Movie Review: Princess Mononoke

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Inspired by Novajam's review of Spirited Away, I would like to review another film by acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki: Princess Mononoke.

Released in 1997, Princess Mononoke is another breath-taking animated feature from Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It is quite dark in tone, more like Nausicaa than something like My Neighbor Totoro or Howl's Moving Castle. Probably not a film to share with your kiddies, despite it being animated.

It takes place in an unspecified time in the past, a mythic age when gods and demons walked the earth. In the riveting opening scene, an enraged demon attacks a small village of the isolated Amishi people. Their last living prince, Ashitaka (voiced in the english version by Billy Crudup), bravely defeats the fiend, but not before he is afflicted with it's dark essence. The village shaman finds an iron musket ball in the beast's remains, and ascertains that it was once a noble forest god before being shot and transformed by the rage and pain into a rampaging demon. Tragically, a similar fate will befall Ashitaka, and the village elders have no choice but to exile their last young prince.

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So he sets forth, toward Iron Town, an outpost in the distant mountains and the likely source of the musket ball. The town and the surrounding forest and mountains are the stage for a great conflict. The forces of human order and progress are led by Lady Eboshi (voiced by Minnie Driver), a noblewoman intent on taming the wild lands and exploiting the rich resources found there. Her foes are the wild spirits of the mountains: the great wolf god Moro (voiced by Gillian Anderson) and her children. San (voiced by Claire Danes) is a young woman who was raised by the wolf gods, and is as fierce an opponent of the human interlopers as any. Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of this conflict before long, trying to peacefully mediate the situation despite the hatred rising inside of him from the demon-taint, and growing increasingly fascinated with the strange wolf-girl...

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There are many interesting themes at work in the storyline: most obvious is the environmental message against despoiling the land. But good and bad aspects are displayed by both sides in this conflict - Lady Eboshi is not simply a cold conqueror, but she is trying to provide for the people that look to her for leadership. The great forest spirits, while beautiful and regal avatars of nature, are also fierce and savage. It is best to strike a balance, as embodied by Ashitaka. And some interesting side stories are hinted at, political intrigue between various factions of humans - a not-too-pious monk named Jigo (voiced by Billy Bob Thornton) has his own agenda to follow in these events.

The dialogue is quite excellent, thanks to the english adaptation provided by none other than Neil Gaiman. Claire Danes comes off a little whiny and not really "into" the role, in my opinion, as the titular Princess. But every other voice actor puts in a great performance.

The animation is nothing short of amazing, as is to be expected from Studio Ghibli. Beautiful, epic landscapes are populated with interesting, well-designed characters. There are plenty of intense, fast-paced action scenes as well as peaceful, meditative sequences.

I can honestly think of very little to criticize about this film. It's one of my most favorite movies ever, and a true masterpiece, in my opinion. Call this fanboyish gushing rather than a proper review, if you must. I don't care. I love this movie, and I urge everybody who has not seen it to do so at the next possible opportunity.

Yeah, me neither.

This is my favorite film of all time. The worldviews expressed in it are parallel to mine to a tee. This an Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind are two films that reduce me to tears almost every time I watch them.
I consider this one of the greatest triumphs in film as an art form in the 90s.

I loved this movie, and I greatly enjoyed reading your review of it. Yuh done a good jearb there.

Ohhhhhhh yeah. My first Miyazaki film, and it remains my favorite to this day (followed closely by Kiki's Delivery Service). Excellent review, and not just because I agree with it.

Bonus points for catching that Neil Gaiman wrote the script for the dub. Incidentally, did you also know that John Lasseter (the best thing to happen to Disney since... ever) has been the exec producer on most of Miyazaki's movies?

Fightgarr:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Patrick Stewart does voice acting in that movie.

How can it not be awesome?

Also, it has ohm.

OHM.

thiosk:

Fightgarr:
This an Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Patrick Stewart does voice acting in that movie.

How can it not be awesome?

Also, it has ohm.

OHM.

Really? I watched it in Japanese.
Not to sound like a Japanophile (because I really am not one) but I prefer to watch Ghibli films in Japanese. Especially Totoro where they decided to destroy it by having Dakota Fanning do one of the dub voices.

Fightgarr:

Not to sound like a Japanophile (because I really am not one) but I prefer to watch Ghibli films in Japanese. Especially Totoro where they decided to destroy it by having Dakota Fanning do one of the dub voices.

I was shocked by the voice actors in nauscaa

Nausicaä --Alison Lohman
Lord Yupa --Patrick Stewart
Kushana --Uma Thurman
Kurotowa --Chris Sarandon
Mito --Edward James Olmos
Lastelle -- Emily Bauer
Asbel - Shia LaBeouf
Mayor of Pejite --- MOTHA FAWKIN Mark Hamill

LUKE SKYWALKER [email protected]!!!!!

thiosk:
[quote="Fightgarr" post="326.83873.1181564"]I was shocked by the voice actors in nauscaa

Nausicaä --Alison Lohman
Lord Yupa --Patrick Stewart
Kushana --Uma Thurman
Kurotowa --Chris Sarandon
Mito --Edward James Olmos
Lastelle -- Emily Bauer
Asbel - Shia LaBeouf
Mayor of Pejite --- MOTHA FAWKIN Mark Hamill

LUKE SKYWALKER [email protected]!!!!!

That's a pretty good voice cast. Mark Hamill voice acts in every thing ever though. Look at his imdb page. Its ALL voice acting.

yeah but he had that accident during the star wars years and got all banged up, it makes you wonder what would have happened to him if things went different.

Plus Mark Hamill can't show his face in a film without someone saying, "Hey! You're Luke Skywalker! Luke, I am your father."

I enjoyed your review, and couldn't see anything I didn't like about it. Good Show.

I agree with you in the point of Clare Danes' performance. It was a bit wet. All the others were brilliant though. Howl and Kiki's Delivery Service are my favourites I think, Laputa is good, but even darker than Mononoke.

That was a nice review man. Princess Mononoke is my favorite film ever. I just love everything about it. Contradicting you though, I did enjoy how San was portrayed and thought that Claire Danes did an awesome job, mainly on her development throughout the film and her acceptance of Ashitaka.

Also just a point to touch on, the music is absolutely brilliant. The central theme track is without compare. That track alone moved me more than the entire film The Green Mile (which I enjoyed), or any other movie for that matter. Excuse my fanboyism but it would take nothing short of a miracle for Ghibli to make a better film than this.

As the OP says, watch this, soon, if not now.

I've never seen the translated version - I watched the Japanese version with subtitles. This isn't through some obsessive Japanophile desire, I just happen to feel that films shouldn't be dubbed. Be it Hero, Fearless or Mad Max (yes, the Americans had to have it dubbed because they couldn't understand what the Ozzies were saying), dubbing spoils a film.

It is a very, very good film. No question.

Fightgarr:

Not to sound like a Japanophile (because I really am not one) but I prefer to watch Ghibli films in Japanese. Especially Totoro where they decided to destroy it by having Dakota Fanning do one of the dub voices.

The word is actually Nipponophile but anyway, you're absolutely right, any film made in a foreign language should be watched in that language with English subtitles.

Dubbing is like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

thiosk:

Fightgarr:

Not to sound like a Japanophile (because I really am not one) but I prefer to watch Ghibli films in Japanese. Especially Totoro where they decided to destroy it by having Dakota Fanning do one of the dub voices.

I was shocked by the voice actors in nauscaa

Nausicaä --Alison Lohman
Lord Yupa --Patrick Stewart
Kushana --Uma Thurman
Kurotowa --Chris Sarandon
Mito --Edward James Olmos
Lastelle -- Emily Bauer
Asbel - Shia LaBeouf
Mayor of Pejite --- MOTHA FAWKIN Mark Hamill

LUKE SKYWALKER [email protected]!!!!!

Mark Hamill has done voice acting in the English dub of a lot of Miyazaki's movies. He actually played the villain in Castle in the Sky.

Oh, and Mark Hamill's version of the Joker was second only to Heath Ledger's.

ZantetsukenQ:
Also just a point to touch on, the music is absolutely brilliant. The central theme track is without compare. That track alone moved me more than the entire film The Green Mile (which I enjoyed), or any other movie for that matter.

Yes, thank you for bringing up the music, which I somehow completely forgot to mention. The music is excellent, very emotional.

And thank you all for reading my review ^__^

ThaBenMan:

ZantetsukenQ:
Also just a point to touch on, the music is absolutely brilliant. The central theme track is without compare. That track alone moved me more than the entire film The Green Mile (which I enjoyed), or any other movie for that matter.

Yes, thank you for bringing up the music, which I somehow completely forgot to mention. The music is excellent, very emotional.

And thank you all for reading my review ^__^

If you loved the music, I must link this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdBYxiHjxwI&feature=channel_page

Sorry for the derailing (sort of) but I hope you can appreciate it. Theres also a Shadow of the Colossus rendition which is just awe inspiring.

JaguarWong:

Fightgarr:

Not to sound like a Japanophile (because I really am not one) but I prefer to watch Ghibli films in Japanese. Especially Totoro where they decided to destroy it by having Dakota Fanning do one of the dub voices.

The word is actually Nipponophile but anyway, you're absolutely right, any film made in a foreign language should be watched in that language with English subtitles.

Dubbing is like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

Was that a diss directed at Duchamps?

I loved this movie. Sadly I haven't seen it such a long time.

Great Review!

Amazing movie, very happy to have this in my collection. It's truly a master piece.

A good review to a very good movie. I enjoyed both a lot.

ZantetsukenQ:

ThaBenMan:

ZantetsukenQ:
Also just a point to touch on, the music is absolutely brilliant. The central theme track is without compare. That track alone moved me more than the entire film The Green Mile (which I enjoyed), or any other movie for that matter.

Yes, thank you for bringing up the music, which I somehow completely forgot to mention. The music is excellent, very emotional.

And thank you all for reading my review ^__^

If you loved the music, I must link this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdBYxiHjxwI&feature=channel_page

Sorry for the derailing (sort of) but I hope you can appreciate it. Theres also a Shadow of the Colossus rendition which is just awe inspiring.

Awesome! Thanks!

]Ah, I love what little I've seen of Myazaki thus far. So far, I've only seen this and Spirited Away, and I definitely want to see more. I've heard a lot of you talking about Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, is that a logical next step?

I saw this randomly when I was like 11, But I guess it was better than I thought it was at the time, even then I thought it was cool. I should probably watch it again.

orannis62:
Ah, I love what little I've seen of Myazaki thus far. So far, I've only seen this and Spirited Away, and I definitely want to see more. I've heard a lot of you talking about Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, is that a logical next step?

Sure, as good as any. Nausicaa is pretty serious, like Princess Mononoke, with a good deal of violence in it, if that's your thang. Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Sky are kind of lighter, like Spirited Away. My Neighbor Totoro is a straight-up kid's movie, really, but still good.

I just had a thought; fanboy gushing is still useful if it can explain what the fans like about it. Consider this a nod at your success.

ThaBenMan:

orannis62:
Ah, I love what little I've seen of Myazaki thus far. So far, I've only seen this and Spirited Away, and I definitely want to see more. I've heard a lot of you talking about Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, is that a logical next step?

Sure, as good as any. Nausicaa is pretty serious, like Princess Mononoke, with a good deal of violence in it, if that's your thang. Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Sky are kind of lighter, like Spirited Away. My Neighbor Totoro is a straight-up kid's movie, really, but still good.

Thanks. I just remembered that I've seen Howl's Moving Castle as well. I didn't like it as much as the others.

Fightgarr:

JaguarWong:

Fightgarr:

Not to sound like a Japanophile (because I really am not one) but I prefer to watch Ghibli films in Japanese. Especially Totoro where they decided to destroy it by having Dakota Fanning do one of the dub voices.

The word is actually Nipponophile but anyway, you're absolutely right, any film made in a foreign language should be watched in that language with English subtitles.

Dubbing is like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa.

Was that a diss directed at Duchamps?

Crikey - there are people on these boards who aren't just pretending to be smart...

Out of all the movies done by Miyazaki, I could watch Princess Mononoke a million times and forever love it. The animations still amaze me and the story line is so enriching. You can take so many things from this movie, especially since it has such a dark plot line.

Sylocat:

thiosk:

Fightgarr:

Not to sound like a Japanophile (because I really am not one) but I prefer to watch Ghibli films in Japanese. Especially Totoro where they decided to destroy it by having Dakota Fanning do one of the dub voices.

I was shocked by the voice actors in nauscaa

Nausicaä --Alison Lohman
Lord Yupa --Patrick Stewart
Kushana --Uma Thurman
Kurotowa --Chris Sarandon
Mito --Edward James Olmos
Lastelle -- Emily Bauer
Asbel - Shia LaBeouf
Mayor of Pejite --- MOTHA FAWKIN Mark Hamill

LUKE SKYWALKER [email protected]!!!!!

Mark Hamill has done voice acting in the English dub of a lot of Miyazaki's movies. He actually played the villain in Castle in the Sky.

Oh, and Mark Hamill's version of the Joker was second only to Heath Ledger's.

Only other movie i've seen him act in is Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and that was awesome amirite? The rest is voice acting, he does a lot of characters in Metalocalypse

It's a fantastic film, and I'm sure Miyazaki is happy that it's more relevant today in the West (especially the US) than it was when it came out over ten years ago.

My personal favorite is Nausicaa, but it definitely has a more heavy-handed message. Fans of the movie might be interested to know that the film is only the first part of a much larger story told in the manga, which explains why the miasma and the poisonous forests are growing.

ThaBenMan:

I can honestly think of very little to criticize about this film. It's one of my most favorite movies ever, and a true masterpiece, in my opinion. Call this fanboyish gushing rather than a proper review, if you must. I don't care. I love this movie, and I urge everybody who has not seen it to do so at the next possible opportunity.

I have nothing but love for this film. Used to be one of my favorites while I attended high-school in Yokosuka, Japan. Gushing is okay every now and then.

roblikestoskate:
I just had a thought; fanboy gushing is still useful if it can explain what the fans like about it. Consider this a nod at your success.

Bagmun:
I have nothing but love for this film. Used to be one of my favorites while I attended high-school in Yokosuka, Japan. Gushing is okay every now and then.

Ok, thanks guys! I was just afraid it might not be a good review - the other ones I've done were described as just "summaries" rather than "reviews", I guess since I didn't really criticize the material being reviewed. I can't seem to help but write reviews of stuff I really like!

EDIT: And Bagmun, you went to high school in Japan? That must have been really cool. I'd love to visit Japan sometime.

The first and (so far) only Miyazaki film I've ever watched. I really liked it all. It's also my first experience with an anime where there is almost no line between good and evil. Yes, there is a war, but the motives behind the actions of each party is so well-developed, you'd actually feel for Lady Eboshi when


And with that spoiler, I was actually surprised with what I saw in the first few minutes of the movie where
Overall a great review, and thank you for reminding me just how much I loved this movie in the first place.

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