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Emperor (2013)



Average Rating: 5.2/10
Reviews Counted: 86
Fresh: 27 | Rotten: 59

Despite a typically strong performance from Tommy Lee Jones, Emperor does little with its fascinating historical palate, and is instead bogged down in a cliched romantic subplot.


Average Rating: 5.2/10
Critic Reviews: 29
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 23

Despite a typically strong performance from Tommy Lee Jones, Emperor does little with its fascinating historical palate, and is instead bogged down in a cliched romantic subplot.



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Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 6,933

My Rating

Movie Info

Matthew Fox (WORLD WAR Z, I, ALEX CROSS, "Lost") joins with Academy Award (R) winner Tommy Lee Jones (LINCOLN, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE FUGITIVE, HOPE SPRINGS), newcomer Eriko Hatsune and award-winning Japanese star Toshiyuki Nishida (GET UP!, TSURIBAKA NISSHI 14, TSURIBAKA NISSHI 6, GAKKO, DUN-HUANG) to bring to life the American occupation of Japan in the perilous and unpredictable days just after Emperor Hirohito's World War II surrender. As General Douglas MacArthur (Jones) suddenly finds


Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Vera Blasi

Aug 13, 2013


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All Critics (86) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (59)

It's all done with care and authentic Japanese locations ... But there's scant drama.

October 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A stodgy movie that mixes dubious history with a clichéd, Madame Butterfly romance story, set in the period immediately following Japan's surrender in 1945.

March 29, 2013 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
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Emperor falls prey to the temptations endemic to historical docudrama: the desire to pack a miniseries' worth of events into one feature-length film, with romance tossed in for added appeal.

March 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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Half crinoline romance, half crusty military-history lesson.

March 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Offers a labored treatise on the Japanese national character, with endless speeches about honor, devotion, loyalty, and the people's reverence for their emperor as a human deity.

March 14, 2013 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Just a dull procedural, with the bland Matthew Fox driving around in a jeep and asking questions and not having them answered.

March 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Newark Star-Ledger
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The little-known historical events provide a pointed exploration of a momentous collision of two cultures.

October 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

Emperor will do well enough. But if you want a more nuanced take on the same events, check out Alexander Sokurov's extraordinary The Sun

October 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Irish Times
Irish Times

Fun when Jones is around, dull when he's not, it's all just a little bit of history repeating.

October 7, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Hokey monologues about the finger of historical blame are interspersed with perfume-ad flashbacks to idyllic days of love; you half expect Andrew Lloyd Webber to descend from on high to provide a few touching show tunes.

October 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

The climax, when MacArthur finally meets Hirohito, is fascinating - and validated by the end-credit, picture-led round-up of what happened to the leading characters.

October 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Birmingham Mail
Birmingham Mail

Undemanding, handsome and played with conviction, but sorely missing any sense of urgency.

October 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

Solidly crafted. Totally pointless.

October 4, 2013 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Emperor is dutiful, patient and almost entirely without flair.

October 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Guardian

An attempt to spice up a true story with fictional characters and events leaves this film feeling artificial.

October 3, 2013 Full Review Source:

Webber brings the politics and intrigue to the fore in a gripping final act, but the overall impression is that a fascinating story from history has been lost in the telling.

September 30, 2013 Full Review Source: The List
The List

Good intentions, vivid setting and TLJ on top form do not make up for a lack of anything truly compelling.

September 29, 2013 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

All the right elements were here for this telling, but sadly the filmmakers lost sight of what was important in the narrative, inevitably making the film suffer for it in the end.

August 12, 2013 Full Review Source:

Emperor seems to have been tailor-made for high school history classes whose teachers like to give themselves a break by popping in a DVD.

May 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Seven Days
Seven Days

...probably the most disappointing 2013 film I've seen so far.

April 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

... contains some potentially intriguing subject matter compromised by a formulaic approach that renders the periphery characters more compelling than the central ones.

March 29, 2013 Full Review Source:

Director Peter Webber, who found a more elegant balance between history and passion in Girl With a Pearl Earring, has turned Emperor into a stagy and hollow kind of story.

March 29, 2013 Full Review Source:

Emperor missed the opportunity to become an engrossing procedural of historic minutiae, like Lincoln.

March 29, 2013 Full Review Source: National Post
National Post

Audience Reviews for Emperor

Emperor follows the events directly after the Second World War and the subsequent hunt and trials for war crimes during the war. The story is quite entertaining and well structured, but nearing the film's final, some aspects come apart a bit, and the film should have had a slightly better ending. I mean, the film has some very good performances, and it told a truly engrossing story. However, a part of me felt that the film could have been so much more as well. For me, Tommy Lee Jones as five star General Douglas MacArthur is well chosen for the part, and he makes the film worth seeing. I enjoyed the film, but like I said, near the end, it just kind of lingers on, as if they didn't know how to conclude it. Emperor really could have been a great movie, but it just doesn't become anything truly memorable. The cast are good here, and the story is quite good, but there are plenty of things to have been improved upon. Despite this, Emperor is not a bad film, and it's a bit underrated as well. Overall, with a good story and good performances, Emperor is one of those movies that is worth seeing if you enjoy a good war themed drama. But like I said, it could have been better, but for what we get, it's a good movie that never realizes its full potential. That's a shame because considering the subject matter; you'd expect a great film. This is good entertainment, but it does leave a bit to be desired, and it really should have something unique. To those expecting an elaborate drama, you'll be disappointed, as the film doesn't conclude in a way that is satisfactory. The film could have been terrific, but it doesn't go beyond good entertainment, instead of being an enthralling drama that it should have been.
June 18, 2014
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

Japan 1945: General Douglas MacArthur was given a mission to decide the fate of a nation, the guilt of a leader, and the true price of peace.

Good Movie but boring Film! This movie provides a very good depiction of a historically significant event that is all but ignored in movies and text. Seamless transitions between history and entertainment, the cast of this movie (especially the Japanese ones) expertly capture the complexity of what is the Japanese culture and psyche during post WWII reconstruction. Tommy Lee Jones also does an amazing portrayal of MacArthur in copying his mannerisms and affect. This is a movie for people who appreciate historical context, attention to detail, and subtle references packaged with solid, proportioned acting.

A story of love and understanding set amidst the tensions and uncertainties of the days immediately following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. On the staff of General Douglas MacArthur (Jones), the de facto ruler of Japan as Supreme Commander of the occupying forces, a leading Japanese expert, General Bonner Fellers (Fox) is charged with reaching a decision of historical importance: should Emperor Hirohito be tried and hanged as a war criminal? Interwoven is the story of Fellers' love affair with Aya, a Japanese exchange student he had met years previously in the U.S. Memories of Aya and his quest to find her in the ravaged post-war landscape help Fellers to discover both his wisdom and his humanity and enable him to come to the momentous decision that changed the course of history and the future of two nations.
May 24, 2014
Manu Gino

Super Reviewer

Set in Occupied Japan in the immediate aftermath of World War II, this is the story of Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, who, at the urging of General Douglas MacArthur, is tasked with determining if Emperor Hirohito should be put on trial for war crimes or not.

This is an interesting topic, and could have made for a great and fascinating film. However, any potential the film had is undercut by the inclusion of a cliched and unnecessary romantic subplot, as well as the fact that not a whole lot is really done with the material at hand.

It's just a routine and by the numbers dry historical drama that tries to bring an important facet of history to life, but instead just kinda limps along and presents just the bare basics of what went down.

I will say that the period details are admittedly well done, and the film has a nice look to it. It's just unfortunate that the film's occasional subtitle and title cards are done in a really small and difficult to read font.

As for the performances, Matthew Fox is passable, though unremarkable as Fellers, and then there's Tommy Lee Jones as MacArthur. He's fine, and it's a decently well cast part, but I feel like they still could have done more to give the part more weight and depth. I really don't know much about the Asian cast members, but their performances seemed okay.

All in all, this is an unfortunately half-assed historical drama that is well dressed, but fails to say anything all that meaningful.
October 6, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

This should have been a much better film. Matthew Fox was a weak lead -- not expressive enough to deal with the role. The love story was ineffective almost to the point of being a distraction. Better than average cinematography, and good performances by Tommy Lee Jones and Isao Natsuyagi (Japanese Vice Chancellor), but nobody notable otherwise. It all ads up to a big "M'EH".
August 31, 2013

Super Reviewer

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