'Emperor' is a royal pain
Postwar Japan. Tokyo in ruins. U.S. soldiers arriving to take charge.
“Let's show them some good old-fashioned American swagger,” barks Douglas MacArthur, the five-star general in command of rebuilding the nation he has just destroyed, as he and his officers make their way from the air base to their new headquarters. Tommy Lee Jones, in baggy Army browns, puffing on an extra-long corncob pipe, does his best to approximate the storied military man.
In “Emperor,” MacArthur and his officers must bring the Japanese leaders to justice — and decide whether Emperor Hirohito, their godlike leader, should be put on trial as a war criminal. If he is, it could start a revolt against the occupying force. If the United States lets Hirohito go, there could be political ramifications back home.
It's a moral conundrum, but it's only part of the story in director Peter Webber's (“Girl With a Pearl Earring”) rather stiff and unsatisfying history lesson of a movie. Gen. Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), one of MacArthur's most-trusted aides, had fallen in love with a Japanese exchange student before the war, and now, here in Tokyo, he is obsessed with finding her — to the point of clouding his judgment, and the decision he has been tasked with: determining Hirohito's fate.
Filled with dreamy flashbacks of the budding romance between Bonner and Aya (Eriko Hatsune) — the college dance, the walks in a bamboo grove, meeting her parents in a house in Japan's countryside — and with jeep rides across the A-bombed wasteland of a city where 100,000 citizens were killed, “Emperor” offers an uneasy mix of schmaltz, angst, horror and intrigue. It doesn't help that at the center of all this is Fox (this is Fellers' story, not MacArthur's). Fox is an actor of limited range and depth. A thin, schematic screenplay gives him even less to work with.
Steven Rea write about movies for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fall movie season is under way with a whole new slate of films
- McCandless Cinemark set to open Sept. 19
- DVD reviews: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier,’ ‘Fed Up’ and ‘Willow Creek’
- Review: ‘The Drop’ is a simmering thriller
- Review: ‘Trip to Italy’ finds sweet spot of traveling with Rob and Steve