Heaven and Earth
Set during the feudal wars of the 16th century, Heaven and Earth is a lavishly dull Japanese period spectacle plays like an ersatz Kurosawa movie. Director Haruki Kadokawa comes up with a reasonably accomplished visual facsimile of the master’s 1980 Kagemusha — color-coordinated warriors, amassed by the thousands, galloping in grand formation, the violence of their clashes somehow subsumed by the eye-popping beauty of ritualized battle. Slathered over the images is a soundtrack of mournful-majestic Japanese synth-pop. In Kagemusha, Kurosawa understood that the notion of war as visual pageantry was deeply ironic. Kadokawa, on the other hand, just seems to like the pretty colors. His story is about two rival clan leaders: Takeda (Tsugawa), who wants only power, and Kagetora (Enoki), a young idealist seeking freedom for his people. As the movie portrays it, though, there’s virtually no difference between the two men. When they finally meet in a duel, the moment has little dramatic weight; the film’s climax has more to do with how many ravishingly costumed extras Kadokawa can cram into a single shot.