For an action, adventure, fantasy movie there actually is a surprising little amount of action, adventure or fantasy in it.
'No way this movie is as bad as everybody says it is', that was my initial thought, before I started watching this movie. But yes, I now can definitely see and understand why so many people hate it. It's not a terrible movie in my opinion but it's a movie in which absolutely nothing works out the way it's supposed to.
This actually sounds and looks like a pretty decent and entertaining samurai movie, with exaggerated action, over-the-top characters and some beautiful looking sets and environments. In other words, some perfect entertainment to enjoy with a bag of chips and a couple of beers, on a late evening. Well, I would advice against it. It's really disappointing to see how little entertainment this movie is actually providing, which isn't just simply due to a lack of action but also really because of its incredibly weak story and poor character development.
The story never manages to turn into an interesting enough one and it feels far too simplistic in the way how things get set up and are being handled by the director Carl Rinsch. The story...well, I don't even know what the big 'conflict' in this movie is supposed to be. Guess you can say it's about classic themes such as honor and revenge but none of it gets build up very effectively. It's a far from engaging movie, with any of its themes or characters. For instance, in the midst of it all there is a love-story, which plays a key role in the movie its story. However, the two character hardly spend any time together, so how are we supposed to ever feel and understand their love for each other?
It also would have been nice if I actually would have been able to ever care for any of the characters. The first problem with the characters is that there are far too many of them and the movie also doesn't necessarily pick one to be the main character for the entire movie. I just really can't say with absolute certainty that Keanu Reeves plays the lead role in this, since there are big parts of the movie in which his character doesn't show up at all and in which his character isn't even all that important for the story any way. In some ways, his character even distracts from the movie at times, which maybe also feels that way due to the fact that his character isn't an interesting or solid one at all and Keanu Reeves acting is terribly bland (surprise, surprise) as well.
All of the other acting is pretty bad as well, which is mostly due to the fact that the movie stars a bunch of Japanese actors, who have to say 90% of their lines in English. It neither feels or sounds right. I mean, this is a movie set in Japan, based on a Japanese story and it's starring for 99% only Japanese actors in it but yet all of them have to speak English and the movie got turned into an international production, aimed toward a mostly western audience. The movie still tries to be like a typical Japanese samurai movie but needless to say that it never works out as one. It has the right look but not the right feeling and touch to it as well.
And if this really was a $175.000.000 production, then where did all of the money go? I know there were plenty of problems during the production and it went way over schedule but nevertheless, from a movie with a budget over $50.000.000 you at least expect to get a decent amount of action scenes, some big mass scenes, epic battles and some impressive looking sets and far off locations. None of that is in this movie though and even all of the fantasy elements fall completely flat. The movie even becomes a slow and somewhat boring one at parts, which is totally inexcusable.
Despite all fantasy aspects this movie never feels like a true- or very imaginative, fantasy movie. So there are some weird creatures and some magic that gets used in this movie but it adds absolutely nothing to the overall movie! It mostly never feels necessary to the story and besides, the special effects are all incredibly mediocre looking, which is highly distracting and again, also disturbing, for a movie with such a high budget as this one.
A very mediocre movie in my opinion, in just about every regard imaginable but I can also understand why some people would even absolutely hate this movie!