Metascore
48

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: Owen Gleiberman
    Mar 6, 2013
    67
    Emperor explores the delicate postwar dance of revenge, justice, and realpolitik, yet its focus on the issue of Hirohito's guilt or innocence (did he order the attack on Pearl Harbor? Or did he, in fact, oppose the Japanese military machine?)
  2. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Mar 7, 2013
    50
    “Let’s show ’em some good old-fashioned American swagger,’’ MacArthur says on his arrival in Tokyo. It’s too bad director Webber and the screenwriters, David Klass and Vera Blasi, didn’t take his advice to heart instead of largely wasting Jones and some very nice period details.
  3. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Mar 7, 2013
    63
    Only near the end, when MacArthur and Hirohito meet in person, do we get fireworks. And that's thanks to Jones, who makes sure this old soldier will never die in our memory. As for this tepid movie, it just fades away.
  4. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Mar 7, 2013
    75
    In the end, probably the best way to watch Emperor is to pretend that the Supreme Command of Allied Forces in Japan after World War II was Tommy Lee Jones. If you do that, the movie works surprisingly well.
  5. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Mar 7, 2013
    40
    Mr. Jones’s performance is the only spark within this otherwise dull, well-mannered exercise.
  6. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Mar 8, 2013
    63
    Some of the film's most illuminating scenes involve Aya's uncle, General Kajima (Toshiyuki Nishida), who schools Fellers on the sense of duty that is ingrained in Japanese culture.
  7. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Mar 6, 2013
    50
    Emperor may not be the most dazzling of history lessons, but it never treats the past as a dusty, deserted place.
  8. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Mar 7, 2013
    50
    This one's likely to vex both history buffs and those who require some drama with their drama.
  9. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Mar 28, 2013
    50
    Aside from Jones’s broadly entertaining performance as the egotistical Supreme Commander, the movie, directed by Peter Webber (The Girl with the Pearl Earring), is a dud.
  10. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Mar 7, 2013
    40
    Director Peter Webber (“Girl With a Pearl Earring”) fills the film with conciliatory emotion and jarring vistas of post-atomic landscapes. Unfortunately, Emperor needs more good ol’-fashioned swagger.
  11. 63
    Tommy Lee Jones gives us a saltier version of MacArthur than the image-conscious general ever let on to.
  12. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Mar 7, 2013
    60
    There’s far too little of MacArthur’s strutting on display. Granted, that’s not the movie Webber was making. But you kind of wish it was.
  13. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Mar 7, 2013
    63
    This true-ish story adds a romantic subplot to the prosecution of Japanese war criminals by American general Douglas MacArthur, but neither the love nor the war are completely baked.
  14. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Mar 5, 2013
    40
    Director Peter Webber, who once mined social unease from the painterly "Girl with a Pearl Earring," is out of his depth; this is a movie in desperate need of a no-nonsense Howard Hawks.
  15. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Mar 8, 2013
    20
    There's really nothing definitive about Emperor. Or memorable, for that matter.
  16. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Mar 7, 2013
    42
    It's almost too bad, then, that MacArthur and Jones take a back seat to the far less interesting Gen. Bonner Fellers in the stolid drama Emperor.
  17. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Mar 7, 2013
    40
    The war crimes and romance stories theoretically run on parallel tracks, but the overall pacing is ragged and the dialogue frequently out of step with the characters we've met.
  18. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Mar 6, 2013
    67
    Emperor is also one of those movies in which the most intriguing occurrences are revealed by "what-happened-to . . ." title cards at the finale.
  19. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Mar 5, 2013
    30
    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.
  20. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Mar 6, 2013
    75
    The real star of the film is the magnetic, forceful and charismatic Matthew Fox, who steals the entire film as easily as if he were pitching a softball.
  21. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Mar 8, 2013
    40
    Emperor’s bloodless presentation fails on a fundamental dramatic level, playing like the fancy version of a junior-high educational filmstrip, down to the false suspense of Alex Heffes’ corny ticking-clock score.
  22. Reviewed by: Kevin Jagernauth
    Mar 5, 2013
    50
    The movie is never without forward momentum, it's just too bad when just when it's ready to go to interesting places, we jump back to Bonner and Aya's pedestrian romance.
  23. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Mar 7, 2013
    50
    When MacArthur stands side by side with Hirohito (Takatarô Kataoka), it’s the ultimate in victor-vanquished encounters. That’s also true whenever Jones shares a scene with Fox.
  24. Reviewed by: Neil Smith
    Oct 7, 2013
    60
    Fun when Jones is around, dull when he's not, it's all just a little bit of history repeating.
  25. Reviewed by: Trevor Johnston
    Oct 1, 2013
    60
    It’s all done with care and authentic Japanese locations, and is engrossing for anyone with an interest in the subject. But there’s scant drama as proceedings plod their way towards mutual understanding.
  26. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    Sep 30, 2013
    40
    Good intentions, vivid setting and TLJ on top form do not make up for a lack of anything truly compelling.
  27. Reviewed by: Mark Kermode
    Oct 7, 2013
    40
    Thank heaven for Jones's reliable grouchiness, his bloodhound eyes, high-belted paunch, and deader-than-deadpan drawl offering welcome relief from the historical schmaltz.
  28. Reviewed by: Mike D Angelo
    Mar 13, 2013
    58
    Since Hirohito remained in ceremonial power until his death in 1989, there’s no suspense about the outcome. Instead, the film 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.
  29. Reviewed by: Joel Arnold
    Mar 8, 2013
    40
    So it seems like the next logical step in telling a story with a relationship to truth might be that if you're going to fudge things, at least make it entertaining. Please, pull an "Argo."
  30. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Mar 8, 2013
    63
    This drama is serious and well made but will appeal primarily to those with an interest in the devastated setting (1945 Tokyo) and the enigmatic title character (Emperor Hirohito).
  31. Reviewed by: Louis Black
    Mar 6, 2013
    67
    The film bites off much more than it can chew, raising far more issues and personalities than it can successfully weave into one overall narrative.
  32. Reviewed by: Richard Roeper
    Mar 6, 2013
    75
    As is the case with most of the elements in Emperor, the cliches are relatively few and spaced apart, and the tearjerking and profound moments are authentic and well-earned.
  33. Reviewed by: Esther Yi
    Mar 2, 2013
    25
    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
6.1

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
    10
    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
    8
    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
    2
    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 »