Muddy with twigs and branches… Reviews of 47 Ronin, Clash of the Titans (2010), Logan’s Run

47 Ronin


The story upon which this movie was made is entirely fascinating.  A feudal lord is killed by his rival.  The emperor rules (based perhaps upon faulty evidence) that the feudal lord’s samurai — now ronin — are not to seek revenge against the rival.  This creates a conflict of duties for the feudal lord’s chief samurai, Oishi, who is compelled to avenge his dead master and compelled to obey the decrees of the emperor.

This story is extremely relevant for modern society.  Think about the Chelsea Mannings or Edward Snowdens who feel that they have an obligation to obey the law regarding secrecy while simultaneously feeling an obligation to divulge information.  There are plenty of people who feel that the higher, ‘more moral’ obligation should trump the lower order obligation.  They also feel that a breach of a lower obligation to satiate a higher obligation should mean the sanction associated with the lower sanction should not apply.

These people are, of course, completely wrong.

The story of Oishi gives us a keen insight into why this is so.  Both obligations have to be satisfied, and if obeying the ‘higher’ obligation means accepting the punishment for disobeying the ‘lower’ punishment, then so be it.  To be exempt from the lower obligation is to let everybody free wheel when it comes to obeying the law: people would be free to disregard it when it doesn’t meet their private moral intuitions.

Instead of coming to terms with Oishi’s story, the makers of 47 Ronin decided to concentrate on a newly constructed character — Kai (Keanu Reeves) — who’s some magical white guy who is half Japanese and was raised by demons.

Beneath the dragons, magical bird monsters, and magical powers which should have resolved most of the plot, the moral core of the film was lost.  Still, it’s beautiful and enjoyable.

(For another review of this film, check out Beagle Paws)

Clash of the Titans (2010)


I fell asleep during this.  The claymation Clash of the Titans was an interesting affair — weak by modern standards, but it still had a key message that it wanted to drum home.  The remake edits out all of the women and gives us a confusing ramble through classical mythology.  Perseus is Zeus’ son growing up in a time of atheism despite gods rocking up every twenty minutes with a host of magical creatures.

The human society on Argos is committing various atrocities — toppling statues and boasting of how much more beautiful than the gods they are — and the gods are aggrieved which they demonstrate by various acts of violence.

Hades has worked out some scheme where he can get people to worship him instead of Zeus if he encourages atheism and then punishes it.  The humans decide to send Perseus on some kind of quest to do something that’s never entirely clear.

All boring.  What is interesting is that they got a Russian model to play Medusa.  If you listened to the Ad Absurdum Podcast (which you should and which I really should coerce Ioannis into making more episodes of it with me), you’d know that there’s this strange gender issue with Medusa who turns men (and only men) to stone.  In the traditional story, she’s cursed with supernatural ugliness — she even has snakes for hair.  Somehow, the modern association of sexy women with evil has meant that these supernatural ugly women become sexy and unobtainable women.  Medusa — whose head becomes Perseus’ trophy — is incapable of satiating Perseus’ (male) desire to objectify women through their appearance.  It is a just punishment that Medusa’s gaze literally turns men into objects.  Medusa really is some kind of modern feminist hero.

Anyway, this film is dreadfully bad.

Logan’s Run


This film desperately needs a remake.  In the future, there’s some kind of apocalyptic event which means the surviving human race must live in a technological wonder which can only sustain a limited number of people.  To maintain a stable population, reproduction is handled by machines to ensure a consistent birth rate and everybody is executed when they turn 30.

As the Boomercide-in-Chief of Twitter, I’m 100% in support of executing old people and completely understand the sentiment of the designing supergeniuses who instituted these policies.  What I’m less sure of, however, is how they manage the people who choose to flee instead of submit to execution.

Logan’s Run is the story of a police officer whose job it is to hunt down and kill people who refuse to submit to execution.  There are enough of these ‘runners’ that an entire standing army of police officers exist.  Clearly, the indoctrination of the population with an ideology that makes them agree to this demand without them knowing that they consent is failing.

To where do we think the ‘runners’ are running?  The society exists simply because the outside world is inhospitable.  If they’re running outside, there’s no reason to worry — the inhospitable outside world will kill them soon enough.

Unfortunately, Logan’s Run was made before we knew how to make films.  Parts of this film drag on far too long, although Peter Ustinov is always charming and fun to watch on screen.  It’s interesting to see what 1970s filmmakers thought a sexually liberated future would look like: men grabbing women when  they feel entitled to sex.  Very enlightened.

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

One thought on “Muddy with twigs and branches… Reviews of 47 Ronin, Clash of the Titans (2010), Logan’s Run”

  1. This isn’t the /total/ opposite of what I said about the movie…I said the story was interesting but I also really like dragons! *grumble

    I think you can blame Kohlberg for that moral development thing…thinking that what is morally right trumps the law…Kohlberg and Gone in 60 Seconds

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