Viewed – 25 May 2014 Blu-ray
I have wanted to give this much acclaimed Studio Ghibli film a second viewing for a while, and now that it has finally arrived on Blu-ray a film I originally was a bit mixed about, I can give a final verdict on. This tells the tale of a young warrior, Ashitaka 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 Ashitaka spots a young girl who is living amongst the wolves, and the villagers refer to her as Princess Mononoke, the wolf-girl. Before long Ashitaka 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 & Ashitaka 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 drags in places, which could make some viewers restless, with plenty of time given to bland dialogue and mundane moments like eating and working. On this second viewing however, I was able to better appreciate the (at times) slow pace and the sheer artistic beauty of it all, as well as comedic side characters (the feisty female workers) and the various action sequences (Mononoke’s attack on iron town). Although I do think it would benefit from about ten or twenty minutes being cut just to make it zip along more. Yet for it’s character design, setting and echo-friendly message, this remains a land-mark. I enjoyed it, even if for me it still pales next to Ghibli titles like Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle.
This Blu-ray release from Studio Canal is impressive. First and foremost the image is vibrant, sharp and very clear, with none of the smudgy, rough appearance that graced the DVD – clearly having been polished up quite a bit. Add to this a stellar 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack with great use of the surrounds and pounding bass (when those drums beat … wow) and the orchestral theme is delivered wonderfully. Dialogue is also very clear and easy to hear at all times (we also get the original Japanese soundtrack which I didn’t sample). Extras are somewhat limited as they often are on these Studio Ghibli UK releases, but we do get a trailer, storyboards and a featurette.
(the movie) 3.5 /5
(the Blu-ray) 4 /5