A month or so back I got my first chance to see The Last Samurai. The movie as a whole wasn’t terribly impressive, but I was left a little confused about its message.
At the beginning, Nathan is rather disillusioned with warfare, noting the devestating effect of warfare on the losing (not to mention winning) side. However, throughout the movie we see him slowly integrating with the samurai, and eventually fighting along side them.
OK, that’s fine, the message is that he is defending tradition in the face of modern corruption.
However, in the movie the message is brought up about Custer’s stand, with Nathan calling him a fool etc etc. With the movie as it ends, however, one could get the impression that Custer’s stand, along with the samurais’, is an epic, honorable thing with the glory of a true warrior blah blah blah.
Towards the end of the movie, I looked at my friend and we said, almost together, “what about the women and children?” who are left almost totally behind to fend for themselves.
So the message I get from the movie is that the most important thing to do is avoid change and defend your traditions at all costs, disregarding family, society, and pretty much everything else. That going out guns blazing in an honorable last stand is the best way to do things. That it is better to die with honor than live with… um, well, to live?
Is that an accurate view of the message? Or am I missing something? If so, this is probably one of the few modern movies that starts with an anti-war message and moves to a pro-war message, which is interesting.
Or should the message be about people unable to cope with a changing world, holding on to an archaic past that has long since died, and unwilling to change to provide the best care for their families and societies? Living in a tribal, backwards thinking, patriarchal gathering unable to provide for itself? If so, the movie strikes me as clumsy and asinine.