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The Hidden Fortress has full trailer, becomes “The Last Princess”

Shinji Higuchi’s remake of Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress now has a full trailer, available on the official website, as well as at YouTube.

The trailer seems to put into question the earlier claim that the two peasants of the original film have in the remake been merged into one, played by Jun Matsumoto. Although it is difficult to say for sure, the trailer would appear to have two lower class characters paired in a number of shots. Or so it seems to me. If someone is better at face recognition than I am (and I am really bad at it), let me know what it looks like to you.

Another thing to notice is that the film is now apparently officially known in English as The Last Princess. At least, this is what the official website now uses. The Japanese title is still Kakushi toride no san akunin, or “Three bad men in a hidden fortress”, just like Kurosawa’s original.

It is interesting to speculate why the name change has taken place, especially as the film was originally marketed as “The Hidden Fortress”. Are the international rights to The Hidden Fortress (whoever holds them) somehow blocking the use of the name abroad (but this seems unlikely) or have they decided to distance themselves slightly from the original (but then why wouldn’t they do the same with the Japanese title). Perhaps, they simply decided that “The Last Princess” sounds better and more descriptive of the film, and also conveniently rides on the title of The Last Samurai?

Finally, I want to send my thanks to Ben for once again spotting the change at the official website and letting me know about it!




I’m sure Jeremy will weigh in with his opinion soon enough, but I am pretty sure there are two lower class farmer types, Matsumoto being one of them, though seemingly the hero lead of the film now.

The English name change I would guess be for aesthetic reasons. There is something maybe more dynamic and suggestive of action and adventure with the Star Wars-esque The Last Princess. Also seems to be helping to raise the stakes.


Vili Maunula

What did you think of the trailer, by the way? I thought it looked quite ok, pretty massive even in some parts. Based on what I’ve seen, I thought it could well turn out to be a watchable film in the end.



Wait… yeah, why didn’t I give my opinion?

Certainly looks like a watchable film. Looks like it has some good production design and costumes, some fun amped up action scenes. I haven’t been too impressed with the cinematography though. Granted I’m looking at flash quality video, but the film’s look just seems generic and flat.

So all in all a possible harmless remake that really wouldn’t tarnish the original, which by the way is one of my favorite films period and the first Kurosawa film I really fell in love with; being a 14 year old, it was just a bit more accessible.


Vili Maunula

You’re right, it looks a bit…. monotonous.

On the other hand, is it just me or does the guy playing Toshiro Mifune’s character actually look quite a bit like Mifune? I already said that I am horrible at recognizing faces, indeed up to a point where I can get totally lost in films with ensemble casts, but to me he seems to have Mifune’s eyes. Maybe also a bit of Nakadai.

I haven’t seen The Hidden Fortress for ages, and I think I’ll need to change that in the coming days. I think I’ve seen it altogether only twice or three times, and I never really liked it.

Did you, by the way, notice how the baddie wears a helmet that resembles another helmet from a partly related movie…

Might it be that, in case this makes it to western cinemas, the names “George Lucas” and “Star Wars” will be printed on the poster with letters just as big as “Akira Kurosawa”?



Yup the villain has a Vader vibe going on. And yes, the actor playing the General does look like a Mifune/Nakadai love child 😉

Check out Hidden Fortress soon Vili. I might be watching it tonight. The other week I showed a buddy of mine his first Kurosawa – Rashomon – and he loved it, and has been bugging me for another AK flick.


Jeremy Quintanilla

A bit confused….
Would a this English title, suggest a international release?
I was under the impression that it would be Japan only.
The Hidden Fortress is still a valid title for a US release, if Toho American’s branch once owned the name, they dont now. The Hidden Fortress was used for a French-Canadian film, that had a small US release, but the title was under no hold, and right now free.

For me there is only 2 reasons for a English title.
1: Signs of a international release, with the thinking of The Last Princess, is more appealing then The Hidden Fortress, which I would agree.
2: Its following the increase of Japan only movies, being marketed under a cool sounding English title.

Regarding the trailer..
To me the trailer had a strong pull to the Princess, so I wonder if the movie has a different point of view, then the original, with the princess playing the pivot role. The the name change would make sense in that case.

The trailer shows at some point two peasants, and at others just the one. So I got no idea whats going on.

It really hard to find up to date info on Japanese movie productions, but all the Japanese movie production sites show it to be still in filming, as does IMDb.com.
Its not entire uncommon for a movie to go into a late production change, so maybe something is going on, and the new English title is just the first thing in a series of changes.

The movie looks rather large in scale, so I wouldnt be surprise the production company is making some changes to gain a wider appeal. Especially when they already have a J-pop star in the movie.



Very perceptive Jeremy. I suppose if it gets a Western or international release it would be DVD. I just don’t see this getting any theatrical distribution outside of Asia.
Though stranger things have happened… and yup you’re right, J, this increasing trend all over Asia with the English titles advertised right under the native tongue. Korea being another major market that does this.
It is understandable in sending it off to shop around, to have that built in. But I guess there is just this cool factor too.

I got the sense from the trailer it concentrated on the J pop Matsumoto fellow and the princess, with him being the hero.

We will just have to wait and see…


Vili Maunula

Perhaps they don’t have any takers yet when it comes to foreign distribution, but I’m sure the film will make the normal rounds when it comes to various Japanese film weeks — at least most European capitals seem to have Japanese film weeks at least once or twice a year. In Budapest, the showings are always jam packed with people, there never seems to be enough seats.

It might also make some of the smaller non-competitive film festivals.

Depending on the response in these special screenings, perhaps a distributor or two will pick it for a wider release, which may have a snow ball effect. All depends, of course, on the quality marketability of the movie.

In any case, I’m sure that Toho is at least considering the possibility of it being picked (and why not, it is, after all, a “Kurosawa-Lucas movie”), and therefore tries its best to make it appealing to foreign companies.

And yes, I’m sure Jeremy is right in the whole Asian market perspective, catchy English titles are more marketable even there.


Vili Maunula

So, I watched The Hidden Fortress last night for the first time in years. To be completely honest with you, I still don’t really like it that much. 🙂

It was kind of fun to watch, though. I think my main problem with the film is that so much of it, especially early on, rests on the performances of the actors playing Tahei and Matakishi, and personally I think that Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara just don’t really pull it off very well. I feel that their acting in The Hidden Fortress is uneven, and too often over-the-top.

Another major issue I have with the film is the script, which feels quite repetitive and shallow in comparison to other works by Kurosawa.

But maybe I just don’t get it. 🙂

Having watched the original now, I’m quite interested in seeing the remake as soon as possible. I also rewatched the trailer with a better recollection of the original, and noticed that

1) I’m pretty sure that there are two peasants in the remake as well. There’s even a shot of the two of them finding the first gold piece, and at least on three occasions they show three men (Matsumoto, the general and the second peasant) carrying the gold.

2) Jun Matsumoto’s character seems to be somewhat more serious and less “peasant-like” than in the original. This may be a good change, as I feel that in Kurosawa’s original we laugh too much at the two peasants, not with them, and it is therefore difficult to identify with them, which then weakens the whole experience as it is through them that the story is being told.

3) This one is a bit of a spoiler, so skip it if you don’t want to know anything about the film (but it is in the trailer, after all). In the trailer, the princess shouts at one point that she is the princess, and Matsumoto’s character is immediately after shown saying “Hime-sama” or “The Princess”, indicating that he will know about her identity before the end of the movie, unlike in Kurosawa’s original.


Jeremy Quintanilla

Well, I do like Hidden Fortress, but I do agree its a bit shallow and follows a precipitable line. I was also always a bit confused why they are called three bad men, when none of them are bad. Since comic aspects of the peasants, make them to stupid to really define them as bad, and in fact gives them a rather innocent feel, if still greedy. The general, well I just like him.

Its certainly not Kurosawa’s strongest story, but for a directing standpoint its fairly strong, and with Kurosawa’s first use of a wide aspect ratio its rather interesting to watch.

I dont know it we are intended to connect with the peasants, though I agree we laugh at them and not with them, its also gives us a chance to watch from a distance, rather then be part of the story, which I think its idea of the movie. Although its a point of view story, we are the listeners to this one view and not part of the characters view point–if that makes sense 🙂

I would agree however a more serious peasant would bring some stronger elements to the new movie.

Nice catch on the Hima-sama part, the way trailers are edited, its hard to conclude any which way, but its certainly interesting.


Vili Maunula

I have always taken the title to be more of a suggestive question, rather than a statement.

If you think about it, no one in the movie is really “bad”. Even those standing in the way of the main characters are portrayed as ultimately common, and far from being real villains. The soldiers in the opposing army, for example, are only doing their job, and when faced with real trouble appear to be much more interested in saving their lives than dying for whatever cause they ought to be dying for. At the same time, they and their motives also remain largely unknown to us, and probably so for a purpose.

Consider also the two soldiers from the opposite side that our protagonists capture after the fire festival, and whom they make to carry some of the gold. The conventions of storytelling would require us to get to know these two better, and to find out whether they really are villains or “good guys”. We’ve all in numerous films seen the archetypal scene where, after a hard day of travelling, the captors and the captives sit down around a camp fire and slowly start to get to know one another. Kurosawa, however, instead chooses to reveal us nothing of the two, leaving their goodness or badness unmarked. Instead, when given the first opportunity the two attempt to escape: not because they want to alert the others, but rather simply to save themselves from what they see as their cruel captors – and considering the way that they have been treated by our protagonists, perhaps rightly so.

Similarly, the tavern keeper we briefly meet turns out not to be the cruel slave master he first appears as, but simply another business man.

Finally, at the end of the story, even he who looked like playing the role of the main villain of the story turns out to be, in what I see as the movie’s huge (but probably carefully calculated) anti-climax, just another individual trying to save his hind.

In fact, if anyone can be considered bad in the film, it is the people and the forces that we don’t see, like for instance the unknown general who beats Hyoe for having lost the duel to Rokurota. We could therefore perhaps assert that the real villains of the story are those who have put the characters into the position that we find them in, in other words those who are behind the whole series of feudal wars, and the suffering and corruption created because of them. We are, of course, never really explained what the larger situation actually is, or who are behind it, therefore preventing us from pointing a finger at anyone in particular. The “enemy”, in the end, is here totally nameless and faceless, and I would suggest that this is for a reason.

(This is, by the way, obviously similar in theme to Kurosawa’s next film, The Bad Sleep Well. Yet, I would not be too hasty to draw direct parallels between the two, as I feel that the underlying context is ultimately somewhat different in the latter movie.)

The situation in The Hidden Fortress is, in the end, very much like what the fire festival song (which is later repeated twice) describes it as – a man’s life is comparable to that of an insect, as both are ultimately thrown into the flames. You only try to navigate your way through life so as to continue existing that little bit longer, just like our main characters are struggling to do throughout the film when presented with the series of obstacles that they need to conquer. The choices you make on your journey are not “good” or “bad”, but simply the best choices that you are able to make at any given moment when being pressed by the overall situation. This is also what Hyoe, who first sings a part of the fire festival song and then shouts out something to the effect of “let it burn, then” comes to illustrate when he decides to free the protagonists, and change sides.

Note also that the soldiers that Hyoe faces at this point are carefully displayed as a group, with no individuals standing out at any point – they are, from the point of view of Hyoe, just another situation to navigate through. This is a visual theme that, to me, seems to run throughout the movie, starting with the very first shot. In The Hidden Fortress Kurosawa frames his characters and us in a way that never quite gives us the whole understanding of what is going on, but only presents us with a series of problems to solve, thus disabling us from making any judgements about the motives or the goodness/badness of the characters.

It should also be noted that just like there are no villains in the film, no one seems to be much better than the other, either. They all have their faults. The peasants are driven by their greed, Rokurota is a bully, and the Princess appears spoiled. Yet, these are the outcome of who they are, or perhaps rather where they have been – the peasants are greedy because they have so little, Rokurota would probably not be the great commander that he is without his attitude, and the Princess has a strong will because of her upbringing and role. As such, they are not really faults, but rather characteristics that these individuals have picked up when metaphorically speaking trying to avoid burning too soon.

Only the farmer’s daughter is not given any visible negative traits, even rising up to be something of a heroine at one point. Yet, ironically, she is also perhaps the most miserable and unhappy of the characters, and we never really get to know what becomes of her. Neither do we know anything about her background, only that she appears to be totally alone and nowhere to go. Given that situation, her heroics are perhaps easier to understand – by attempting to sacrifice herself for the Princess, she does her best to find a purpose for her existence, even if somewhat paradoxically that purpose would also very probably terminate that very existence, throw her into the flame. This was also the case with Rokurota’s sister, who we are told at the beginning of the movie sacrificed herself to save the Princess.

Finally, note that at no point are we actually given a reason why we should wish for the Princess to safely return to Akizuki. There is no evil empire and no Darth Vader to oppose, and neither are we served any indication (apart from her big heart) that the Princess would in any way be able to make the world a better place.

In my view, The Hidden Fortress is therefore about the lack of any ultimate good and evil, and that, I feel, is what the original title of the film plays with.



Couldn’t have said it better myself, Vili. And I think the key is absolutely the fire festival song. The film has always seemed pretty straight forward to me in its view, its humor, its outcome, which I think can be mistaken for being shallow, but I find just kind of frank to the point of possibly being redundant because of how Kurosawa tends to keep the audience at a distance, like he is so good at doing,

Perhaps he made this film to just let everything out in a simple, no nonsense kind of way, to detox. All his films from about Drunken Angel (including The Lower Depths and Scandal) to Hidden Fortress were quite heavy and multi faceted in trying to grasp human nature. In Hidden Fortress he seems to just let it play out without much prodding.


Jeremy Quintanilla

Nice analyze Vili, I would have no choice but to watch the movie again, as its been a very long time, to really give any countering thoughts. Although I really have nothing to differ on.

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