Universal has decided to delay the release date of 47 Ronin, the upcoming samurai epic starring Keanu Reeves, which was directed by Carl Rinsch, the protege (and possible future son-in-law) of Ridley Scott.
The new release date for 47 Ronin will be on February 8, 2013 - a date which will likely strike movie fans with concern about the quality of the project that Rinsch (who is taking on his first big-budget feature film) has managed to construct.
47 Ronin is based on a legendary story about 18th century Japan, in which 47 Samurai warriors, having seen their master slain (marking them as dishonored "ronin"), embark on a perilous mission of revenge as their last act. Reeves was set to play the lead character Kai, an outcast who joins with the ronin, alongside a cast of many famous Japanese actors. Given Rinsch's experience directing futuristic commercials (he was also set to direct what is now Prometheus before Fox had Ridley Scott take the job) it was hoped that he would make good use of the 3D format and lavish sets and costumes in the film, in order to create an old-meets-new-style of historical epic, which would be truly... well, epic.
The movie's original late November 2012 release date also suggested that Universal was banking on it being something big - which is why news of this shift to February 8, 2013 is such an ominous development. Typically, early February serves as the darkest hole in the movie graveyard - a place that studios throw their failed projects in the hopes of mitigating their losses at the box office during the competition-free winter doldrums. For example: late January/early February of this year brought such winners as Man on a Ledge, Red Tails, Safe House, and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island; and trust us when we say: this year was a good year.
Universal may be making a shrewd move, positioning a hit film in a slow part of the calendar year to gain maximum attention. But then, when you consider the fact that Die Hard 5 will be hitting theaters a week later, it doesn't seem like a longevous box office run is exactly what the studio has in mind (as Die Hard will quickly turn attention away from 47 Ronin). It could be a technical thing - extra time needed for post-production, punching up those 3D visuals. As it stands, the 3D samurai epic will open against Steven Soderbergh's psychological thriller The Bitter Pill, and the Keira Knightley romance film Safe Haven. So it should do alright in its first week, if nothing else.
If this project is ultimately a bust, it'll be a shame for Rinsch, for Reeves, and for all us fans of samurai flicks.
Guess we'll know for sure when 47 Ronin hits theaters on February 8, 2013.