Probably should put a SPOILER WARNING, so I won’t get people mad at me if I accidentally spoiled something.
So, Spider-Man Homecoming. In my opinion, the best Spider-Man movie to date. The Toby McGuire ones, while okay, are very dated, and while I did like the Andrew Garfield ones personally, they tried way too hard. This one just knocked the rest out of the park.
Now, I could rant about the many things that made the movie great, like the humor, Michael Keaton as the Vulture, the possibilities of Spideychelle greatness (trust me, I could go on for HOURS on that one), etc. But there’s one thing I have yet to see anyone talk about.
See, Tom Holland Spider-Man IS NOT AN IDIOT. There is three times in this movie where Peter is given the option many teenagers have been given: the option to be selfish. To ignore what’s more important and take it easy. To impress/be with Liz. But Peter didn’t take that option. He knew what was at stake and took the option that made him MISERABLE.
I’ll list and detail these three times just to drive my point further.
1: Liz’s Party. Peter had been almost forced to go to that party because he was pressured into agreeing that Spider-Man would make it there. Thanks Ned… This is probably the weakest example, since he DID almost go through with it. He had the suit on and everything. But he was able to have second thoughts and say to himself, “This is stupid, what the heck am I doing?” or something along those lines. Whether he would’ve still done it after seeing the explosion is up to debate.
2: Washington D.C. Peter went to D.C. with the Decathlon team, mainly to track down Vulture and his goons. Literally as soon as soon as he walked out the hotel room door, he was greeted by Liz, who was sneaking into the hotel pool with the rest of the team, minus Ned. She invited him to come along, this unintentionally playing with his emotions. BUT HE DIDN’T COME ALONG. Peter once again made the decision to be miserable, as well as disappoint his crush.
3: The Homecoming Dance. This is the greatest example. Peter has gotten his suit taken away by Tony, and just spent the past week or so (I actually don’t know how long that time skip was) not being Spider-Man. He got to ask Liz out to the dance. And she accepted! Plus the fact that he was warned the MINUTE before he walked into the school that if he didn’t stay out of what was going down that night, Vulture will kill him and everybody he loves. But what’s the first thing he does when he walks into the dance (besides see Michelle wave and flip him off)? He walks right up to Liz and says, “I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve this.” and walks out to stop Vulture. That just speaks volumes to me.
I guess rejecting the invitation to join the Avengers is a fourth thing, but that’s at the end of the movie and after Peter’s character arc, so it was kind of foreseeable.
But the thing that speaks the most to me is the fact that, despite all these things, Peter is not entirely selfless. If he was, he would be a “Jesus-kun cliche”, as one of my friends lovingly calls it. His entire motive throughout the majority of the movie is to join the Avengers. That’s all he wants, and he will do everything to get to that. Not listening to Tony or Happy, unlocking his suit’s capabilities despite not being ready for it, exploiting his friends to catch the bad guys.
But that’s the beauty of it all. IT MAKES PETER MORE RELATABLE. The other movie versions of Spider-Man did stupid stuff with their powers for personal gain that made us face palm (looking at you Emo-Peter). If you were in Tom Holland Spider-Man’s shoes, who’s to say you realistically wouldn’t do the same stuff he did? I probably would!
This is a movie where you can easily relate to the main character. If you couldn’t, then a lot of scenes wouldn’t be NEARLY as effective as they would’ve been. My heart stopped when Liz’s dad opened the house door, just as Peter’s heart most likely did. That was intentional. It’s just more proof that Peter is the most relatable Spider-Man of the movies.
And that’s what makes Spider-Man Homecoming so great.
Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Taika Hen (Kyoto Inferno) Film Review
Well, that time has finally come. I’ve waited nearly 6 months to finally watch one of the long awaited and highly anticipated sequels to 2012’s Rurouni Kenshin, directed by Keishi Otomo and boy was it fun to write about. Fair warning: this review is going to be comprehensive and in response to many of the criticisms I’ve seen fans give this film, as well as offer a fresh perspective as someone who one day kind of hopes to get into filmmaking and studies it off-hand from time to time. I’m not an expert by any means and I will try to keep it as simplified as possible, but I’m doing this becaue I’ve noticed that most reviews don’t really get into the meat of what makes the film good or bad. Instead, they choose to either praise or criticize what they liked or disliked from the movie in relation to the source material (sometimes comparing it to the anime, another adaptation), rather than observing what actually worked or didn’t work in the film. To do this, I will assign two scores at the end: One score is a personal assessment of the effectiveness of the filmmaking.This will largely be unbiased and as objective as one can possibly be. The second will be a score of how much I actually enjoyed the film subjectively. These will be given in the end. Each segment will have it’s own respect score, to tell how I felt about the execution of these really basic essentials in the filmmaking process.
Before I begin this review, I might add that when i first started The World with Roses blog, it was meant to be a film review blog before evolving into a contributor for HYRK, and during this time I did a review for the first film. Don’t worry, you don’t have to scroll throw my post history because I’m going to save you the trouble. I loved the film. It was horrendously flawed but it stayed true to the source material. I would personally award this film a solid 8/10 in the personal enjoyment category, but if I’m to be objective and assess how well made the film actually was, it’s probably a 6.5 out of 10. There were many continuity errors, non-sensical story elements, cheap looking props being filmed at inappropriate times and sometimes really lazy directing. I mention this because this review will reference the first film from time to time.
One final note: I consider the adaptations separate entities. I will try my best to refrain from harking on the movie simply because it missed something from the manga, unless it was important to the overall character and narrative. I will judge the films on their own merits as films. If they have something I liked from the manga, I’ll mention it, but overall, unless it effects the overall story arc or changes the central characters (CENTRAL is the keyword there) in a negative way, then I will judge it as a flaw for the film.
if you don’t already know, Kyoto Inferno is one of the two sequels of 2014 to the original Rurouni Kenshin film, all directed by Keishi Otomo and to kick off everything: It was bloody fantastic
Keishi Otomo seems to be one of the few directors that learns from his experiences each time he makes a film. I gave a few of my criticisms when I spoke my opinion of the first film above, and this film carries with it almost none of the flaws of it’s predecessor. The monumental effort put forth by Otomo and his team is astounding and really is commendable for reason’s I’m about to get into too.
Aside I said before, we’re going to take a comprehensive look at the main aspects of the film and point out any flaws if we find them. Let’s take a look!
Characters & Performances
The most obvious part of the movie is the acting and character performances. In the first film, a common complaint was that most of the characters were underdeveloped except for Kenshin and Megumi. While I disagree with this being a flaw (since I didn’t consider it necessary to do more than establish the other characters, which they were), It was disheartening that a great majority of the dialogue and conversations either revolved around Kenshin, or directly included him. So how does this hold up Kyoto Inferno?
Well, it’s freaking great! This movie features a lot of great character moments and a lot of conversations take place between characters whom previously had almost no interaction. Sano interacts with Megumi, Yahiko interacts more with Kenhin, Sano and Kaoru, Kaoru and Saito, Kaoru and Megumi and so on. Many of the interactions established their characters and revealed nuances through subtle dialogue and actions. Sanosuke’s hatred for the Meiji government is finally pushed a bit forward in this film. Megumi’s concern for Kenshin is finally voiced and Kaoru’s lack of reaction to Kenshin leaving elevates her from being a common damsel in distress who can’t live without a man.
Even the newer interactions such as Kaoru and Megumi’s conversations about her more quiet reaction to Kenshin leaving was far more impactful in the film than in the anime because it was more realistic and didn’t degrade her character motivation. In the manga, she went just to “see him”, but in the film she went specifically to make sure he doesn’t revert back to killing. She did it out of concern for his well-being, not because she became overly attached. It spoke true to the established character lore in the first film, while keeping as close as possible to the original. I guess I can speak more about it when they get their own character analysis. The performances are just as a bit better this time around too. The principle characters feel much more comfortable in their roles and everything has a more natural feel to it.
Yahiko is the only odd ball for me. In this film, Yahiko from the first film was recast and his actor couldn’t look more bored. The best part of his character is the way he was written, but overall, his actor couldn’t seem to portray the proper emotions behind his lines. It felt like a bored kid reading a script, which wouldn’t be a problem but in the first film, the original actor was far more convincing.
In this film, we finally are introduced to Shishio, played by Fujiwara Tatsuya and my god, this actor knocks it out of the park. Tatsuya BECAME Shishio. His demeanor, character presence, subtle actions, and even his body language each spoke volumes of the type of person Shishio is. I particularly like the cautiousness he portrays Shishio while also playing up his dramatic flair. We see this interaction in the shrine at the beginning of the film when Shishio seems to back down as Saito presses forward. It was a great, wordless interaction that speaks about both characters: Saito’s intimidation and reputation precede him, and Shishio’s caution to not entire a fight unless he’s absolutely sure he could win because if he engages and loses, the entire syndicate falls apart and probably doesn’t want to stress his body more than he has too. It reveals a level of cunning and awareness to pick and choose his battles.
Cho… oh man, Cho. Cho is the living embodiment of his character, speaking with a heavy accent, the squinty eye. His fight sequences were definitely the highlight of Kyoto Inferno for me. He plays his character incredibly well and has pretty (surprisingly) decent chemistry in the rivalry sense with Kenshin’s actor, Sato Takeru.
Soujiro is played very well for the limited time he was in the movie. He even provided some quirky comedy relief which was great. Yumi and Hoji were also very efficient in their roles (their time to shine is in the next movie). Soujiro’s scene with Okubo was very memorable as we saw some dark undertones in the character.
Aoshi, played by Iseya Yusuke, finally makes his entrance in the Live Actions. His character is more or less the same and his motivations are still in tact, but his characterization is a bit different. This rendition of Aoshi works in the context of the live action films and while his appearance is a bit out of left-field, Okina’s expository dialogue does a good job explaining his existence and his motivations.
Yusuke-san brings a new and dark dynamic to Aoshi, portraying him less like a human being and more of a demon consumed by rage. His anger is far less quiet than the source material as we see him yell, scowl, engage in fights where he clearly knows he could win but exercises absolutely no restraint. He seems to lose his temper in his frustrations in his inability to confront Kenshin and in his flashbacks, his devotion to his men is far more obvious. I personally prefer this dark approach to Aoshi because I always found him a rather boring character and his motivations were a slightly poorly realized in the manga, but in the film, his motivation makes more sense. Kenshin overthrew the government that had his men executed and now he was deprived of anyone to vent or rage about and he’s the only one left alive. His anger is purely guilt-driven and his desire to fight Kenshin has some suicidal overtones. Fighting Kenshin is a win/win: He fights and earns the title of the strongest, or he loses and likely will die.
Of course, there are manga/anime purists who hate the changes, but objectively, within the context of the movie, Aoshi’s character makes much more sense and is portrayed convincingly and very well acted! His portrayal of emotions is really startling but helps the audience both fear and respect him.
The Oniwaban are range from effectively to somewhat well and hilariously, they have more screen time and dialogue than the Juppongatana. Misao, Okina, and the core members were all pretty good. I thought Okina overacted a little at some points but whatver, I guess. The men Aoshi was trying to save in the flashback were pretty cartoony too, but seeing Aoshi that pissed was pretty awesome.
To close this segment, I want to end on Eiji. Eiji’s performance was interesting. See a lot of child performers are…well…. bad. Eiji on the other hand was fascinating as his main purpose was essentially to cry and be pissed off because his family was murdered. He was meant to reveal the consequence of Shishio’s rule on the common household family and his primary character emotion was to emote grief and the cycle of violence men like Shishio inspire by filling with desires of rage and revenge. That is not an easy emotion to emulate or convince the audience that he’s feeling because he’s so young and usually child actors lack the emotional maturity in order to channel those complex emotions and he freaking NAILED it. He was totally convincing in his role and seeing him cry was one of the more heartbreaking moments in the RK sequels (So this is Heartache?). Hats off to this badass little kid who carried a big role and I hope I see more of him in the future.
Actors aren’t the only thing that bring characters to life. The screenplay needs to be equally strong. Writing a screenplay, especially for an action movie, is very difficult. Action movies, especially in the West, can come under scrutiny due to the megasucess of undeserving blockbusters, with eye gouging special effects, and worst of all, crappy one-dimensional characters and a horrible story/plot. If you take the story too seriously when it’s warranted, then it comes under heavy fire by people who WANT to take your shitty screenplay seriously, but CAN’T and end up bored.
Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno on the other hand, walked that line well. The story itself is a bit complicated, especially to people who don’t know Japanese history or anything revolving around the Bakumatsu. The one “flaw” in the screenplay (which isn’t even really a flaw) is that it’s target audience is Japanese and it’s marketed to people with a somewhat basic knowledge of the historical setting. While it gets pushed to international markets, it assumes that people watching these films oversees are already fans of the series, which is why it gets shipped to places where Rurouni Kenshin is marketable.
The thing I loved most about the writing in this movie, besides characters interacting with each other more and having subtle dialogue that for fans reminds us of the past of certain characters, as well as rewarding observant viewers who haven’t seen or read the original source material but can infer based on dialogue. (Kenshin to Sano: You’re not fond of the new government, are you Sanosuke?) It approached the material with subtlety and didn’t feel the need to treat it’s audience like we’re stupid.
The Tokyo scenes, in stark contrast to it’s brutal and fiery opening, were beautiful too. Kaoru has her reputation repaired and is making bank, Megumi has resumed a medical practice in atonement for her crimes as a drug manufacturer, Kenshin and Yahiko both presumably live with Kaoru now and do menial tasks, as well as Yahiko participating as a senior apprentice to the other students, who interestingly are much larger than he is (we’ll get to that later), and Sanosuke still being a lovable lug. This really had a happy and warm tone, reminiscent of the conclusion of the first Live Action film which really made Kenshin’s departure, and the gradual dip in tone, all the more startling to non-fans and fans alike. It was well crafted writing and really gave us a tragic sense of what Kenshin is giving up to stop men like Shishio as well as reveal that no matter how happy he is, Kenshin’s past will always threaten to destroy him and what he wants to protect.
The film also had some powerful character establishing moments, especially with Soujiro who broke Kenshin’s Sakabatou with a smile on his face and Kenshin remarking midfight “what’s so funny.” Something was always off kilter to the audience about Soujiro (wonderfully performed by Kimiki Ryunosuke) and how he changes from violently angry and charmingly cute and happy. It also had more subtle ones about Shishio and this is where the writing excels by utilizing the “Show, Don’t Tell” policy.
When we’re introduced to Shishio, Shishio filmed from a camera slowly panning upwards with several low angle shots, implying dominance. The camera cuts to Saito, also filmed from a low angle shot implying the same thing. As he slowly presses forward, sword drawn, Shishio backs away slowly, but in stark contrast, he seems rather unafraid and then sends his goons to attack Saito. Later, he looks eager to fight Kenshin (basically failing to do basic tasks such as handing Yumi a bowl and instead neglectfully dropping it infront of her and reaching for his sword) but instead comes to his senses and asks Soujiro to play with him instead. The following exchange he has with Yumi where he predicted how the fight will end and how it came down to Battojutsu without being seeing anything about the fight suggests to the audience that Shishio is actually more cautious, but in reality is an extremely perceptive and dangerous fighter who is by no means an amateur. He is dangerous.
Then again, we see his caution take hold when he fights Kenshin on the ship. The Juppongatana were the first line of defense before Kenshin reaches him, and then Shishio asks sarcastically, “Is that all you’ve got?” Now, audiences that are perceptive that he’s not one to be trifled with. Anyone who has seen the trailers though, knows that this man eventually takes on 4 of the strongest fighters in the series and nearly wins. So why was he so cautious? It’s never stated, but given the visuals and the story so far, it’s because he’s not an idiot: he’s aware that he has a time limit on his body, but more importantly, he’s aware that without him this operation will fall apart so he can’t let his swordsman’s enthusiasm get the better of him. This shows that he isn’t just cautious, but capable of remarkable restraint and is rather level headed and cunning, despite his hot-headed retorts to Kenshin on the ship.
The plot itself is very tight and action packed, but gives the characters and scenes room to catch their breath and reflect on the situations before making decisions, which was very nice: it made the action and consequences carry weight and despite a couple of convenient coincidences here and there, the film and the world itself was believable, enjoyable to watch, and suspenseful for first time viewers.
The Shadow Double scenes was a bit awkward and it felt a bit like a shoe-horned reference to Jinchuu, but overall, the action sort of makes up for it and the motivation behind it (to taunt Kenshin which Shishio does throughout the entire film) made sense. I just wish it didn’t come off as silly, but luckily it didn’t shatter the tension of the scenes for me
Is this movie unaccessible to people unfamiliar with the RK story? Most certainly not, but there are many details one would miss unless they have knowledge of Japan and it’s history. For example, right before the Battle for Kyoto (as I call it), Shishio’s men light fireworks into the sky to announce their arrival. This is because the plot to burn Kyoto was already devised by Choshu men (the side Kenshin and Shishio both fought for) during the Gion Festival and they were stopped by the Shinsengumi. Saito mentions as much but the fireworks were a taunt by Shishio to Saito most of all (especially since the Kyoto Taika situation was a complete farce and diversion). This was actually a pretty decent plot twist, to be truthful but that’s not quite the finale.
The film’s final sequence is on the Rengoku. Kaoru has just been kidnapped by Soujiro and Kenshin is in hot pursuit. A wonderful little red herring is when Soujiro passes Kenshin JUST at the right moment. To the audience it seems like that’s a really convenient coincidence because we suspect Soujro might have done it on purpose to lure Kenshin to the ship. NOPE.
The plan wasn’t to “kidnap” Kaoru so Shishio can make Kenshin enraged and fight him. Shishio has already established that his character is far too cunning and far too intentionally organize a fight like that, especially seeing as he has no clue how strong Kenshin actually is at this point, especially in an enraged state. No, the goal was for Kaoru to be a political hostage. He kidnapped Kaoru so that way, when Shishio met Ito Hirobumi, Hoji would be holding Kaoru captive and essentially pressure Kenshin into getting beheaded in a “either your head rolls, or hers” situation. The public execution was probably part of the plan this whole time. It ruins the credibility of the government by having him executed, it’s poetic justice since Shishio’s attempted murder and burning was politically motivated, and he would remove literally the only obstacle standing between him and a full scale governmental take over and if he had Kaoru, Kenshin would be in no position to reply. This could also be why Kaoru shouts to Kenshin: “Promise me you’ll live!” She probably overheard their plan. Also, for anyone who still might be skeptical, ask yourself, “Why would Shishio set sail if that was the case?”. Shishio clearly set sail before any of them even knew Kenshin would arrive on the ship and when he does, everyone seemed genuinely surprised.
This is further supported by Shishio saying, “Nevermind, we’ll see whose the best right now!” The use for Kaoru is over if their target is outnumbered and outgunned and right in enemy territory. It’s kind of telling that Hoji expected Shishio to win and to enrage him further, he kicks Kaoru overboard. He wouldn’t have done that if they expected Kenshin to live.
Overall, the story was clever and took massive twists and turns, referencing the manga if they couldn’t shoot it shot-for-shot but still managed to carry it’s own entity without having to rely on established lore to understand the film. The dialogue was nice, the character interactions were intense, each scene had it’s own unique tone and room to breath, admittedly the pacing is a tad “meh” but the rest of the film and it’s quality all make up for it.
This is was my biggest problem with the first film and (spoiler alert) the third one. To be clear, being a director means you are in charge of the film. Think of it like being a great overseer of a project. He or she has an artistic vision of how the film should play out based on the screenplay, and directs the actors as well as crew members into creating the perfect shot or scene. A director’s degree of involvement vary from director to director. David Fincher is notorious for being rigorous and uncompromising in his vision, ensuring that every shot is perfect, has the correct color temperature, is properly edited, and looks convincing. Meanwhile, Michael Bay is the epitome of messy in some places as when he directs drama, the cameras are constantly moving, nothing is ever out of focus, making the movie difficult to follow, and so on.
The directing in the first movie, to me, was really mixed. While Keishi Otomo did know where to put the camera when directing action sequences, and was smart to let the camera sit still when there was drama so we can soak up all the visuals, he has made what I consider lazy decisions, probably due to being rushed during filming in certain locations, and probably didn’t have enough for another take. There is a scene in the first movie where Kenshin runs from Sanosuke during his fight, and the Sakabatou Kenshin is carrying is clearly made out of rubber, and worse yet, it was bent. This in itself is justified as the actor had to be comfortable when performing his stunts… but did the camera NEED to capture a full body shot where the Sakabatou was obvious? Couldn’t the camera had just locked on his chest up? I’m not a film director, but things like this are visually distracting to me, and ruins the immersion of a film because I become aware I’m watching a movie at that point. The way he sat and had the scene edited was also extremely sloppy and the pacing was everywhere.
So Kyoto Inferno comes around and guess what? Keishi Otomo seemed to actually learn from the first one. Each scene took it’s time and let the scenes breath. The cameras used were nice and clear and sharp, the actors brought their A-game, each revealing new shades to the characters, and the special effects where amazing when used. It was really convincing using practical sets instead of CGI in most places and the sets felt authentic and real. While I’m sure there are some continuity issues (which by the way, doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, or that a film needs to be flawless. Almost every movie, even the nice indie ones by superb filmmakers like Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Haneke all have slight errors here and there. It’s nothing egregious) they were hard to notice and the film generally did a good job of covering it’s tracks.
The best thing about Keishi Otomo’s directing style is that he gets up close and personal with the actors. He talks to them, asks them to bring the best they can muster to the scene, tells them precisely what he wants, and works closely with the action director (choreographer) to ensure that the moves are cinematic and determine which camera angle might be the best to film those particular movements.
If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say the first movie was more scrutinized and it was probably run on a very small budget and couldn’t rent out certain locations for long periods of time, which sort of forces you to get everything right in one take. The pressure itself can wear down on everyone and can tempt filmmakers into making some rash, last minute decisions in order to wrap the scene up. The second film seemed to have all the time in the world and it shows. Keishi Otomo’s approach feels more confident and relaxed. The scenes don’t feel rushed and he seems to have a better understanding of pacing, as the movie remains in overdrive while slowing down in appropriate moments when necessary.
Now onto the a piece that highlights where Keishi’s amazing directorial skills shine: The Battle for Kyoto, where Otomo has to director, I believe I read was around a couple of hundred to a thousand extras, making sure no one got hurt in the process, but also looking as convincing as possible. Having any sort of war scene is extremely challenging for everyone, especially the director. The fighting has to look realistic so the audience believes that people are actually dying, which mounts the stakes and thus stirs up the desired emotion from the audience. He also had a brilliant balance of the violence level of the scene. When the fight sequences were done by Kenshin-gumi or the Oniwaban, it’s highly stylized and meant to emphasize each of their prowess in combat, which was freaking great, but when it was with nameless combatants, the fighting seemed horrifying as we see scared police officers trying their best to hold off Shishio’s mercenaries and dying in the process.
Otomo’s job was to convince the audience that it wasn’t a thousand extras swinging rubber swords at each other, but rather two opposing forces battling over the fate of Kyoto and I thought he did a really fantastic job. His lighting choices, camera angles, and stern directing style really came to life and overall, I would say Kyoto Inferno is EASILY the best directed of the three films.
Production designs, yes yes. This is easily where the Rurouni Kenshin films all excel at, but rarely gets noticed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the name of the production designer because I can’t read Japanese and no trustworthy sources translated all of the staff credits, so we’re going to refer to him or her as PD.
Production designs help create the immersive property of the film. The PD directs things like costume designers, hair stylists, make-up artists, lighting, as well as working with the Cinematographer (or Director of Photography or DP) and the director (or sometimes the producer) to establish the look and feel of the film’s visuals. The cinematographer and director tell the PD what they want, what camera’s they’re filming with, what settings the camera’s are set to and the feel they want behind the scenes, and the PD designs the sets and has them built. They work with concept artists and storyboard artists, to help determine what the final look of the film will be.
The production design in Kyoto Inferno was freaking fantastic. The costumes looked great, the time period was convincing, the sets of old Tokyo/Kyoto were amazing. The layer Shishio hid out in the beginning of the film was immaculately done. The set itself came alive, revealing details about the antagonist, giving the audience a clear idea of who he is and why he’s a force to be reckoned with and it was awe inspiring when it was a real, practical part of the set they tumbled over in front of Saito. The sets, costumes, and make up were all fantastic.
They also had several swords forged of real metal to look convincing in front of the camera. We have a live model of Saito’s sword, the Sakabatou Shinuchi and Kageuchi, Nagasone Kotetsu, Mugen-jin, the katana/kodachi (yes he uses one katana and a kodachi, not two kodachi), and the Zanbatou. Whether or not they’re sharp is debatable, though I highly doubt it. These are usually used in still shots and close ups of the weapons, or used when the character is drawing the sword before cutting away.
Yes there are some obvious elements to the design production like rubber swords, but when you understand the intensity of the actor’s choreography, it’s hard to fault the film for taking precaution. The sets themselves were amazing, particularly the Kamiya Dojo, Shishio’s layer, Shingetsu village, and The Rengoku. Everything felt authentic and true to the time period and it was really easy to get sunk into the world of 11th Meiji Era Japan.
Cinematography & Editing
The Cinematographer, or DP is responsible for how the film looks, what camera angles to use, what camera settings to keep the camera on, how much light to capture, and what specifically to film. DP usually works with the director to ensure that each shot is up to part and the DP helps design the look of the film. The degree of control a DP has depends on how much control the director gives him. Emmanuel Lubezki (Tree of Life, Gravity, Birdman) is one of the great DPs in movie production today, and he’s usually given free range to film as he pleases, giving all the movies he works on, despite different directors, a unique look and feel that immediately identifies him as the DP.
For Rurouni Kenshin, the cinematographer is Takuro Ishizaka. As for my opinion of him… I think he’s….efficient. Okay, the first film was not the best shot movie in the world. A lot of the colors on the image looked really bland and boring, the shot composition wasn’t so interesting and some of the fight choreography would be lost because he would try to get too close and personal to the actor. Also his filming choices for certain scenes were laughable, particularly in the shots where Jin-e jumps off the bridge in the first movie.
Now compare it with the shot of Aoshi performing the same maneuver from The Legend Ends (since the sequel films were shot back to back). Ishizaka really improved and gave everything a fresher feeling, one that didn’t muddle or distract from the situation in the film.
The Cinematographer and the editor’s job is a bit more esoteric than simply holding a camera as well. The cinematographer should be in tune with what’s going on in the sequence he or she’s filming. If something is shot incorrectly, or in an inappropriate manner or angle, the whole feel of the film can easily be thrown off, and distract the audience. Ideally in a film, when all the components work in tandem, you forget you’re watching a movie and it sucks you into have an experience unique to cinema. Even if you don’t know all the technical details of a movie, or even if you know nothing of movies or how they’re made, your brain will still notice something is off about a certain scene, even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. Really bad CGI for example can ruin the cinematic experience for some people, especially when the scene already has a prop that looks good, however when special effects are done right, and the cinematographer shoots it in a way that’s not distracting,
In Kyoto Inferno, the cinematography was genuinely good. It wasn’t on par with Emmanuel Lubezki or anything but really it doesn’t have to be. The fight sequences were shot in a nice wide angle, letting you soak in most of the choreography, or it was held at an over-the-shoulder angle so you can see the actor’s faces while performing their fights. The cinematography can say a lot about a scene. Take this screenshot of Soujiro smiling during his fight with Kenshin:
Notice the blood in the background? Shishio, during the same fight, tells Yumi that Sou is content to kill, but that is gloriously illustrated in this subtle shot. He’s smiling, even chuckling during the fight, even though both characters are surrounded by carnage and blood splattered over the walls. Kenshin, by comparison, is serious and intent on defeating Sou and catching up to Shishio but Soujiro is so calm and nonchalant, it speaks volumes on how his character registers brutality and violence. We get glimpses of this when he assassinates Okubo, and then again when he applauds Kenshin making short work of Shishio’s mercenaries.
A shot like this makes it visually eerie, since the audience members are not usually psychopaths, so when the violence is presented in a brutal and realistic way (much like the opening sequence of the first film during the Battle of Toba Fushimi), it makes it really disturbing how a character like his can be smiling at a situation like that. This is all translated in just one shot and even if you didn’t pick up on the symbolism, when illustrated by Shishio, it creates a nice ambience to the Sou vs Ken fight.
We have other symbolic shots like this, like Shishio’s conversation with Kenshin before he hands Sou the Nagasone Koutetsu, the camera slowly pans in a close up of Shishio with a burning candle in soft focus, then quickly cuts to Kenshin, where what I can assume are Sakura blossoms, falling near by Kenshin which resembles snow, giving the audience a visual contrast between these two characters to accent the contrast between their ideology. It’s little moments like these, especially with a beautiful, clear camera shot that make the movie not only worth watching on blu-ray, but make the audience, if you’re paying attention, aware that the people who made this put a lot of care and time and effort into arranging a shot with symbolism that the audience may overlook or may not even notice. So to anyone who says Otomo didn’t care about RuroKen….well you’re wrong.
Fight Choreography/Action Direction
And the final part of this review is, drum roll please…… Action Direction, or fight choreography. So for those that don’t know, action and stunt sequences are designed, based on the script, and then ensure that they can do it with minimal danger to the actors and doubles and then work with the director to ensure that they are true to his vision. The stunt team also are responsible for wire rigging, and working closely with the actors to make sure they are physically strong enough to perform the stunts.
There is however, once again, a more…..cinematic and thematic component to fight choreography that gets lost in animation and print formats: Each move, much like each line of dialogue, must move along the plot and reveal to the audience the characters’ mindsets. A good contrast is between Sano’s street fighting fist style and Aoshi’s refined Kempo.
Sano’s techniques are wild and belligerent, meanwhile Aoshi’s techniques are refined but powerful. He puts in the appropriate amount of force and strength behind each movement and uses everything around him to his advantage. Seeing him fight gives us a sense of who he is as a person and each character’s fight style is part of their characterization, which helps strengthen the way we identify those characters.
The action sequence with Chou is probably my favorite fight scene in the film and my 2nd favorite fight of the entire trilogy. The characters were nicely handled, Chou’s overacting was par for the course for his overtop the character, and we see Kenshin endure some pretty heavy psychological consequences. The whole sequence has weight and we got to see the main character in a context we never got to see him in before: fighting without his trusty Sakabatou, and better yet, we see him utilize strategy, environment, and manipulation of his opponents mental state.
Overall, the fight sequences all have weight in Kyoto Inferno, each one feels dire and the stakes are high. We’re on the edge of our seats as we watch Kenshin sway between manslayer and rurouni, the Kyoto battle sequence has weight and we watch characters suffer, many people die, and the principle cast each have their time to shine, and the finale carries with it a powerful character driven, albeit short, conclusive action sequence and once again, it takes its time to wind up to it and is remarkably restrained. The fighting in this movie was bigger, badder, the steaks are higher, and overall an enormous improvement over the first film.
In the end, Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno is a sleekly directed, well acted, well-shot and incredibly choreographed sequel, and one that improves in every way over the first film. Each interaction and shot was meaningful, the tone was better established, the characters are all lively and vivid making it wonderful to see how they react to their situations and in some ways, improves even upon the manga, which is something every good adaptation should do.
Overall, it’s a not just the perfect Rurouni Kenshin film, but a damn-right good action film and a beautiful love letter to Chambara and Chinese Martial Arts films, with many Akira Kurosawa-esque themes while also deconstructing common themes found in these genres and perhaps almost masterfully (a word I rarely use to describe film, unfortunately) deconstructs and reconstructs it’s main character, showing us sides of Kenshin in a more human and morally ambiguous light. I really genuinely enjoyed the film
I want to dedicate this review (and the next one) to white-plum for being the reason why I’m even here and giving everyone a beautiful place to celebrate one of the greatest stories ever told and for being a personal friend of mine. You’re the best!
I edited as much as I could but I wrote so much and doing this consumed my whole night, so if you see spelling errors or w/e, sue me, I’m tired T_T. Anyway, hope you enjoy the review!
for the first time yes I know I’m upset too but
*spoilers ahead* (if you haven’t seen it yet like me then hah)
Is HARRY ACTUALLY DEAD?!?
I ASSUMED Eggsy was going to manpain™ everywhere and then when they’d saved the world Merlin was going to fly them back and Harry would be at the airport leaning on his umbrella like the suave motherfucker he is like “Well done, Eggsy, I always knew you had it in you.” And Eggsy would probably trip because he’s so shocked and precious and then run down the stairs and they’d make out idk????????????? i’m thoroughly unsatisfied and Harry Hart is 100% alive amen.
All in all
Freaking great movie 10/10 (would be an eleven but unforTUNAtely SOMEONE GOT SHOT IN THE FUCKIn’ HEAD G A L A H A D)