“Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto” – Chris Luedtke

Where would cinema be without the great story of the underdog? The masses would have no fictional heroes to help drive them to the top. Films like Rocky or Lords of Dogtown are great films that portray people building themselves from the ground up. “Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto” is one of those underdog stories that help show us that with unrelenting determinism, we can always where we want.

Musashi Miyamoto (Toshirô Mifune) is a lowly warrior treated no better than a dog on the fields of Japan’s war torn lands. Being one of the sole survivors of a massive battle, Miyamoto must run and hide to survive as a highly wanted war criminal. Miyamoto finds this as the perfect opportunity to learn the path of the samurai. Slowly but surely, Miyamoto molds himself into a mighty warrior, but can he cast off his rugged and ruthless tactics?

Since this is obviously a trilogy, I find this installment to be mostly set up for the following two. The majority of the film is Mifune’s character on the run from trouble. It doesn’t necessarily deter from the film, since it helps to establish his brash and uncaring nature. We don’t get as much of a feel for other characters. The basic premise throughout seems to be glory or death. Miyamoto will throw himself into levels of danger that would kill most others, but with his brutal determination, he just manages to come out on top or escape by a mere thread. We can’t help but admire him, and this is what helps keep us from realizing that other than random, troublesome events constantly following him, nothing’s happening.

The vintage aspect really stands out here, which makes me rather happy. It’s nice to get an older feel for an older film. Set designs look gorgeous, and character costumes really bring the film alive. The war battles are bloody and brutal. A nice realistic field haunts the beginning of the film that will follow you in your dreams. Fights also go hand in hand with this. There’s no glorified dancing like in the new Star Wars films. Blows are swift and calculated, not given the Hollywood treatment.

There’s unfortunately not much that can be said about this one. After watching it, my mouth kinda went dry and my shoulders shrugged a bit. I don’t consider it a bad film in any respect. It created some very memorable scenes, and Mifune owned the screen as he usually does. Don’t go into this one with no intention of seeing the other two. Catch it if you’re in need of a samurai fix.

Rating: ★★★☆

-Chris Luedtke

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