Hayao Miyazaki's PRINCESS MONONOKE
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This is an epic adventure interspersed with elements of Japanese folklore, magic, feral teenagers, giant wolves, strong and aggressive women, warfare, politics, terrific music, and enough related plot lines to kill a horse.
The Japanese soundtrack is more expressive than the effectively translated English, but the English is more accessible for those unaccustomed to subtitles. In my book, this accessibility is a good thing, despite what the purists say. I’ve watched both, and each has its place.
There are many characters, and each has a unique personality. The Japanese version is better in conveying these differences, with Minnie Driver’s Irontown ruler my candidate for best English language voice. Her cackling laugh is hearty and expressive.
Last but not least is the artwork. Wow. Some of the images are absolutely arresting. The Deer God’s breath crumbling plants before him, and the tiny growing and dying plants that spring up at each step. The Nightwalker’s search for his head. The forest spirits chattering. The apes glowing eyes as they decry what Man has done to their forest.
I’ve found this movie appeals to a very broad range of ages. A group of Kiki-loving primary school kids was enthralled at a recent showing. Teenagers have liked it, too. While it may never reach the status of a Disney cartoon (many of which I love) I believe it will go down in history as a high point of 20th Century animation. Plus, it’s a hell of a good adventure.
Review copyright (c) 2007 by Dennis D. McDonald