Remediation Analysis: 47 Ronin

The item I decided to analyze is an upcoming Hollywood flick called 47 Ronin, directed by Carl Erik Rinsch and starring Keanu Reeves in the lead role. Bolter and Grusin define mediation as the “representation of one medium in another”. This film is a remediation as it presents a story mostly known through verbal and literary medium in the medium of film. It remediates Chushingura, the classic Japanese tale of the forty-seven Ronin, a real-life story of 47 ronins who avenged their leader by killing the man who killed their leader and then proceeded to commit seppuku. The tale is a leading example of the code of samurai honour and is considered Japan’s “national legend”. I learned of this upcoming film through the movie’s trailer, which was trending on Youtube when it was released.

The story of the 47 ronins is something I have heard of before, albeit just briefly and in passing. Also, there are at least 6 other movies based on the same story (ranging from The 47 Ronin released in 1941 to 47 Ronin released in 1994). This particular remediation starring Keanu Reeves is drastically different from the original story (and the other movies) as it involves fantastical elements such as monsters and magic. It also stars a mostly (?) white Hollywood actor as the main character, who did not exist in the original Chushingura. Nonetheless, it seems like an interesting and very Hollywood take on the famous legend, and through this remediation, I learned that this Japanese classic tale could also be adapted to be appealing to a mass American audience despite the cultural differences, especially regarding the idea of seppuku (ritual suicide).

The main ‘legend’ that this movie is based on, Chushingura, is also a fictionalized account of the historical events surrounding the fourty-seven ronins which did happen in the 18th century.  Thus, in a way, the ‘original’ legend is also a remediation of the real-life happenings. Although I do not know the full legend very well, it does seem like the Chushingura adds some fictional elements to the original occurrences.

I believe the goal of the creators behind the new 47 Ronin movie is to expose this famous legend to the American/Western audiences and also to make a profit off the blockbuster film. Remediating these legends from foreign countries is considered fashionable in Hollywood, as these remediation of foreign legends provide a very ‘exotic’ alternative to more typical Hollywood blockbusters that are set in the West. Furthermore, taking into consideration the fetishization of Japan and Japanese culture by many white Americans, this movie will surely appeal to the American mass with its ‘exotic’ and fantastical elements. Even the filmmakers’ decision to shoot the movie in English and cast a familiar, passing-as-white actor Keanu Reeves in the leading role supports their goal of making this a blockbuster hit in the US. Regarding their goal with the film, we cannot not determine whether they were successful since the movie has not been released yet.

I think the most fascinating aspect of this movie as a work of remediation is how translucent it is, regarding its original medium. In the reading, Bolter and Grusin talks about how in some remediation, the new medium does not want to “efface itself entirely”, which I believe this new movie is doing, by providing a very Hollywood, English-speaking fantasy action movie starring a Hollywood actor, instead of being a Japanese-speaking historical movie starring an all-Japanese cast. In such a way, 47 Ronin is not a transparent remediation, but a ‘translucent’ remediation.

Trailer for 47 Ronin, which will be released on December 25, 2013.

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