The Last Samurai is like Avatar, instead of blue cat people there are samurai.
I’m going to argue that its marginally better than Avatar. Marginally. there’s more fight scenes, for one thing, and the ending is less hokey. And to be honest, the movie’s fight scenes are by far the best thing about it. The last battle scene is so epic it would have made a great short action film. In fact, if you’re bored and like action movies, I would recommend watching it, only without seeing all the stuff that came before it, because the rest of the movie actaully diminshes that last battle.
Here’s a condensed version of it.
Why? Because if you see the rest of the movie you realize that they are essentially fighting about nothing. All the screaming and slow-motion cavalry charges and operatic music in the world can’t quite distract you enough so that you forget that as movie battles go, this one has to be right near the top of the “complete waste of human life” list. It’s because the plot doesn’t make sense.
And when I say doesn’t make sense, don’t mean it has a plot hole. I mean every single thing about it is completley contradictory. It’s like the movie was made backwards.
At the beginning of the film we learn that a samurai warlord named Katsumoto has been attacking the Japanese railroads. Railroads built by the order of the emperor. Remember that, because it’ll be important later. So the emperor’s advisors send a giant army led by Tom Cruise–yes, Tom Cruise is the last samurai, because everyone knows a movie where a Japanese guy is the main character just wouldn’t work–to kill Katsumoto. This plan ends in an epic failure in which an army of guys with guns gets owned by an army of guys with swords.
Anyways, later in the movie, the emperor invites Katsumoto to the capital. The two have a conversation in which Katsumoto says the following:
“If you believe me to be your enemy, then just order me to kill myself right now, and I will.”
The emperor declines. Apparently he is willing to waste hundreds of soldiers’ lives to kill Katsumoto on the battlefield, but for some reason is unwilling to jsut order him to kill himself. I may not be a strategy exper, but this plan seems just a little bit stupid.
The emperor asks Katsumoto what he should do–modernize Japan or not. Katsumoto tells the emperor it’s not Katsumoto’s palce to decide such things. The emperor has to decide for himself. So Katsumoto is apprently willing to destroy railroads and kill people to get his message across, but not willing to just tell the emperor to his face when the emperor specifically asks for advice?
**** this script.
So the movie culminates in a spectacular, gory, badass last stand that could have been avoided if the emperor had just killed Katsumoto half an hour earlier. Somehow Tom Cruise manages to survive charge after epic charge despite the fact that he is in the front rank of the army, running at men with guns, and everyone beside and behind him manages to get shot about fifty-thousand times, he only gets hit like twice and shrugs it off. Because he’s Tom Cruise.
White men have 50 extra hit points.
The battle–and the movie–would ultimately be more poignant if we the audience got a clear understanding of exactly why it was important ot preserve samurai culture, and why modernization was bad. The movie’s only answer to this intriguing question seems to be because smaurai are awesome and guns are for pussies. When you boil the movie down to its essence, it’s about a bunch of guys who prefer swordfighting to gun-fighting battling to protest the invention of firearms. Which makes the whole thing seem sort of silly. Especially because samurai in real life had, by the time the movie takes place, been using guns for quite a while.
On a positive note, the movie is well acted, and, unlike Jake Sully in Avatar, Tom Cruise’s character is actually likable and his integration into the samurai culture is well-handled. The first half of the movie is actually pretty hard to find fault with. It’s only once the plot really starts up that things start to fall apart. It’s still watchable, and potentially enjoyable, but only if you turn your brain down to low power for two and a half hours.