It is tragic when a film has the genesis of greatness but somehow fizzles in the creation process; such is the case with “Emperor”. A fascinating slice of history, focusing on the demise of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito; immersed in the carnage of Hiroshima (August 6th, 1945) and Nagasaki ( August 9th, 1945); a landscape screaming for redemption, purification after the explosive effects of the atomic bomb; a conflagration that changed the future of Japan and its godlike Emperor.
General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) ( a limited and somewhat buffoonish depiction by Tommy Lee Jones) arrives in Tokyo while the land is fulminating; starving survivors, stare murkily, empty-eyed at the conquerors; within ten days MacArthur must determine the fate of Emperor Hirohito (1901-89) (pardon or execution) what was the depth of his culpability in the bombing of Pearl Harbor? He assigns the decision to General Bonner Fellers (1896-1973) who, because of a personal relationship, with a Japanese woman “Aya” (ethereal Eriko Hatsune), has more insight into the Japanese psyche. “Fellers”, a stilted, robotic portrayal by Matthew Fox, interviews the sycophants surrounding the Emperor. The legitimacy of the film resides in these interviews; Japanese commitment to their thousand-year-old heritage, uncompromising devotion to their principles and entrenched, solid belief in the divinity of the Emperor.
Intriguing, is the ability of the Eastern mind to grasp the subtleties of the West; the “Emperor” tries and partially succeeds in educating audiences to the refinements, muted intricacies of Japanese ideologies.
Appropriately titled “Emperor”; he is sequestered until the finale, but his ultimate destiny, the crux of the scenario.
If you need a “MacArthur” injection see the 1977 film “MacArthur” starring Gregory Peck, or historians, read “American Caesar” (not to be confused with the Iggy Pop album of the same title) by William Manchester; a sterling biography comparing Douglas MacArthur to the iconic Roman hero, Julius Caesar: both geniuses, blazing military strategists; both felled by their arrogance, unbridled hubris.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!