In the view of Hollywood Reporter critic David Rooney, Peter Webber‘s Emperor (Roadside, 3.8) is “an earnest retelling of the deliberation over the fate of Emperor Hirohito following his country’s World War II surrender…honorably intentioned but stodgy, and padded out with a wan romantic subplot that struggles to generate emotional heat.”
All in all, says Rooney, it’s “a didactic compressed epic.”
Pic’s main draw “will be a wily depiction by Tommy Lee Jones of General Douglas MacArthur as a vainglorious tactician who tosses about the title of Supreme Commander with relish. Never one to miss a photo opportunity, his underlying political ambitions give the flinty character an intriguing veiled agenda while maintaining a core fiber of integrity.
“Not so interesting, unfortunately, is Matthew Fox‘s Gen. Fellers, a real-life military intelligence officer and Japanese specialist, saddled for too much of David Klass and Vera Blasi‘s plodding script with the onerous role of exposition bitch.
“The physical trappings often suggest an attempt to muster the old-fashioned sweep of, say, David Lean‘s historical dramas, with ceremonial grace notes that ape classic Japanese cinema. But slathered atop almost every scene, along with Alex Heffe’s solemn orchestral score, is [a] dour voiceover, a film-noirish device that stretches Emperor in one stylistic direction too many.
“With Washington still fuming over the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the people of American-occupied Japan living among death and rubble but fiercely loyal to Hirohito, the question of what to do with the country’s self-professed deity is a delicate one. Mindful of this, while overseeing the restoration of order to the devastated nation, MacArthur assigns Fellers to conduct an urgent investigation into the Emperor’s culpability.”