First of all, before I get to my impressions of the film, let's just say I am a huge rurouni kenshin fan. It was one of my favourite mangas during my teen years and in fact, I had just recently re-read the manga. With that being said, I'm going to say this film is NOTHING like the manga arc it's supposed to be inspired by at all.
Here are some of the issues I've had with it
- Random politician insert for no reason. Not only that, but the politician is a noob.
- Doesn't show enough of the characters backstory, which really hurts the film especially for characters like Kenshin (why he joined the rebellion), Soujiro (his tragic past) and so on.
- Really changes up Kenshins character, making him a lot more passive. In the original, he went to search for his teacher to improve himself. In this one, the teacher just happens to randomly find him washed up on a beach (like wtf are the odds man) and then teaches him the new style again
- Dear god, what does the director have against Sanosuke? Why?? Why?????? While Sanosuke was comic relief in the manga at times, he wasn't portrayed as an inept, mostly incompetent fighter like he was in the movie. It's like they took away all his redeeming traits and just designated him as shitty comic relief.
- Too damn much talking. It's like everyone's lines increased by a 5 fold factor compared to the manga. In Kenshins fight against Hiko, he starts monologuing about how his hand is shaking, why is it shaking, is it because he is afraid of his master? No, it's because he's afraid of death. Meanwhile, it's not even like they monologue quickly, instead it's very slow-paced monologues. Which leads to 6.
- The film is too damn long. Which is probably from all the extra dialogue each character suddenly has, that doesn't add anything to the film but extra time. It's 136 minutes but it could easily have been 100 minutes instead.
And these are just the COMPLAINS I have about it compared to the manga. As a stand-alone film by itself however, there are several other legitimate issues with it. The film is...very melodramatic to say the least. Characters will say a line, pause and then the camera will slowly focus on them and then another line. This shit gets old quick.
The music arrangement is also very weird. It never really seems to fit the scenes. For example, during the fight scenes with his master and Aoshi, during the build up to the climax, what sounds like the japanese version of an ukulele starts playing as the background music. WHY!!!??? WTF, WHY!!?? Then during his journey back to tokyo to confront Shishio, he gets super dramatic fight scene music that shows him as he travels back and then ends as he's seated in a boat going down a river. Then it shows the scene from behind the boat. Uh...this seems weird to say the least.
Then there's the fight scenes, which are NOTHING at all like the manga fight scenes. In fact, after watching this, I'm more convinced than ever that the Japanese can NOT make a good action film; and as a qualifier I'm talking about those like Ong Bak or any Chinese wuxia film from the 80s period of HK movie making. The fight scenes are mostly uninspired, with none of the zany overthetop of the original manga (see above) and mostly consist of the people slashing at each other in a very scripted way. Shit, some of the people even get injured/blownback before the blow actually connects. I've heard this was because this was the first action film the director has actually directed and apparently he was chosen because the creator of Kenshin liked his previous works on documentaries. That sounds about right. Let's make an action flick using a director who has NEVER done action films before. Maybe I'm in the minority, but when I go into a Kenshin movie, I kind of expect to see great swordfights and not...people talking so much. Maybe. If you feel differently, feel free to comment below.
Finally, the plot. I'm not really sure why this changed since the plot for this particular arc was at least pretty tight. Instead, the movie's changed several significant details and not for the better. The weirdest part was when the leader of the government would go meet Shishio for dinner, in a location that Shishio requested and where the leader would be in great danger of being assassinated. Sounds smart -_-. Sounds logical. Sounds wtf.
I've watched quite a few Japanese live action anime adaptation films and this latest film just continues the past trend of not quite living up to source material while not being able to stand as a film by itself. Otoh, still better than any american adaptation of the material. Seriously, what is with stuff like Dragonball evolution, Street Fighter: The legend of Chun Li and KOF?