‘Emperor’ Trailer: Tommy Lee Jones is General MacArthur in WWII

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Up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones has recently found a comfortable niche in historical dramas. He looks to continue this trend later this year in the upcoming Emperor, a historical drama directed by Peter Webber (Hannibal Rising).

Emperor‘s main hook is that Jones will be stepping into the formidable shoes of General Douglas MacArthur, a historical figure so out-sized that future generations might yet mistake him for fictional. In the movie’s recently released trailer, general audiences can finally get a look at Jones’s performance and the lush film surrounding him.

Taking place during the tenuous days after the close of World War II, Emperor follows General MacArthur and his military intelligence head, General Bonner Fellers (Matthews Fox) as they prepare for the American occupation of Japan. They are faced with a fateful choice: Will they place Emperor Hirohito (Takatarô Kataoka) on trial for Japanese atrocities committed during the war? Charged with investigating the Emperor’s culpability, Fellers finds himself distracted by memories of a romance with a Japanese exchange student (Eriko Hatsune) and the horrific devastation left by the U.S. bombing campaign.

Emperor‘s trailer confirms that the film is setting itself up as a prestige picture with future awards in mind. Showing off some great photography and Tommy Lee Jones in (rather appropriate) full swagger, the preview presents Emperor as one part military mystery a la A Few Good Men to two parts rumination on the lasting horrors of war. One must admit that even though Jones doesn’t look quite enough like MacArthur to pass muster, the actor definitely nails the Supreme Commander’s imperious stance and mannerisms.

Emperor Tommy Lee Jones Emperor Trailer: Tommy Lee Jones is General MacArthur in WWIIHowever, early reviews of the film have been fairly tepid. When the movie was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of last year, The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “… the handsome production is honorably intentioned but stodgy, padded out with a wan romantic subplot that struggles to generate emotional heat.” Jones has been singled out for the layered braggadocio of his performance, but all else is described as merely serviceable.

Note that none of the TIFF reviews describe Emperor as bad, per se – merely weaker overall when compared to the power and joy that Jones brings to his role as MacArthur. We at Screen Rant will definitely weigh in on the movie and its merits when it opens wide in March.

Emperor will stride into theaters on March 8, 2013.

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  1. I’m not to sure about this……..

  2. Trailer actually made me interested.

    • agreed. it looks pretty good!

  3. Tommy Lee Jones’ MacArthur doesn’t look or sound anywhere near as convincing as Gregory Peck did in the 1977 biopic, but I’ll take him any day over Laurence Olivier’s embarrassing performance in Inchon.

    • I agrre!
      Gregory Peck should have got an Oscar.

  4. Interested. On hinges though.

  5. I didnt even know this movie was coming out. Im definitely going to go see it. it will be a nice early birthday present to myself

  6. I couldn’t watch the trailer in full screen because the quality of the video was so bad, which made the visual effects look horrid, and easy to spot. I’ll re-watch it on YouTube.

    I honestly thought this was an amazing trailer, Love Tommy Lee Jones, and Matthew Fox was awesome in LOST, I don’t know too much about Pearl Harbor, or what the Japanese did, but this made me interested. Looking forward to this and I hope it comes out well.

    • Gods, I hope your not American not knowing about about the Day of Infamy…if so than you best pick up a book and start to read!

    • @ Adam: I hope you are joking about not knowing about Pearl Harbor or the Pacific Theater of World War II.

      If you are not joking, where did you go to school?

  7. I thought it would focus on MacArthur but they just had to throw in a love story, didn’t they? MacArthur would make for a much more interesting character.

  8. “Douglas MacArthur, a historical figure so out-sized that future generations might yet mistake him for fictional”
    I’m sure the future will have no remarkable people.

    I think I’ll pass on this. It holds no modern relevance except perhaps a cheeky subtext about abuse of power done in a way that makes Japan the goat. TLJ had done his routine plenty of times before he started fading out and creaking.

    • I don’t know about that. With our modern day media, in this information age the mystique of a McArthur today would probably be dulled. Great figures of the past DO seem outsized by today’s standards. Plus culture is different, the more austere culture of the day that produced the imperious and commanding MacArthur is just not present today.

  9. Has Fox been sick? He looks really haggard and drawn here. He’s lost a lot of weight.

    • Has Tommy Lee ever actually created a character? All I’ve ever seen him play is himself with a fictional name. Maybe he should retire and let Josh Brolin take over his identity.

      • He’s had some varied roles (The Executioner’s Song, Lonesome Dove, Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Amazing Howard Hughes etc); with a few exceptions he’s been pretty much playing Tommy Lee Jones ever since his turn as Clay Shaw in JFK. Which is no bad thing really.

        • Heh. Everyone just seems to enjoy his personality so much they don’t seem to mind that he doesn’t really act that much. John Wayne was kind of like that.

    • fox lost a lot of weight for his bad guy role in ‘Alex Cross’. This looks like it was filmed around the same time.

  10. Tommy Lee Jones makes no attempt to imitate MacArthur in “EMPEROR” probably because no one nowadays is really all that concerned about the general or his history in Asia; rather they care more about Jones’s crotchety rendering of the character. That’s entertainment, I suppose…Jones phoning it in…but it’s also “the John Wayne model” of an iconic actor giving a role less effort and more of what he’s become identified as.

    I enjoy Jones playing himself; enjoy him more when he’s being challenged by a role; but enjoy him most when he challenges himself.

  11. I guess there really needs to be a movie made about the early days of the war in the southwest pacific. Show what really happened to the Army Air Forces in the Philippines. Most of the 12,000 U. S. Army that were captured along with the 16,000 Philippine Scouts were Air Force. The death march, prisoners for three years, the hell ships——–it is no wonder that they were called “The Battling Bastards of Bataan, No Mama No Papa, No Uncle Sam” by reporter Frank Hewlett.

  12. I just wrote a book leading up to this called THE UNSURRENDERED. I talked about whether the Emperor was guilty. It is like my book. I am avidly awaiting this movie! It looks good!

  13. I just read Walt House’s comment. That is what is in my trio of books – the years on the Philippines and that the Emperor ordered everything that happened in the Philippines, not only the incidents Walt House mentioned but that 9 out of 10 Japanese POWs were murdered. The Emperor ordered, i.e. all the POWs murdered on the Philippines, and only the ones on Palawan actually were executed because the Americans made it back in time to avoid all of the others killed. He also sent in troops to start the Manila Massacre (100,000 civilians murdered). Someone needs to say these things. I hope this movie lives up to that. My last book is THE UNSURRENDERED.

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