Story = D+
Video = D+
Audio = D+
The film begins with two luckless peasants, Tahei and Matashichi escaping the aftermath of a battle. In a hidden valley, they meet and try to help General Rokurota Makabe , whose mission is to help and protect a princess. The peasants try to help but mostly impede his mission. They are later joined by a farmer’s daughter, whom they acquire at an inn from a slave-trader, or procurer. Together, the five make an arduous and desperate trek through enemy territory, transporting a treasure of gold that the princess and the general hope to use to rebuild the princess's military to one day retake her land and rebuild her realm. (Source: Wikipedia)
I saw this at Otakon this year. The only reason I wanted to see it was because I'd heard that it was the movie that Star Wars was based on. But as it turns out (after a small bit of online research) all Lucas got out of this movie was the idea of telling the story from the perspective of the "lowest" characters (R2D2 and C3PO in the case of Star Wars).
The Hidden Tower is an Akira Kurosawa movie, which automatically makes it a classic since he is a legendary Japanese filmmaker from the '50s (or there about). And I'm sure that back in the day some of his movie-making techniques and style were cutting-edge, but watching it from my seat at Otakon, I was pretty bored.
At least the first half of the movie was boring because the plot just trudged along so slowly. Much of it just seems like dead air because it lingers too long on a lot of scenes. For instance, there's one where the movie's "lowly" characters, Tahei and Matashichi, are trying to climb up a hillside but keep slipping among the rocks (while, predictably, their leader took a shortcut and ends up waiting for them on the other side). It was amusing at first, but they just kept slipping down and trying to climb back up and slipping down again so that after a while I just wanted to say "Okay I get it already, they're nimrods, can we get to the next scene already?" There's another scene where there is a duel between the general Rokurota and another general named Tadokoro. The fighted was long and not particularly exciting and seemed like there was no choreographical planning involved at all... just two guys running around trying to slash (unsuccessfully) at one other with spears.
The characters were pretty flat as well. The two "lowly" characters from whose perspective the story is told, Tahei and Matashichi, don't seem like much more than comic relief with no real character development. Rokurota is your stereotypical tough-guy-hero. And then you have the princess who seems to do nothing but glare at people the entire movie, which is especially disturbing with those slant eyebrows she sports.
Actually the only character I liked at all was the old general that the princess and Rokurota met in the hidden tower. After some thought I realized the actor also played the role of the lead samurai in Seven Samurai. He plays that wise/amused demeanor just perfectly (maybe I should check out some other movies he's been in...).
So I was ready to pass out about half-way through, but thankfully the second half picked up the action and moved the plot along at a relatively brisk pace, catching my interest a bit more. I still wouldn't say that the second half was good enough to warrant a good review, because my standards are at least slightly higher than "at least it was good enough to keep me awake."
So while it wasn't the most entertaining two-plus hours I spent at Otakon, I'm still kind of glad I watched it if for no other reason than so I can say "I watched the movie that inspired (certain aspects of) Star Wars ... but Star Wars is better."