Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
What is it about Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli that are so consistently impressive? Seeing 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds for the first time reminded me of some of the answers to this question.
First, Miyazaki and Ghibli don’t insult the audience. The stories and characters are complex. Think of Nausicaä, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. Thoughtful adults - and kids who like to think - will be drawn to this stuff.
Second, there is an underlying core of bravery and honesty on display among the key characters. There is hope and optimism in the face of great adversity. The difficulties involved in being brave and honest are not underestimated, either. Life is tough. There are heartache and hardship to overcome. Miyazaki’s world is neither milquetoast nor overtly evil. Good and bad must coexist.
Third, the images on view are breathtaking. The depths of the “toxic jungle” in this film are amazing, for example. We just don’t see images like this ever day. There’s even a flying dragon; who can resist a flying dragon?
And, there is an emphasis on flying, flying creatures, and flying machines. Characters and people move in all dimensions. Visually, we are constantly reminded that no matter how accustomed to flying we become, there is still an element of magic involved. High quality animation is still a perfect way to illustrate this magic.
This is a two-DVD set. The first DVD contains the movie and a variety of extra features (as well as both Japanese and well-dubbed English soundtracks). My favorite extra was a documentary that traced the evolution of the Ghibli studio along with the role Nausicaä played in this evolution. I found this fascinating, even the “recreated” parts. I found myself asking, “why in the world weren’t more Ghibli films available in the U.S. before now?”
The second disc contains a more esoteric extra. a storyboard version of the film complete with the actual soundtrack. It’s interesting, for example, to hear the voices of Patrick Stewart and Uma Thurman emanating from a hand drawn pencil illustration.
Review copyright (c) 2005 by Dennis D. McDonald