Princess Mononoke (US reviews - page 7)
- 1 CityBeat
- 2 Jacksonville Times-Union
- 3 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- 4 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
- 5 Raleigh News & Observer
- 6 Richmond Times-Dispatch
- 7 St. Petersburg Times
- 8 Tampa Tribune
- 9 The Tennessean
- 10 The Oklahoman
- 11 The Daily Pennsylvanian
- 12 Salt Lake Tribune
- 13 Hartford Courant
- 14 The Austin Chronicle
- 15 Deseret News
- 16 The Edmonton Journal
- 17 Anime Digital
- 18 The Daily Texan
- 19 Upcomingmovies.com
- 20 Apollo Leisure Guide
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.citybeat.com/issue/filmopening3.html
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
By Steve Ramos
There is undeniable magic in the films of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Devoted fans of Japanese anime already know the story of Princess Mononoke. Now, with an English language translation hitting theaters, Princess Mononoke brings the wonder of Miyazaki's vision to new audiences.
Princess Mononoke's visual brilliance is immediately evident. But what sets Miyazaki's film apart from Disney fare is its mature subject matter and complex plot. Here are rich themes: civilization vs. nature, the struggle for peace over violence and mankind's role in the world. Princess Mononoke is an epic tale of ancient Japanese folklore. Its adult themes are matched by scenes of bloody violence.But it's refreshing to watch an animated film that respects audiences' capability to grasp rich subject matter.
While other Hollywood studios continue to battle Disney, Princess Mononoke is proof that big-screen animation doesn't always need comic relief and Pop song interludes.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/ensoergelreviews/reviews/1399.html
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
'Princess Mononoke' a clever animated import from Japan
By Matt Soergel
True, Princess Mononoke is an animated adventure, and true, its titular heroine is a cute, big-eyed princess. But the first time we see her, she's licking clean the wound of a giant white wolf, and her cute big-eyed face is smeared with blood.
It's clear this cartoon is going to be different.
Exploring that well-trod territory where epic quests, Mad Max, Shane and any number of samurai movies meet, Princess Mononoke deserves a big audience.
Legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki and crew have an abundance of imagination, and it's displayed in scene after scene.
Many moments will cause jaws to drops. Take the opening scene, of an attack by a giant demon boar covered with a mass of writhing black worms (it makes sense in the movie).
It's as thrilling as anything that's been in theaters all year.
It's not perfect. It's too long, for one thing. In the late going, I found myself checking my watch, something I wouldn't have dreamed of doing in the first hour-and-a-half.
And Claire Danes is far too petulant to give the voice of Princess Mononoke, princess of the beasts.
The others supplying voices for the English-language version are better. Billy Crudup does fine as the young hero, Ashitaka, while Minnie Driver is perfectly imperious as a noblewoman trying to turn forests into iron mines. And listen for Billy Bob Thornton as an earthy monk sidekick/villain. He's dead-on.
The best characters, though? They're the Kodama, little ghostly clicking-and-rattling forest spirits from Japanese folklore. We may not be familiar with them, but that's part of the appeal of Princess Mononoke - getting lost in a strange, wonderful place.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.post-gazette.com/magazine/19991124princess4.asp
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
Characters' emotions give depth to animated 'Mononoke'
By Tony Norman
Next year, when critics debate which was the most interesting fantasy epic to hit American screens in 1999 -- "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" or Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke" -- the smart ones will put their money on a Japanese cartoon that struck all the right notes.
All the characters in "Princess Mononoke," whether servant girl, tortured hero, haughty princess or nature deity, are capable of a full range of emotions and intentions. Even quiet ambivalence can turn into unfocused rage with some justification in this animated parable about nature's collision with modernity.
"Princess Mononoke" is at its best when it plays upon the viewers' ambivalence.
This is not a movie "for the kids," although young people will enjoy it if they have a taste for Japanese mythology and folk tales. It's a challenge for adults with short attention spans, too, but it is undoubtedly the most intellectually rewarding animated film Americans have seen in quite a while.
Sorry, no flatulence jokes or postmodern navel gazing here -- just good, old-fashioned storytelling by master director Hayao Miyazaki.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://ticketlive.com/movies/rvpm1124.html
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
Japan tests waters with `Mononoke'
By Ed Blank
Americans have never seen a cartoon feature anything like Japan's "Princess Mononoke."
It's an exceptionally good-looking cartoon, with vibrant colors and detailed backgrounds.
There's nothing quite like it, which is why it has gotten so much notice worldwide.
The film, which is equally accessible to adults and children, should be categorized as mature, in the positive sense, mainly because it's a complex fable with ecological themes in which almost no one is clearly right or wrong.
You want everyone to survive, and yet the film plays so fair that it's always evident why the sides dislike each other so much.
Supporting characters include the opportunistic monk Jigo (Billy Bob Thornton) and the factory worker Toki (Jada Pinkett-Smith). Toki, reminiscent of our Rosie the Riveter, is a wife and a warrior and has a flirtatious streak.
Find her in Disney, will you.
Combining computer and cel animation, "Princess Mononoke" looks as if much of it was filmed as live action and then traced into animation.
Raleigh News & Observer
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.news-observer.com/daily/1999/11/24/day08.html
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
Movie review: 'Princess Mononoke' a visual spectacle
By Todd Lothery
Anime -- Japanese animation -- has attracted a small, ardent following in the United States but has yet to achieve widespread popularity. "Princess Mononoke," which is as aesthetically distanced from "Pokemon" as it is thematically distanced from Disney, just may prove to be anime's breakthrough.
Though often confusing, a bit overlong and sometimes heavy-handed with its live-in-harmony-with-nature message, "Princess Mononoke" is magnificently animated. In Disney's animated films, the characters' faces are far more expressive, but Disney rarely equals the epic scope of director Miyazaki.
"Princess Mononoke" is a wondrous, detailed spectacle -- the vast landscapes, the marvelous gradations of color, the use of shadow and light, the imitations of camera pans and zooms, the fog, the sun's rays, the rain, the moonlight, the water. It has more exposition than it can comfortably accommodate, which occasionally bogs it down. But visually, "Princess Mononoke" never falters.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online (payment required).
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
Any nuances aside, 'Princess Mononoke' is just so . . . juvenile
By Daniel Neman
"Princess Mononoke" is the highest-grossing movie in the history of Japan. Variety calls it a "masterpiece." Roger Ebert gave it a hugely enthusiastic thumbs-up, and so did that overweight, red-headed guy who still lives with his parents and who reviewed it with him. Fans of anime -- the highly graphic, blood-soaked Japanese animation -- will tell you that "Princess Mononoke" is the greatest movie ever made.
Maybe it's me. Maybe it loses something in translation. No, it's probably me.
It is impossible to take the animated "Princess Mononoke" seriously because it is so. . .juvenile. And. . .simplistic. Its many fans will tell you that it is complex and deeply nuanced, and indeed it is marginally less black-and-white than Disney's films.
But let's not go overboard in praising its depth. After all, a demon snarls at the humans who have mortally wounded it, "Disgusting little creatures, soon all of you will feel my hate and suffer as I have suffered."
So, maybe the problem is merely the translation, maybe it's just the English-language writer, Neil Gaiman, who writes dialogue for idiots. But no, the story that Gaiman follows, by writer-director Hayao Miyazaki, is equally childish.
To its considerable credit, "Princess Mononoke" features astonishingly detailed and beautiful backgrounds. But let's face it, the actual animation, the characters' movements, is flat and jerky. The simply drawn characters move at perhaps 10 or 12 frames per second, and even fewer in some scenes, while 24 frames per second (or at least 16) are needed to achieve an illusion of fluidity. In animation, a lack of effort or money is more apparent than in any other form of filmmaking.
Despite its seemingly juvenile simplicity, the PG-13-rated film is most definitely not for children. The battle scenes feature many decapitations, severed limbs, spurting arteries. Perhaps these are meant to appeal to the little boy who lives in all of us and who thinks decapitations are, like, really cool.
But little boys grow up and they put away their childish things, such as comic books and movies like "Princess Mononoke."
St. Petersburg Times
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.sptimes.com/News/112499/Alive/A_different_kind_of_a.shtml
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
A different kind of animation
By Steve Persall
Princess Mononoke is everything American audiences don't expect an animated film to be. That doesn't necessarily mean this Japanese anime import should be everything it is.
Princess Mononoke practically begs to be considered as a serious work of art, even at the expense of entertainment. The epic 135-minute running time is an endurance test, and hand-drawn images look positively archaic in these days of computer-generated animation. Comic relief is almost non-existent; there are no cuddly sidekicks or Broadway-style show tunes. Each frame is saturated with somberness.
Of course, this is precisely why a segment of moviegoers are panting over the film's stateside arrival. Princess Mononoke isn't the same old thing, and supporting the movie doubles as a jab at Disney's animation empire and pretenders to that throne. Liking the movie -- or any anime, for that matter -- gains a viewer membership in an exclusive club.
Live-action movies are seldom this somber, and cartoons are rarely this violent. Heads and arms are constantly lopped off by arrows or swords, and the entire mood is so pensive that our attention is dulled. The animation technique is pleasantly old-fashioned and somewhat fresh to most domestic eyes.
Don't expect American audiences to embrace Princess Mononoke, when a perfectly good Toy Story 2 is opening the same day. Anime devotees will enjoy a few days of insider status before being sent back to their home video collections again. Miyazaki's daring vision deserves to influence American animators -- as in The Iron Giant -- but it won't steal Disney's thunder.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.tbo.com/scripts/staticpage.dll?only=y&spage=AE/movies/movies_details.htm&id=21191&ck=&userid=137437274&userpw=.&uh=137437274,0,&ver=fc1.0
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
Creatures war in mythical epic from Japanese
By Bob Ross
If you're looking for kiddie cartoons, you're in the wrong theater.
But if you've been wondering about Japanese animation and its burgeoning popularity on both sides of the Pacific, you'll want an audience with "Princess Mononoke."
This animated adventure is an adult epic, not so much because of its PG-13 rating (much stabbing, slashing and mutilation), but because of its demanding length (2 1/4 hours) and convoluted plotting.
But with a little patience, you can enjoy the elaborate artistry and complex mythology of this dense ecological parable from Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most influential animators alive.
The tale is often difficult to follow, but Miyazaki's sumptuous visual style overcomes confusion.
Whether depicting red-eyed monkeys, yellow-eyed beasts or a giant, godlike antelope, he makes no cutesy concessions to the Disney crowd. And his landscapes - sprawling woods, watery whirl pools, low-tech towns - are satisfying on their own colorful merits.
The story is remarkably humanistic: Women warriors fight macho samurais on an equal footing. There are few pure heroes or villains, because even the most horrid creatures are fighting to preserve their primeval homes.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.onnashville.com/movies/wyatt/mononoke-112499.shtml
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
Japanese animated 'Princess Mononoke' pits nature vs. the progress of mankind
By Gene Wyatt
Don't expect Princess Mononoke to be like any other animated feature you've seen. It's extravagant, epic in length, and it takes on issues that most animators would not dare touch, most notably the retreat of nature before the onslaught of man's progress. There are animals aplenty, but they are noble, not cuddly.
There is a mythic relationship with nature throughout the film that probably can be appreciated only at a considerable historic distance. Surely, this animist culture was too busy supporting itself to concern itself with ecology.
Princess Mononoke is a splendid effort from a master filmmaker, much more a Twilight of the Gods lament than some sort of Greenpeace commercial.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.oklahoman.com/cgi-bin/shart?ID=408947&TP=getarticle
November 25, 1999, Thursday
Animated Japanese film is for adults, not kids
By Jerry Shottenkirk
"Princess Mononoke" has the Oriental touch -- the story, the message, the action.
The animation is truly impressive. When Miyazaki wants realism, he gets it. Forests appear as if they were photographs, while the more spiritualistic symbol can appear as ghosts.
It took three years to make the picture, and it was worth every moment. The film won the best picture award as the Japanese equivalent of the Academy Award, and it'll get as much respect as any film released this year.
The Daily Pennsylvanian
The following are representative quotes only.
November 4, 1999, Thursday
It's a Cartoon Planet - Japanese anime invades the US with Mononoke
By Laura Parker
Blood, gore, bad language - "Princess Mononoke" is not exactly what the U.S. expects from an animated film. [...] "Princess Mononoke" sharply contrasts with Disney's sugary-sweet movies. It is a powerful story about the struggle between man and nature, and combines distinctly Japanese culture with American voices to create an anime classic.
A powerful score, expressive voicing and expert animation all merge in "Princess Mononoke". It's no wonder the movie was such a hit in Japan-it's fantastic. The story creates a fantasy world that recreates childhood make-believe in everyone's mind, both Japanese and American. However, unlike many animated films as we know them, "Princess Mononoke" deals with a serious and meaningful plot.
Expressing this deep theme through animation is a particularly admirable feat. For this reason the movie's epic battle runs a bit long at 133 minutes. Viewers may begin to wonder if this sort of battle ever really ends.
Also, the voicing and Americanization of "Princess Mononoke", surely difficult to manage, is awkward at times. The credits are filled with American celebrities (in addition to the above are Jada Pinkett Smith and Billy Bob Thornton). While Crudup sounds perfect as a young, devoted warrior, Thornton's southern drawl on a Japanese monk is just wrong. But the inherently Japanese elements of the movie (clothing, tea, traditions, etc.) don't clash too harshly with the English language. Instead, they add to the richness of the plot and embellish an already strong plot with cultural significance.
Salt Lake Tribune
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.slcitylights.com/1999/nov/11231999/stories/51096.htm
November 23, 1999, Tuesday
Majesty and Power Flow From 'Princess Mononoke'
By Sean P. Means
"Princess Mononoke is a story about a land out of time, where animal spirits communicate with beast-gods who are at war with humans who encroach on their forest homes.
This gorgeous animated movie, epic in scale and delicate in tone, is also out of its time. Director/writer Hayao Miyazaki, the dean of Japanese animators, avoids the trappings of modern American cartoons -- self- referential irony, child-level storytelling or plush-toy characters -- to create a work of tender beauty and stirring emotions.
Most people have one of two impressions of Japanese animation -- either cheaply produced TV fare (like "Speed Racer or "PokZmon) or ultra-violent "Blade Runner-like science-fiction ("Akira or "Ghost in the Shell). "Princess Mononoke is an entirely different animal, more adult-oriented than Miyazaki's children's tales ("My Neighbor Totoro and "Kiki's Delivery Service), but respectful of Japan's feudal history and pre- industrial conflict between technology and nature.
Some of Miyazaki's images -- like the Forest Spirit's nocturnal incarnation, the mountain-size Night Walker -- are heartbreakingly beautiful and penetrating. Others, like the bloody battles or that wriggling boar-god, will make your eyes pop with their visual audacity. That Miyazaki can command these big and small moments in the same film is flat-out amazing.
After sitting through "Princess Mononoke (which, at 132 minutes, is about 45 minutes longer than the average animated film -- and about 15 minutes longer than this needs to be), one cannot help but be awed at the majesty and power that have flowed from Miyazaki's pen. He has created more than a movie; he has created a world.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.ctnow.com/scripts/editorial.dll?fromspage=AE/movies/movies.htm&categoryid=&only=y&bfromind=457&eeid=1032360&eetype=article&render=y&ck=&userid=141914127&userpw=.&uh=141914127,2,&ver=hb1.2.20
November 24, 1999, Wednesday
A Fairy Tale For Adults
By Malcolm Johnson
Though its stunning vistas of misty mountains and virgin forests often recall Walt Disney's Asian excursion in "Mulan," "Princess Mononoke" from Japan's Hayao Miyazaki delivers more ferocious battles and introduces more mystical creatures and chimeras than any mainstream American animated feature. Its ideas come across as both provocative and complex, as it asks how iron mines can coexist with apes and wolf gods. Though set in ancient times, with samurais and a prince from a hidden village, Miyazaki's epic tale of a strange quest also raises the specter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the horrors of postwar industrial pollution, as in Minamata. Its hero, the boy warrior Ashitaka, suffers from a disfigurement that gives him superhuman strengths but will also someday kill him. The marks on his arm, which resemble camouflage and thus have military connotations, spread ominously over the course of this odd but fascinating film, a fairy tale for adults.
Though the American and English voices rob Miyazaki's film of some of its authenticity, watching it with subtitles would not be entirely satisfying either. And though the accents are oddly assorted - from Minnie Driver's imperious but progressive iron mine queen Lady Eboshi to Billy Bob Thornton's crafty and scheming monk Jaigo - Miyazaki's handling of superb panoramas, exotic non-human characters and brilliantly mounted battles sustains "Princess Mononoke" over more than two hours.
The Austin Chronicle
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.auschron.com/film/pages/movies/6949.html
November 26, 1999, Friday
Princess Mononoke By Marc Savlov
"Akira Kurosawa meets Walt Disney on the deck of the Rainbow Warrior" is as good a peg as any to hang on this remarkable film, but let's not simplify things too much. Princess Mononoke is the most successful piece of Japanese animation ever (grossing over $150 million dollars in Japan alone, making it not only the most successful anime but also the most successful film released in Japan ever), packed with an enviromentally aware storyline, breathtaking animation, and clever dialogue penned for this American release by none other than Brit fantasist Neil Gaiman (The Sandman). As if that weren't enough, Miramax wisely decided to forgo the usual dubbing nightmare in favor of employing a group of American actors whose voices and abilities were perhaps more up to speed than the usual anime voiceover hackwork. The plot is a seemingly boundless thing, encompassing samurais, forest spirits, and traditional Japanese mythology, though, as complex as this all seems, it manages to come together to create a truly original work of art.
What's amazing about the film, though, is its vast palette; Princess Mononoke is filled to bursting with epic battles, gorgeous, jaw-dropping animation that will have the hairs on the nape of your neck rising, and a solidly pro-earth message that's rarely as heavy- handed as you might think (FernGully this isn't). All this is thanks to director Hayao Miyazaki, a legend in Japan and a veritable unknown everywhere else.
Princess Mononoke's only fault may lie in its epic-for-animation length; at two hours and 20 minutes, it's far too long for most younger children and a bit of a stretch even for some adults. Calling this film a "kid's film," however, completely misses the point. It is instead a film for the young at heart and those who still appreciate honor, valor, love, and the earth. (Fans of spectacular forest gods will not be disappointed, either.)
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.desnews.com/cgi-bin/libstory_reg?dn99&9911260179
November 26, 1999, Friday
Artwork, story make 'Mononoke' stand out
By Jeff Vice
You can think of "Princess Mononoke" as the "anti-Pokemon."
Not only is this animated Japanese feature lacking the cutesiness of that other cartoon, it also carries with it a message that's much more heartfelt and sincere. (And it was the biggest box-office sensation in that country's history.)
However, that's not to say that this film is for all ages. Ironically enough, for a movie that preaches against violence (among other things, including environmental abuses), it is extremely violent and gory.
In fact, if it were not animated, the excessive gore probably would have earned "Princess Mononoke" an R from the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings board.
But then again, it's not being directed at children. And the beautiful, vivid artwork and rich, thought-provoking story both go to show that the United States certainly doesn't have a corner on the animated film market.
British fantasy writer Neil Gaiman (the "Sandman" comic books) has done an excellent job preserving the concepts and philosophies of the original Japanese-language version and translating them into English.
His script also relies heavily on Japanese lore, and his characterizations are solid --few of the characters fall into easy stereotypes.
Credit voice cast director Jack Fletcher (who co-wrote some of the script with Gaiman) for part of that -- and the fact that Fletcher is coaching an excellent cast. Some of the choices may seem unusual (particularly Billy Bob Thornton and Jada Pinkett), but that just makes the characters more distinctive.
But obviously the real star here is the artwork, which was spearheaded by director/lead animator Hayao Miyazaki ("My Neighbor Totoro," "Kiki's Delivery Service"), Japan's foremost maker of animated film.
The film's backgrounds are rendered in beautiful watercolors, while the animal characters look like animals and not the usually adorable, anthropomorphic creations. (And the few instances of digital animation here are done to enhance effects only.)
The Edmonton Journal
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/entertainment/stories/991126/3205720.html
November 26, 1999, Friday
Mononoke's colours are bright, but script is dim Japanese animated film overly long and hard to figure
By Marc Horton
There is no denying that director Hayao Miyazaki has created a special world in his long-awaited Princess Mononoke, often hailed as the epitome of Japanese animated film.
And it is a unique creation. The characters, all with the huge round eyes typical of Japanese animation, are vividly coloured. The action sequences are superbly presented and work as set pieces.
Alas, Miyazaki's world is also a confusing and even dull one. The colours may be bright, but the script is dim indeed, although more forgiving critics might suggest that much has been lost in the translation.
A revamped screenplay in English was written, and English-speaking actors retained to provide voices for Miyazaki's crowd of characters, but it's not enough.
The story is set in the Iron Age and is apparently based on a series of myths famous in Japanese folklore. It was a time when gods contended with man on a very personal, and a very violent level, and Miyazaki gives us a fantastical array of forest gods who play major roles in the life of the people.
While it's clear that the story focuses on the conflicts that occur between nature and man as civilization encroaches on pristine forests, there are no clear-cut good guys or bad.
And it's not that ambiguity is necessarily a bad thing at all. In fact, ambiguity is good, it's inconsistency that is bad, and Miyazaki's characters are all inconsistent.
As various groups make and break alliances to fight off the gods, who are at times friendly and at other times murderously and purposelessly angry, the whole film becomes Byzantine and boring.
[...] balance and peace is restored, I think, although in all the gobbledegook, it's hard to tell.
And, to be completely honest, after 135 minutes, I had long since ceased to care.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.anime.org.uk/digital/rmononoke.html
November 29, 1999, Monday
Review: Princess Mononoke the Theatre Experience
By Amber R. Weller
The anticipation during the one and half-hour car ride to the Boston movie theatre was intense. I had waited quite a long time for this moment and wanted to get there as fast as I could. Although I had already seen the original Japanese version of Princess Mononoke almost two years ago, I was overwhelmed and excited that I was finally going to see Mononoke on the big screen. Upon arriving at the theatre, I was thrilled to see the theatre completely full, forcing me to take a side seat in the corner where I had to view the screen from a side angle. This was unfortunate, but didn't dampen my enthusiasm. Finally, after months of waiting, I sat in the darkened theatre with Mononoke before me. The mist... the mountains... Miyazaki's magic began pulling me into the world of Princess Mononoke.
[...] the English dub of Mononoke does not take away from the film and makes it available to a larger body of film viewers, who might otherwise avoid subtitled films. This is probably the only way Anime will work in the mainstream American market. All in all, this dub is not painful to listen to as it is a decent representation and is not worth the time to pick it apart. It works.
This experience of seeing Mononoke in the theatre was something I only dreamed about and I was happy to finally see it in the art house theatre. But to really capture the sheer size and power of this magnificent film, to do justice to the artistry of Miyazaki, it deserves to be in the biggest theatres with stereo surround sound and all. This would envelop the viewer and give the full experience of the story. We have to be grateful that it finally made it to the theatre, and now, because of the success of the limited release, it has been opened to more markets- 120 additional cities in the U.S. Hopefully, this will create more opportunities for theatrical viewing of other Anime titles.
The Daily Texan
The following are representative quotes only; the full review may be found via an archive search at: http://mac31.tsp.utexas.edu/Interconnect/INDEX/SEARCH.HTML
November 29, 1999, Monday
Japanese 'Mononoke' is okey dokey in English translation
By Matt Anthony Wilson
It's hard to argue that the visuals of Tarzan and The Prince of Egypt aren't amazing, but both were bogged down in tradition and formula. The more computer animation pleases the eye, the more it seems to emphasize the lack of mental stimulation. Where exactly did the sheer magic of animation go?
Most of it appears to reside within the works of Hayao Miyazaki. Most Americans were introduced to his work through the hit video releases of My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. Picking up on this scent of success, Miramax decided to take his latest work, and in the process Japanimation as a whole, to the next level: theatrical release.
Those expecting another family classic from Miyazaki should be warned that Princess Mononoke, with its decapitations and complex plot, is not for all ages. Thankfully, it hasn't been tampered with. Contractually, no frame could be cut or altered, and every word of the adaptation -- wonderfully written by Neil Gaiman (best known for his graphic novels, Sandman and Death) -- had to get approval from Miyazaki.
Without fancy computer animation, the visuals are still impressive. The landscapes are lush and the critters are overflowing with imagination. While most were derived from Japanese mythology, their actualization was entirely the genius of Miyazaki.
Of course, this is all ruined whenever the voice work goes bad. It's not just minor characters either; the film stops cold every time Billy Bob Thornton's character utters a line. Watch A Simple Plan to see what a wonderful actor he is; watch this and come away with the feeling that he was miscast and perhaps not cut out for animation voice work.
There's also a certain inevitability that hangs over the movie. Thus, Mononoke doesn't quite surprise the way Miyazaki's other work does. It does, however, continue his tradition of having female characters worthy of role model status. In a genre that offers few, Eboshi and San are refreshingly strong women. Yet the key difference between them and say, Mulan, is that their power isn't confined and defined by the traditional, superficial masculine norm. Too bad more filmmakers aren't following the example, not just of worthy female leads, but also of rich, imaginative storytelling.
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://www.upcomingmovies.com/princessmononoke.html
November 30, 1999, Tuesday
By Greg Dean Schmitz
There's always been a bit of irony to the fact that it is Disney that is bringing Anime to mainstream American audiences through their distribution of master Hayao Miyazaki's films, because Anime is so contrary to the kind of animation that Disney is known for. On the other hand, "only Nixon could go to China", and so maybe it is the clout that Disney has that allows them to market Anime in a way few other companies could. And so, the #2 box office hit in Japan (after Titanic) comes to America, complete with an all-star voice cast, and it's one of the most entertaining fantasy epics to reach these shores in years.
The voice talent varies from clear and effective (Crudup, Driver) to kitschily funny (Thornton, Pinkett) to best-overlooked (Danes is the most miscast voice talent as San; she comes across as whinier than Mononoke would be). Some scenes are notable in the pace the actors have to take to match the Japanese mouthing, but for the most part, the script seems to blend fairly well. What Neil Gaiman does with his words, though, is to match the dialogue seen in any many Anime translations, but remove anachronisms and make the mythos easy for novices to follow (those, like myself who don't know much about Japanese legends).
Princess Mononoke is a film about how man relates to his environment, but it's not preachy in its message. As a fantasy epic, the emphasis on action is never far away, and when the action does stop, it's usually replaced by either jaw-dropping visuals or dialogue that fills in the many subplots of the epic. This is a movie that's going to be a big hit for anyone who likes other similar epics, and then some... the animation allows Miyazaki to show things most filmmakers would be find their budgets preventing them from realizing.
Apollo Leisure Guide
The following are representative quotes only; the full text is available online at: http://apolloguide.com/mov_fullrev.asp?CID=1737
By Brian Webster
Princess Mononoke is a two-hour and fifteen minute-long, violent, animated Japanese movie set in the 14th Century. If your first inclination after hearing that description is something other than to rush out and see it, then read on. This is an unusual and richly rewarding film that will surprise anyone who’s open-minded enough to give it a chance. This is Japan’s highest-grossing film of all time, infused with Japanese legend and animated in the distinctive Japanese style. It’s been brought to North America with a big-name cast lending their voices to its characters.
Princess Mononoke is a remarkable blend of fantastic imagination and relevant moral questions. It focuses on environmental issues and human honour; it argues for sanity, balance and decency. The characters are remarkably well rounded.
The mostly American cast in the English-language version has done a credible job with the voices, which have been skilfully dubbed. However, it is the visual images and the themes that are most memorable. Don’t expect this to be a family film, as there is extreme violence – with heads and limbs lopped off on several occasions – although this is highly stylized. And don’t expect a traditional ‘Hollywood’ style ending – this is a Japanese film, after all.
Although it might have been more effective if it was about 15 minutes shorter, Princess Mononoke is still a fascinating experience. Screenwriter Neil Gaiman has done a credible job of translating the Japanese story into English. He has maintained a fine balance between making the film understandable to a North American audience while also preserving its exotic, mystical qualities.
You might not see a movie like Princess Mononoke more than once in your life. It would be a shame to miss it.