Heaven And Earth (1990)

Directed by
Waste of time (theirs and mine)
Reviewed by Simon on 2004-07-01

The Samurai are great material for films, and some of the finest films ever made have been Samurai films (I'm thinking Kurosawa rather than Tom Cruise). But some Samurai films, I have found, are *really* boring. Heaven and Earth is one of the boring ones. Although the production values are high and the battle scenes with thousands of extras are very impressive, the film completely fails to provide an interesting story. It's like reading a very academic history text, completely void of character or drama. The story is told very drily and none of the characters are remotely interesting. Some of this may be due to cultural differences between Japan and the West, since Japanese society does not traditionally encourage individuality. Indeed, it's said that Kurosawa's films with their very strong characterisation were rejected by Japanese audiences at first because they were "too Western" - perhaps this is what they meant. Ironically, Japanese cinema *does* produce some of the most individualistic cinema in the world (Takashi Miike, I'm looking at you now), but Heaven And Earth is as far from Miike as it is from Kurosawa.

By the mid point in the film I'd almost totally stopped paying attention to the story, as it hadn't engaged my interest in the slightest. I really didn't care who was fighting or why, and sadly this meant that the technically amazing battle scenes were robbed of the emotional weight they could have had, which rendered them far less enjoyable than a 1 on 1 fight in a Jackie Chan film, for instance. All in all, I'd say the time and money that must have gone into the film was rather wasted.
I'm sure it would have been a lot more impressive on the cinema screen or a decent DVD though - the lousy VHS dupe I saw really didn't do the visuals justice.