America Occupies Post-WWII Japan


08 March 2013| No Comments on Emperor     by Sean Chavel


Intriguing historical drama distracted by an over-emphasized love story and faltered by a flood of unpronounceable names. Emperor is advertised as a tough Tommy Lee Jones role (as General Douglas MacArthur) but front and center its Matthew Fox (as General Bonner Fellers) embarking on a ten-day investigation in Post-World War II Japan. The United States military order is to decide whether Emperor Hirohito is to be tried as a war criminal or not. If Hirohito was foremost responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor, then the answer would lead to a death penalty hanging.

The movie doesn’t have the sprawling sweep of the great historical dramas – we feel chopped bits and pieces pasted together in the editing room, and the scenery of Japan is parsimonious at best. (We know it’s a movie, very consciously.) We meet several convoluted Japanese military characters of questionable backgrounds (we sense they’re powerful), all with long-winded names, and yet we’re still waiting to get a scene with Emperor Hirohito. Long enough, it comes, but along the way we get very little but… eh, fuzzy answers.

I admired the attempt of subject for “Emperor,” but too much time is spent on Fellers being exposed as a “Jap lover” due to his long-lasting affair with a beautiful Japanese woman (Eriko Hatsune) of privilege. Side details such as General MacArthur rigging photograph opportunities for himself (he was hatching a bid for presidency), and the formal discussion with Hirohito himself about the impending “punishment” left me morbidly captivated.

The poised traditional dialogue during east meets west encounters sounds authentic, but there are some clunkers, too. You rarely hear Tommy Lee Jones appear in a movie where his lines are gobbledygook. Matthew Fox is decent and honorable, but hardly the most mesmerizing actor. I became more aware during his scenes that I’d like this same story told but from the Japanese point of view.

106 Minutes. Rated PG-13.


Film Cousins: “MacArthur” (1977); “Empire of the Sun” (1987); “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988, Japan); “Black Rain” (1990, Japan).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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