The Japan Times’s Mark Schilling, who has written extensively on modern Japanese film, gave us the first verdict of last year’s remake of Sanjuro, and he is at it again with his review of Shinji Higuchi’s The Last Princess.The film, as you all by now surely know, is the latest Kurosawa remake, this time of Kurosawa’s 1962 work The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi toride no san akunin).
Schilling gave Morita’s Sanjuro 3/5 stars last December, and The Last Princess doesn’t fare any better, in fact raking only 2.5/5. The two films, however, appear to be quite different in that whereas Sanjuro was almost a shot-by-shot remake, The Last Princess according to Schilling is considerably different from the original, indeed so much so that it “is likely to outrage Kurosawa-loving traditionalists”.
The biggest change we already knew about, which is of course the role of Takezo played by the young Jun Matsumoto. There has been some confusion as for how exactly his role differs from that of the original, but contrary to original reports it now appears that Takezo, as we had indeed suspected from the trailers, is not a merge between the two peasant characters, but rather a more prominent version of one of them. In fact, instead of being a peasant, he has been elevated into the role of a “hot-blooded young miner”, who “has a central, romantic role in the story in a way his predecessor certainly did not.”
Schilling notes that The Last Princess has some excellent CGI work, as would indeed be expected from director Shinji Higuchi whose background is in special effects. This, however, is apparently resting on a somewhat empty foundation, as Schilling writes off the overall story with its new twists and turns as having “the tinny ring of box-office calculation”. Considering Jun Matsumoto’s earlier comments about attempting to capture the essence of Hollywood in this film, perhaps we can safely say that they have indeed succeeded in what they were aiming to do?
Ultimately, Schilling notes, whereas both Kurosawa’s original and Higuchi’s remake were meant for entertainment, the biggest underlying difference is that Higuchi’s film reeks of cliches — cliches that Kurosawa always tried to avoid. Nevertheless, as he did with last year’s Tsubaki Sanjuro, Schilling at one point also suggests that if The Last Princess manages to persuade some to check out Kurosawa, it is not entirely without merit.
For more details about the film, see Schilling’s review which is available at the Japan Times Online website.The Last Princess opens in Japan tomorrow.