EMPEROR – Review

Inspired by true events.


Peter Webber‘s EMPEROR is a historical account surrounding the United States occupation of Japan after World War II, led by General Douglas MacArthur. Beautifully filmed with great detail placed into the buildings and dress of the time, it can be said that a great deal of effort and heart was put into presenting the film as professional and historically accurate in that regard. However, it should be taken into account the events displayed in the film are complicated to understand, and history buffs may not appreciate what is presented. At face value, Emperor is not a standard war film, as it does not feature grueling battles for heightened action, but rather dialogue that has the potential to turn off audiences for being “boring,” or it could be seen as enriching and poetic in how it flows.EMPEROR

General MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) and General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) have been sent to occupy Japan at the end of the second World War. Their mission is to, within ten days, find evidence to put Emperor Hirohito (Takatarô Kataoka) on trial for war crimes. Hirohito is worshiped by his nation as a deity, and whatever decision is chosen will have great effect upon Japan’s future.

Tommy Lee Jones’ placement as MacArthur proved great casting for the role. He nailed mimicking of the general’s mannerisms including of his famous large corn pipe. Fox as Gen. Bonner Fellers came across just a little stale personality wise considering his chunk  of time being on-screen. However, he did well considering being paired next to Jones’ memorable MacArthur portrayal. It should be noted Fox is the one with the most screen time instead of Jones. Romance between Fellers and a native Japanese woman named Aya (Eriko Hatsune) was thrown in as filler and played itself out throughout the duration of the film in the manner of flashbacks. Aside from the good acting, the realism of the scenery shown helped to tell the story from the homeless Japanese sitting around fires to keep warm or the gold ornate walls of the Emperor’s palace.

As for the history in the film, this is where things can get a little confusing. The people of Japan were stressed by the officials who surrounded Hirohito during the war, but his personal involvement in various massacres carried out has been heavily debated. An audience with a background in WWII history, the Far East portion in particular, would be better suited to analyze this element of the film. From the “passing glance” standpoint, some may find Emperor a little uninteresting due to lack of action, and would probably enjoy Saving Private Ryan more. Conversation and investigation are the order of the day and though interest may dip in and out, there is still tension and urgency present in Fellers’ hunt for clues in making such an important decision.

Overall Emperor is a good film. Just “good.”

Special features for Emperor include:

Revenge or Justice: The Making of Emperor

Deleted Scenes

Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery

Historical Photo Gallery

Theatrical Trailer

The making of featurette mainly shows how the crew themselves put together the various sets shown in the film, the conception of the script, how extras were trained to follow military etiquette, plus a few words from the actors about their involvement in the film. The deleted scenes aren’t considered to be crucial and wouldn’t have added much extra to the final version of the film. Both photo galleries are pretty basic, with the former showing some pictures taken in the process of filming and the latter showing photos of the historical figures mentioned in the film, but the Japanese officials’ photos can already be seen during the film when Fellers is conducting his investigation.

Art and supplementary materials courtesy ©2013 of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. All rights reserved.

  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 3 stars
  • Good

  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: 2013-08-22

Review Summary:

As the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII, Gen. Fellers is tasked with deciding if Emperor Hirohito will be hanged as a war criminal.

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