Do you like history? You better if you want to like Emperor. The story isn’t about the war on the islands against the Japanese. It’s set after all of that, after Emperor Hirohito’s surrender General Douglas MacArthur found himself in a bit of a weird spot, he had to put the leaders of the Japanese empire on trial for war crimes, if he placed the Emperor in this position it could destroy the Japanese totally. Most Americans don’t know this but at that time the Emperor was worshipped as a God by his people. So wisely MacArthur put General Bonner Fellers in a covert mission to connect the Emperor to the Pearl Harbor attacks. If he had any direct connection to it, he would be placed on trail for war crimes.
The film is obviously very well made, everything from the wardrobes to the back drops look perfect for the times. Problem is as important as the story is, it’s not really cinematic. Matthew Fox plays General Bonner Fellers and does a fine job. I’ve always liked him and recently he’s been trying to branch out, playing a psycho killer in “Alex Cross” and I loved him in “Speed Racer”. Still his character is very straight laced, trying to find a Japanese woman he fell in love with before the war… SPOILERS…. Major problem is the audience basically understands that she is dead way and I mean way before Fellers ever does. So there isn’t really that many places the movie can go.
Tommy Lee Jones does a fantastic job playing General MacArthur and his performance isn’t over the top and it’s layered as well since MacArthur, who no doubt is an American hero, but the guy had a God complex for sure. The movie plays with this a little, but really the film over all comes off like a History Channel movie before they were focused on Pawn Stars and other reality programming.
The story is important, something every American should understand but the film just lacks the drama that makes it a strong movie. This is something one should watch in an afternoon, not a night out at the theater. The love story angle ultimately fails so the film is only really good when it breaks down the historic elements. There just isn’t enough here to be worth seeing this movie in theaters, it’s for sure a rental, the story should be heard, it’s just not over all a strong film.
Rating: 5 out of 10