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American Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox, left) romances a Japanese teacher, Aya (Eriko Hatsune), before World War II in the historical drama "Emperor." Courtesy Kirsty Griffin | Roadside Attractions
Movie review: ‘Emperor’ a boring history lesson
First Published Mar 07 2013 02:32 pm • Last Updated Mar 08 2013 05:40 pm

If you think movies based on historical events should be less tedious than a lecture about the same events, "Emperor" is not for you.

The movie opens a little-known chapter of World War II, right after the Japanese surrender, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) must decide whether to prosecute Emperor Hirohito for war crimes. Such a move would rile the Japanese populace, who consider the emperor a living god. MacArthur assigns Brig. Gen. Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) to investigate whether the emperor was involved in the decision to attack Pearl Harbor or whether he was merely a figurehead at the mercy of Prime Minister Tojo and other militarists.

At a glance



Opens Friday, March 8, at area theaters; rated PG-13 for violent content, brief strong language and smoking (historical); 102 minutes.

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Fellers, an expert on Japan, must navigate imperial bureaucracy, U.S. Army suspicion and cultural differences in his investigation. Meanwhile, Fellers also searches war-torn Tokyo to locate Aya (Eriko Hatsune), a Japanese schoolteacher he loved in college.

Director Peter Webber ("The Girl With the Pearl Earring") stages dull scenes of Fellers sitting across tables with various Japanese officials — intercut with soft-focus flashbacks of Fellers and Aya’s pre-war romance. Webber also fails to get much out of the charisma-challenged Fox or handle Jones’ phoned-in MacArthur.

movies@sltrib.com; www.sltrib.com/entertainment

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