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Reviews 8

Reviews of the Miramax English-language version -- Film: Reviews 141 through 149

141). Eugene Novikov - IMDB, December 1999
142). Michael J. Legeros - Movie Hell, December 1999
143). Bill DeLapp - Syracuse New Times (New York), 1 December 1999
144). Jay Stone - The Ottawa Citizen, 3 December 1999
145). Alison Gillmor - Winnipeg Free Press (Canada), 3 December 1999
146). Franklin Harris - Decatur Daily (Alabama), 9 December 1999
147). LaShaya Howie - Charlotte Observer (North Carolina), 10 December 1999
148). Michael Sragow - Salon Arts & Entertainment (Best of 1999), 17 December 1999
149). Andrew O'Hehir - Salon Arts & Entertainment (Best of 1999), 17 December 1999
150). Ben Berntsen - www.christiananswers.net, 2000

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141). IMDB

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://reviews.imdb.com/Reviews/219/21956

December 1999

Princess Mononoke (1999)

By Eugene Novikov

Princess Mononoke, the latest Japanese anime export from the legendary Hayao Miyazaki (Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro) is neither a bad film nor the masterpiece so many are making it out to be (Roger Ebert, why have you forsaken us?). It's a fantasy adventure that has the frame of a deep, complex back story but never bothers to elaborate on it, give it anything more than pseudo-substance. It's impressive animation and fluid action sequences make it more than a passable two plus hours, but it never becomes the great achievement it could -- and perhaps should -- have been.

[...]

Well, the pictures sure are pretty: striking and rich in detail, utilizing the distinctive anime style to good effect. Indeed, I can't see the story working in standard Disney-style animation: it just doesn't seem right, perhaps because we're not accustomed to seeing serious stories presented in traditional animation. Then again, this isn't even a very serious movie, but it sure does pretend to be. There's a lot of dark mythology involved here, but it isn't sincere mythology, just something made up as a backbone, something to hold the movie together. There's not much more to it than a skeleton; the stories are shallow, barren. I'd be in favor of increasing the film's already lengthy running time in order to deepen the background.

I was never really bored, though my mind started to wander in parts. Fortunately the film gets its act together for a compelling climax, which is far and away the best part of the movie. There, it pulls through not because of our emotional involvement in the story but because of the visceral thrill it generates: the riveting score, gorgeous animation and able direction finally manage to give the viewer a rush, though by then it may be too little, too late. Then again, for some people, maybe not.

Ultimately, the movie settles in your head rather than in your heart. There are enough action set pieces and compelling visuals dispersed throughout to keep you awake and interested but not enough depth to the story to elicit a real emotional response. Too bad.

[...]

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142). Movie Hell

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://www.nonvirtual.com/hell/1999/princess.mononoke.html

December 1999

Princess Mononoke (1999)

By Michael J. Legeros

PRINCESS MONONOKE is an animated, samurai sword 'n' sorcery environmental fable, imported from Japan and dubbed (expertly) into English by an all-star cast. [...] Ace animation, adult subject matter, and an exception-ally complex plot are the obvious assets here. Those new to anime, like myself, may find themselves distracted by the trademark blandly drawn facial features. Same with the running time, which, at two hours and thirteen minutes, is certainly a patience-tester. I made it about two-thirds of the way through before falling asleep. Lemme know how it turned out.

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143). Syracuse New Times (New York)

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://newtimes.rway.com/films/mononoke.htm

December 1, 1999, Wednesday

Princess Mononoke

By Bill DeLapp

A long way from Disney-styled animation, let alone the Pokemon phenomenon, this Japanese cartoon blockbuster from writer- director Hayao Miyazaki is one of just two features to gross an amazing $150 million at its homeland's box office. (The other flick? Titanic, of course.) While such an epic anime is understandable given Japan's fondness for the cel-related art form, Mononoke is a somewhat tougher sell stateside, with its imaginative mixture of Japanese folklore and ecological statement providing a fascinating, if overlong, mythological journey.

Then again, let's be thankful Mononoke is receiving an in-toto showing in America; Miramax, which is usually pretty scissors-happy whenever it releases foreign product in the United States, had to retain the original's running time in order to distribute Mononoke. And cutting would have made more confusing an already complex tale.

[...]

Miyazaki builds upon his premise with his classically conflicted anti-hero Ashitaka, who in the opening minutes battles a demonically possessed boar, and ends up being cursed with the pig's slow-killing plague. Projecting a Toshiro Mifune-esque stoicism, Ashitaka tries to suppress the demons within, even as he frequently shifts sides from Eboshi to Mononoke in order to quell the violence. The director is also unafraid to show the realism of such samurai times, with freshets of blood accompanying the occasional lopped-off head or arm. Yet he alternates such grisly, though fleeting, imagery with beguilingly cute scenes devoted to the Kodama tree spirits, who look like junior versions of Steven Spielberg's E.T. creation.

Miramax spent considerable effort to ready Mononoke for its American art-house run, with a reworded script by DC Comics' Neil Gaiman that allowed the Hollywood voice-over talent some latitude in dubbing their characters. Billy Crudup handles his youthful savior Ashitaka with a spunky innocence, while Minnie Driver's authoritative voice as Eboshi clashes well with Claire Danes' necessarily strident wolf princess. Still, Billy Bob Thornton's offhanded, soft-spoken delivery as Jigo goes against what the on-screen character looks like--a squat, repellent schemer--although Gaiman's script gives him memorable lines such as "This soup tastes like donkey piss!"
Yet there are so many splendid vignettes that constitute Princess Mononoke, it would be churlish to note that its midsection gets a little meandering at times. Indeed, Miyazaki contributes such a sweeping sense of storytelling, you may often forget that animators, not actors, have guided this display of on-screen emotions.

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144). The Ottawa Citizen

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/991203/3238379.html

December 3, 1999, Friday

Lovers of fantasy will embrace Princess

By Jay Stone

All aboard for two and a quarter hours of sprawling Japanese fantasy set in the days of gods and demons, of talking wolves and rampaging boars and child heroes who can decapitate their foes, all drawn in the anime style of visual storytelling that includes rich backgrounds, inventive characters, endless complications and those big anime eyes that make everyone from samurai warriors to imperious queens look like something out of the Pokemon nursery.

The folklore in question is called Princess Mononoke, an animation epic of undoubted quality and presumed appeal to those for whom the words, "In ancient times, when man and beast lived in harmony ..." do not bring an inner groan of dismay.

[...]

With its length and scenes of violence, Princess Mononoke is probably aimed at an older audience, one that will appreciate its message of conservation -- or at least the need for the despoilers of the forest and its protectors to live in harmony -- and the craft of its storytelling. Director Hayao Miyazaki is an anime legend, and this movie is beautifully and carefully constructed, mostly hand-drawn and with more invention than it needs, even. Conservation messages have been a part of Japanese movies since Godzilla, but Princess Mononoke has a more mature and shaded viewpoint in its sympathy for both sides ("Why can't the humans and the forest live together?")

At the same time, the movie is meant mostly for those who relish fantasy tales (the co-writers of the English translation include Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman series of cult graphic novels). In Japan, the movie was so popular it was only the second film, after Titanic, to earn $150 million. Its North American reception has been cooler, partly because of its length, I would imagine, and partly because it comes from so far out of left field with its mystical style, complex narrative and fairy-tale cast. It's an acquired taste, this imagined epic. By the time the Armageddon battle finally arrives ("the women and the lepers have fallen back to the inner wall!") I felt a lot of sympathy for the kid in the first scene. The one who says, "Whatever you may be, god or demon, please leave us in peace."

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145). Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://205.200.191.20/cgi-bin/LiveIQue.acgi$rec=4022?entertainment

December 3, 1999, Friday

Cartoon may be breathtaking but it's definitely not for kids

By Alison Gillmor

Maybe it's after that second graphic decapitation that it hits you: I don't think we're in Disneyland anymore.

Princess Mononoke may be a cartoon, but it's NOT for little kids. It's a masterful and breathtakingly beautiful example of Japanese anime, a more adult form of animation that has never been shy about violence.

Director Hayao Miyazaki, whose fervent fans include not only other animators but Tsui Hark and the late Akira Kurosawa, does depict battle carnage with alarming realism. But unlike some anime artists, he has no taste for gore for its own sake (or for that weird soft-porn kinkiness common to the genre).

Miyazaki's vision is rich, folkloric, earthy and thoughtful. His violence is simply the violence that rises out of the human condition: "Life is suffering and the world is cursed,'' comments one character. (Not a sentiment that will be made into an Elton John theme song anytime soon.)

[...]

Miyazaki's sensitivity to the natural world -- water, fire and weather effects -- is exquisite and painterly, evoking that combination of quickness and calm that you find in Japanese watercolours. Using mostly old-fashioned cel animation, Miyazaki creates images more vivid and beautiful than the computer-generated "realism'' that is dominating animation right now.

The human action ranges from the epic to the intimate, from sweeping battle scenes to the workaday gossip of the pragmatic ex-brothel girls who now work the iron factory. (There's an interesting feminist undercurrent to the film's themes.)

Though the story is on a heroic, operatic scale, the characters are all morally complex. There are no Disney-style villains here, just an unresolvable struggle between civilization and the natural world, all played out in the ever-present shadow of death.

[...]

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146). Decatur Daily (Alabama)

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://home.hiwaay.net/~tfharris/pulpculture/columns/991209.shtml

December 9, 1999, Thursday

'Mononoke' deserves wide release

By Franklin Harris

[...]

Ecological themes often play a role in the films of the man called Japan's master animator, Hayao Miyazaki. They dominate his classic "Naussicaš of the Valley of the Wind," and they turn up again, in more tempered form, in his most popular film, "Princess Mononoke," now playing in the United States in limited release.

Environmental issues are nothing new to American audiences, even when they crop up in animation. But Miyazaki's work is a world away from the propaganda spewed forth in films like "FernGully: The Last Rainforest" (1992) and Disney's "Pocahontas" (1995) and in TV shows like Ted Turner's abysmal (on every level) "Captain Planet."

Like Boorman's Merlin, Miyazaki is resigned to the ways of men, even if he doesn't like them. He plays fair with all sides. And he is just as quick to criticize Greenpeace as he is anyone else, as he does in a 1993 interview in Animerica magazine.

The complex moral perspective of "Princess Mononoke" is only one thing that makes the film stand above every animated feature film produced in America in the last 30-or-more years -- with the possible exception of Brad Bird's criminally neglected "The Iron Giant."

[...]

Utilizing both traditional cell animation and computer graphics -- the latter so sparingly that they are unnoticeable -- Miyazaki creates a lush world filled with creatures both strange and familiar. World Fantasy Award-winning author Neil Gaiman's script deftly conveys the meaning of Miyazaki's Japanese-language original without being so literal it sounds alien to American ears. And Jo Hisaishi's score gives "Princess Mononoke" an epic feel you can't get from Phil Collins and Elton John songs.

The only misstep is the casting of Danes as San. She could be the poster child for why not all good actors or actresses can make the transition to voiceover acting.

If there is any justice in Hollywood, Miramax will eventually give "Princess Mononoke" the wide release it deserves. Audiences should have the pleasure of seeing Miyazaki's masterpiece on a theater screen before it moves to home video. And they shouldn't have to drive 100 miles to see it.

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147). Charlotte Observer (North Carolina)

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online (payment required).

December 10, 1999, Friday

`Mononoke' message veiled by tangled plot

By LaShaya Howie

`Princess Mononoke" was a movie I had heard little about. Now that I have seen it, I have mixed feelings.

"Mononoke" has some definite strong points - the message, the animation, and the voices. However it does have a major drawback - a story line that is hard to keep up with.

[...]

The drawback of this movie is a story line that is incredibly difficult. The setting jumps back and forth from one place to another, and the connection between the characters is also sometimes hard to see.

[...]

This movie teaches its viewers about the importance of nature and how humans have abused it. Perhaps the larger message of the movie is how hate manifests itself. Ashitaka's goal in the movie was to prevent hate, whether it was between people, animals or nature.

[...]

LaShaya Howie is a 10th-grader at Myers Park High School.

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148). Salon Arts & Entertainment (Michael Sragow's Best of 1999)

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/12/17/best/index.html

December 17, 1999, Friday

"Three Kings," one "Witch" and a "Princess"
Salon Arts & Entertainment's critics pick their favorite movies of 1999.

By Michael Sragow

[...]

Of the films of 1999 that I saw -- I missed a number of likely candidates -- here are the 22 I enjoyed the most. As I sorted them out, they fit together naturally in pairs. And as I assembled them like Noah's flock, they seemed diverse enough to replenish hope for cinema even after a flood of bloated end-of-the-year releases.

[...]

Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" and Brad Bird's "The Iron Giant"
In Miyazaki's epic cartoon masterpiece, the incursion of ironworks into the spirit-laden wilderness of Japan's medieval past provokes universal discord -- and a torrential outpouring of primordial imagery. In Bird's engaging animated feature, an iron giant from outer space appears in a small Maine coastal town in the paranoid '50s. Only a derivative "E.T." streak mars Bird's distinctive melding of sentiment and satire, and the Giant himself is a funny-touching- awesome creation, akin to King Kong.

[...]

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149). Salon Arts & Entertainment (Andrew O'Hehir's Best of 1999)

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/12/17/best/index4.html

December 17, 1999, Friday

"Three Kings," one "Witch" and a "Princess"

By Andrew O'Hehir

My primary gig at Salon is to cover major commercial films and, as advertised, this has been an exceptionally good year for Hollywood. So why are two of the first three movies on my list foreign? On the one hand, I could hold forth about the ways that American filmmakers are still not free from the pernicious influence of Alfred Hitchcock: They confuse action with emotion, see appearance as reality and understand storytelling mainly as a trick played on the audience. On the other hand, when I look at my list such protestations ring hollow. One of my highly rated foreign films is a cartoon and the other is a knockabout farce with considerably more action and slapstick humor than, say, "Being John Malkovich." So let's can the theories and get on with it.

[...]

3) "Princess Mononoke"
A sweeping, heart-rending epic about the conflict between nature and technology from legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, this mythic yarn full of gods and demons, tyrants and rebels blows George Lucas off the map. But despite an exemplary English-language dub featuring the voices of Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver and Billy Bob Thornton, box-office returns were modest. Maybe moviegoers couldn't figure out if "Princess Mononoke" was for kids or adults. It's really one of those rare and powerful animated films that works on different levels for different audiences.

[...]

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150). www.christiananswers.net

The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at:
http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies/2000/princessmononoke.html

2000

Movie Review: Princess Mononoke

By Ben Berntsen (Volunteer Guest Reviewer)

The animation is all done in the Japanese style of "Anime", so it has quite a different flavor than Americans are probably used to seeing. The animation is "sharp" if that's the right word, but it surpasses Disney in every way. In this movie, things like fog, rain and forest looks so real you could reach out and touch them, and the characters are incredibly well-animated -- far better than anything I've seen in North America. This is also the first animated film I've seen that makes brilliant use of cinematography, and you'll be amazed at the brilliance of the scenery in this film

[...]

Content wise, let me say this straight off: the film is not for children. There is more action-related violence in this film than in all the Disney films combined, often resulting in many dismembered limbs and sometimes beheadings. On top of that the plot is very advanced, and it'll fly right over kid's heads, so it's really not worth it to let them see the film at all. Sex wise, the Iron-mining town is filled with former prostitutes who are now honest workers, and there are one or two mild phrases related to that. Language-wise there are very few foul words, and twice God's name is taken in vain. On the other hand, the main character is an excellent role model, as he never swears, never has sex, and is blatantly opposed to killing (he fights only when innocent lives are at stake).

[...]

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