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    The Last Samurai
Review by Ben Farmer

The movie overall is interesting. They make a lot of very subliminal points and make them very well. Its rather easy to leave excepting them as truth. It is also a very long movie, running about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Yet is seems longer; sparse action scenes, slow plot development with borderline ridiculous character development.

It seems to me that it cuts off before the story is over: you don’t see the aftermath of the Samurai’s actions. But then, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The movie starts out by trying to convince you this movie will be about “honor” and how the word must be synonymous with “Samurai”. They use the word honor in many contexts, none of which seem to emanate the definition per Webster.

I’m afraid I was having some trouble finding “honor” in them burning a railway station down in a young developing country. It doesn’t mention if any civilians where hurt in the attack. But then, perhaps Hollywood has a new definition of “honor” they want to get across.

This new “honor” is one that wants to stamp out evil capitalism. While that may be taking it to the extreme, they waste no time letting you know how evil the samurai consider the influx of “Western” culture. Why not continue to live in bamboo huts like their ancestors did for the last 1000 years? Why improve the quality of life? Running water just makes you lazy, not more sanitary. But I digress; I need to stick to the scope of the movie.

This film contains all the typical Hollywood monolog: keep the star alive and on top; the inability to make a movie without romance; and the banal left-of-center idealism. They do a good job of getting you to root for the star, even if at times he seems like a total scumbag. But then, this is the movies and its to be expected.

Some of the strange plot deficiencies: they are hired to kill the samurai, yet later you find that the emperor and the head samurai are good friends—to the point that the emperor asks Katso (head samurai) what he should do about the current unrest (after they tried to kill the samurai!). Not only that, but Katso was on the counsel. There’s a host of other outright strange and inconsistent plot happenings. For a hate-filled drunken war ‘hero’, he is unusually good with the kids of the Samurai he killed. Even to the point that their mother falls in love with the guy that killed her husband! He becomes rather well disposed with a samurai sword after such a short time. He covers a lot of ground in his stay; he was only there over a winter, with the initial setback of being wounded and very sick.

Still, I have to say the real slap to your intelligence is the “non-optional Hollywood movie ‘feature’”: the romantic involvement with Tom Cruise and the wife of the samurai he killed. Even before that, the children look to him as a father figure. Its hard enough to say all this could happen over several years, but over a single winter?

Then theres the part about General Custard. There isn’t room to go into this here. I don’t want to cheat the issue and just give a few incomplete points. The tainting of history severely bothers me. For lack of space, this is something you need to look up yourself. The Battle of Little Big Horn was not as he stated.

Part of this new ‘honor’ is the glorification and justification of suicide. The Samurai are such cowards that when they are defeated they must take their own lives because of their extreme pride and inability to face the possibility of defeat. When I think about this, I realize people won’t really have a problem with this, as disturbing as it is. Abortion is so commonplace, why should suicide be so bad? It’s the same message, just a different manifestation of it: control your own destiny. You are your own God; you decide who lives and who dies where it pertains to your person. But it doesn’t end there. It seems Katso can’t do it by himself and God forbid he should be robbed of his ‘choice’ in the end. Thankfully Dr. Kruise is there to ‘help’ him. Some would excuse this because “its their culture”. You can’t redefine right and wrong based on culture. It can only be based on the solid foundation of truth. The mingling of the word ‘honor’ with such socially destructive concepts is more than a little disturbing.

For what did they die? Surely not to advanced what they believed in. If they were looking to impact the world around them with their ideas they would not have so wantonly destroyed the only existing influence. They were not asked to die for their cause, but rather choose to die when they thought they were defeated. Rather than use his power of influence as a leader and councilor, he choose to take is own life. Who’s good was he working for? They were unable to change to meet the tactics of their opponents. Instead of adapting to their opponent in order to challenge them, they chose to insure defeat by taking their own lives.

Honor, you are told, is one of the main emphases of the movie. This is clearly not so; but perhaps that’s a definition of words. Honor to me is high moral and character standards, putting others properties, needs, and reputation above yourself and your personal gain. The early years of our county show us true examples of honor. Leaders that pledged their lives, fortunes, and their sacred honor for what they believed in. Most of them lost some or all of those things pledged. Yet would they not recant; even when it ensured the brutal death of their wives and children. That is the honor this movie falls far short of portraying.