Mixed or average reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 33
  2. Negative: 3 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Mar 8, 2013
    There's really nothing definitive about Emperor. Or memorable, for that matter.
  2. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Mar 5, 2013
    Given its true-life basis, the story is already devoid of suspense regarding Hirohito’s ultimate fate, and Fellers’s inquiry is made more sluggish by dramatically inert conversations with Japanese officials.
  3. Reviewed by: Esther Yi
    Mar 2, 2013
    Peter Webber's historical drama is blunt about its stylistic ambitions while at the same time failing to meet them, and the effect is one of sad ineffectuality.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 17 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 5
  2. Negative: 2 out of 5
  1. Mar 8, 2013
    Surprisingly someone like tommy lee jones has compelled with a war film and Peter Webber has made a film so special that anyone will cry at the climax. When I mean anyone I mean everyone. Full Review »
  2. Aug 26, 2013
    Based around a dark time in both Japanese and American history, Emperor is a subtle and beautiful story of a return to normalcy and the empathy that can come from anyone, even one of your worst enemies.
    Emperor follows General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) a man who lived in Japan prior to the war and is given the decision of whether or not the Emperor of Japan should be tried fro war crimes, a decision he is to make under the close inspection of General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones). Emperor doesn't even attempt to create tension when it comes to Fellers decision as the film isn't really about history but one mans attempts to console himself with his past and move on. The film creates tension by showing through flashbacks the relationship between Fellers and a Japanese woman he met in the states. As Fellers searches for his past love, someone he hasn't seen for a long time, the film shows a moving love story that is infused with some of the beauty of the country that is now in ruins. The film really isn't about the Emperor at all and it certainly isn't about Fellers quest either, its a rather simple story of how Fellers past relationship and his search for historical context regarding his decision helps him find answers to some of the questions that plague any man who has done horrible things and lost things along the way. The film proves to be extremely interesting thanks to the fact it turns both America and Japan into villains from the get go making them both culpable for the atrocities they have committed. The difference is that by setting the film in war torn Japan the film shows everything the war has caused by the Americans, the state of a once prosperous happy country that is one execution away from total collapse. The film is a love letter to Japanese culture and a love story well worth watching as Matthew Fox is a captivating actor and gives a revelatory performance well worth recognition. The film is a story not just about the past but about the future as it shows two countries in flux, Japan awaiting news of their fate and America trying to justify their actions having just committed one of the worst war crimes in history. Trying to find some kind of redemption even though they have made an indelible mark on a country it had already ravaged.
    Full Review »
  3. Aug 26, 2013
    I knew that Tommy Lee Jones as MacArthur was probably the worst miscasting since the invention of the motion picture. But I hoped for a miracle, that somehow that old dogfaced Texan could transform himself into the patrician MacArthur. He couldn't. It was simply awful. But bad as that was, and it was really bad, it wasn't as bad as the script. You were led to believe that the movie was going to be about MacArthur's administration of postwar Japan a fascinating chapter in that complicated man's history and in Japan's, deserving of a historically accurate and well-acted movie, in the manner of "Lincoln" and Daniel-Day Lewis. Instead, it is about the very beginning of that chapter, a brief period of a few days in which a subordinate of MacArthur's is tasked with ascertaining the guilt of Emperor Hirohito in the war. As anyone who has read "Shogun" knows, Japanese emperors are figureheads who are revered but not expected to actually interfere with prime ministers rather like the British monarch, but with a lot of pretense about his authority he doesn't really have which damn near got him hung at the end of WWII. Stretching that important judgment over a full-length movie might have worked if the history justified it, but it didn't. So the makers went completely off on some romantic subplot, just as the makers of "Midway" did almost 40 years ago, evidently just to kill time. When watching that otherwise estimable movie, I always have to fast-forward past the totally irrelevant melodrama. This melodrama tries to introduce some relevant cultural history out of the mouths of the mooning melodramatis personae, but it's not enough to justify their presence. And then there is the ridiculously implausible drunken fistfight that the main protagonist, a one-star general, gets into because he's mooning over his lost girlfriend. What an embarrassment.

    As is this entire movie, except for the dignity lent by the characters of the Japanese officials. They make you pine for the good movie about that era could have been made.
    Full Review »