Viewed – 24 February 2010 DVD
I’ve always been an admirer of Japanese animation, first getting an appetite for it with the classic sci-fi masterpiece Akira, then further more growing my appreciation with Ghost In The Shell and Perfect Blue. Yet the movies of famed artist Hayao Miyazaki offer a different spin on Jap anime, namely fantastical dream-like worlds, wierd characters and compelling storylines. With a maturity to them not often found in the medium.
This tells the tale of a young Prince who after saving his village from a demonic boar, is cursed during the battle and forced to leave. He soon stumbles upon the plight of mining colony who seem hell-bent on destroying the local forest, regardless of the spirits and animals present, due to a power-hungry governess. At the same time the Prince spots a young girl who is living amongst the wolves, and the villagers refer to her as Princess Mononoke, the wolf-girl. Before long the Prince is torn between his loyalty to a village that take him in and the survival of a sacred forest, as war breaks out.
This grand spectacle is full of quirky characters, some decent voice acting from the American cast shoe-horned in to replace the original Japanese (Claire Danes especially giving Princess Mononoke plenty of attitude), but its Miyazaki’s magical world and that charming Japanese art style that wins through, with a good story where you are soon routing for Princess Mononoke and the Prince and booing the villains. At two and a quarter hours, it’s certainly epic, both in imagination and emotion, and it’s not hard to see why this is so regarded among movie fans; yet it also remains somewhat lacking in mainstream appeal, with plenty of time given to bland dialogue and mundane moments like eating and working, that may alienate some viewers. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the other Miyazaki movie I’ve seen, Spirited Away, and some of the animation seems in need of restoration, but regardless – this was still time well spent.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 17 March 2009 Cinema
This is a difficult review to write … normally with comic book superhero fair I know where I am and can settle into the reviewing process easily… but this is not like any other comic book movie, for a start it plays out very adult and unconventional, where this time around the caped crusaders are mostly disgraced, fallen heroes semi-retired living in a city that no longer (if ever) respects them.
Somebody is also trying to track them down and kill them, as the threat of cold war nuclear devastation looms. Set in 1985 we follow a bizarre gumshoe detective called Rorschack, sporting a cloth mask that changes appearance depending on his mood, investigating the murder of a fellow Watchman, and turns to his former colleagues (Silk Spectre, Night Owl, Ozymadias) to try and figure out who or what is behind it. This depressing, bitter character narrates the film in an overly preachy manner, as he recants entries from his journal. His dialogue seems to be a direct read of what was most likely on the page of the graphic novel on which the film is based, and there it would read like well written, quality prose, but here feels like you’re being beaten over the head when all you want to do is see some costumed heroes kick ass.
Add the rather mental character of Dr Manhattan, a big blue guy who for the most part is stark naked with his cock hanging out. He’s so powerful and strange that he does lift the film out of near tedium but has a manner so bland and down beat that every time he’s on screen you feel the plight of our heroes is hopeless. This film has a lot to say about nuclear armageddon, about societies faith in a savour of some kind, heroism, politics and war, and with detailed flash backs on each characters past, you do find yourself getting enthralled … but this big issue here is that at the end of the day, its just not that entertaining. Things do kick off, and its exciting in parts, both stylish and well choreographed, with some excellent special effects (even throwing in sex and violence to hammer home that all important ‘adult’ flavour). OK, some of the more graphic imagery is mostly unnecessary, but hey I’m a guy and the sight of Silk Spectre costumed or naked is going to work for me any day of the week.
So there we have it, the film adaptation of a graphic novel they said was unfilmable, and I can see where they were coming from. Yes you can film it, replicate the images and the style of the book, but by completely adapting the text and the complexity of the narrative (for the most part) to the screen, they have lost that all important ‘fun’ factor that a big budget, effects filled costume caper needs to be successful. I’m sure this will do well, but you may come away as I did thinking … ‘did I enjoy it?’.
Verdict: 3 /5
Check this out! Hyped to be the final word, the full stop and the Citizen Kane of super hero movies. From this trailer, it may just live up to such expectations.