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Will ‘Ronin’ Commit Hari-Kari?

Cover art for Frank Miller's RoninHollywood just can’t seem to get enough of Frank Miller. With good cause: No matter how many Mystery Men, Catwoman and Punisher adaptations tank (and let’s not even talk about Alan Moore’s books that inexplicably crash one after another), Miller’s works consistently get hit out of the park. So I don’t necessarily blame Warners for greenlighting one of his earlier graphic novels, Ronin, but I think perhaps the decision could have used a bit more careful consideration.

Here’s my problem: Samurai swordplay? Great. Future post-apocalyptic New York? Cool. Artificial intelligence out of control? Okay. But hmm, why does this all sound so familiar? God, I swear I’ve seen this movie before…that’s going to bug me all day.

I think we have a case here whose problem is similar to that of V for Vendetta. When Alan Moore wrote the book in the ’80s, it was fresh and interesting–part Orwell, part Philip K. Dick. But by the time Hollywood finally caught on to the notion that comics sell, it was overdone: too much 1984, too much The Matrix, and not enough originality. Through no fault of Miller’s, I think Ronin is destined to become at least a critical bomb simply because we’ve seen this movie a hundred times. And by the way, isn’t there already a movie named Ronin, where Robert DeNiro drives a bunch of sweet cars through Europe? I digress…

***SPOILER ALERT***

Miller’s fresh concept is of course the idea of a reincarnated ronin seeking revenge on a demon for his master’s death hundreds of years earlier. And as far as that goes, I’m all for it. But then, of course, there’s the revelation in the end that in fact there is no ronin and no demon, it’s all just the delusions of a mentally disturbed paraplegic under the manipulation of a Napoleonic computer mastermind.

That’s what I never understood about the book–Frank Miller is at his best when he turns the highly-improbable into the totally believable. Look at the Marv character in Sin City, or simply the whole concept of 300 for that matter. We love these characters because they’re so outrageous and because there’s NOT some psychological explanation to dismiss them. I felt cheated by the end of Ronin, and I think so would moviegoers. Unlike all of Miller’s other works, it simply lacks the badass factor.

But then again, I could be wrong about the film. After all, with Sylvain White–the mastermind of such works as Stomp the Yard and the straight-to-DVD classic I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer–directing, how could it possibly go wrong?

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