. However despite all this praise this film is still not a masterpiece as it does have many flaws. The biggest flaw is that there the character development is near nothing since we are thrown into a story in which important large events have already taken place. Some of the fantasy elements also come out pretty hokey especially how each of the eight samurai warriors are born with glowing crystals in their hands. Still it is a historical fantasy samurai film so some suspension of disbelief is needed. There is also a sequence when our young hero kidnaps our princess from four of her samurai. How are these samurai supposed to defeat a whole army of the evil clan if they can't protect the princess from one guy? I also forgot to mention the extremely odd score which is provided by the 80's pop rock group Nobody. The opening credits are overlaid on some artwork that looks like a cheesy 80's album cover and to top it off it has an 80's power ballad playing. This is not how I expected a film like this to start off at all!

I got my hands on this film as it was included in a DVD set called The Sonny Chiba Collection. Though he is in the film I wouldn't consider this "Sonny Chiba film." He is just a secondary character and fans of such films of his like The Street Fighter might get a surprise as they get an epic adventure tale instead. Despite being over 2 hours and having a good pace, I still craved more and perhaps this film would have been a masterpiece if it just had a little more character development. Other than that fans of fantasy adventure will be sure to have a great time.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

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