Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Samurai 3 review

Still on his wandering quest with his apprentice, the now humble Musashi Miyamoto receives an offer from the Shogun to become his teacher of swordplay. Meanwhile, the skillful and ambitious Kojiro Sasaki challenges him to a duel to finally settle who Japan's greatest swordsman is. While dealing with Otsu's and Akemi’s love and seeking enlightenment in unlikely places, Miyamoto prepares for the fight of a lifetime.

The Good?
The passion. All four dedicated main characters struggle to achieve what they've been seeking the entire trilogy and they find themselves at odds with each other. Inagaki juxtaposes the suppressed, straight-faced culture against these two swordsmen who dream passionately of becoming the best, and against the two women's utmost devotion to Miyamoto.

The change in lighting is a godsend. This film eliminates the messy night-time action and chooses beautiful sunshine filled scenery to glorify Japan. These wondrous settings in front of beaches, waterfalls, rainbows and verdant forests make for captivating, epic and emotional backdrops to fittingly end the trilogy.

The final fight uses the beach especially well with a memorable, tracking camera following two strafing samurai running down the length of the beach, reading each other's moves against a colorful sunset background. Inagaki handles the historically famous climax, as it should be.

Miyamoto and Otsu. Inagaki is a master of endings. Not with action, but an endearing, timeless romance filled with growth, restraint and tragic cleverness that remind us why this series is a classic.

The Bad?
Suddenly, Kojiro Sasaki has become Miyamoto's lifetime rival between the second and third films. Japanese audiences (along with those familiar with the history) won't have as big a problem with this sudden jump, but more build-up scenes illustrating this are essential.


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