In 1701, two Japanese Lords were guests of the Shogun at Edo Castle.
One, Lord Kira, continually insulted the other.
Eventually the other, Lord Asano, couldn’t take it any more.
He drew his dagger and attacked Kira, until they were separated.
This suited Kira perfectly.
He had goaded Asano into drawing a weapon in the Shogun’s palace.
This was absolutely forbidden by law.
The Shogun ordered Asano to commit Hari Kiri.
After his death, all his lands were confiscated, his family was ruined, all his servants and followers were disbanded.
All his samurai were now leaderless and shamed.
The name for that is ‘ronin’.
Forty-seven of these ronin decided to avenge their master.
But of course Kira expected this.
His castle was strengthened, his bodyguards reinforced.
And the attack never came.
The ronin gave up.
Their spirit was gone.
They dispersed to become farmers, labourers, drunks and beggars.
One of them, Oishi, divorced his wife and spent his time drinking and whoring.
He publicly picked a fight with a samurai who beat him easily, left him in the mud, urinated on him, and said “You are not a samurai”.
Eventually, it became clear these ronin were not a threat, and Kira relaxed his guard.
The forty-seven ronin had spent two years lulling him into this false sense of security.
One of them even married the daughter of the man who built his castle, to get access to the plans.
And at night, in the rain, they entered the castle and killed every single defender.
They found Kira cowering in a secret hiding place.
They cut off his head using the dagger their master had used to commit Hari Kiri.
Then they took Kira’s head and laid it on their master’s grave.
Then they committed Hari Kiri.
And all forty-seven of them were buried beside their master.
All of Japan was moved at this vindication of the samurai spirit.
The samurai who had urinated on the drunken Oishi came to his grave.
He begged forgiveness, and committed Hari Kiri there.
You would have thought this story would make a great film.
But Hollywood didn’t see it that way.
They thought the story alone was boring.
So they ignored the story.
In “The 47 Ronin” Keanu Reaves is the ‘half breed’ that saves Japan.
He must fight a superhuman man-mountain, who dies in a huge orange explosion.
He must fight an evil witch who turns into a flying dragon.
He must use his secret super-powers to defeat her.
The studio spent nearly $200 million dollars on special effects.
They ignored the original story and concentrated on flashy execution.
Exactly the sort of expensive, flashy execution you see in every Hollywood movie.
Consequently the movie bombed and it may bankrupt the studio.
Doesn’t that sound like what we do?
We don’t talk about the product and why it’s better, because a simple, powerful story is way too boring.
So we ignore the product.
We concentrate on expensive, flashy execution instead.
And every ad looks exactly like every other ad.
And most of it doesn’t work.
Whatever happened to a good story?