Princess Mononoke

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

An exiled prince walks in on a war between miners and the forest they’re destroying and must choose sides.

This is a very interesting movie. It’s by Hayao Miyazaki, who is a god in the pantheon of animated movies. I’ve seen several; I was not impressed by My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service; I loved Spirited Away, but liked Howl’s Moving Castle less, probably because I loved the book so much and the movie was very different.

Be that as it may, Miyazaki is a name to pay attention to. And when Maid-of-Awesome found out that I had never seen this movie, well, we grabbed some cats and blankets (it was cold that night) and curled up on the couch and had a wonderful time.

And this movie is well worth seeing. Sure, the animation is gorgeous, not surprising. And the voice talent is impressive- Billy Bob Thornton, Clare Danes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Minnie Driver and Billy Crudup, among others. These alone are good reasons to watch it.

But the story is really good too, given that it’s a slightly heavy-handed environmentalist fable- the miners are destroying the forest to find more iron, and the animals are dying and the Spirit of the Forest (beautifully animated) is being targeted by (basically) a squad of assassins.

But…the townspeople, who are doing this awful thing, are mostly sympathetic. Sure, you can’t help but hate the bitch who runs the place, but the workers are ex-brothel girls, who are working at a good job and earning money for the first time in their lives and are endearingly earthy and funny. They are also brave, willing to defend their city from the army of bad guys who want to take it over (in the midst of the miners’ ongoing conflict with the forest).

Princess Mononoke is a wild girl who has been raised by wolf spirits; she’s brave and reckless but also smart, and a great love-interest for the cursed and exiled prince who is the main character.

This movie is not only a good action movie and a good animated movie, it has some really interesting points to make about nature and living with (and without) it, and fighting (or not fighting) to mutual desctruction for a hopeless cause, and how the lack of hope can change you (like the apes). Much more thoughtful and intersting than I would have expected.

Sure, many people (and animals) are killed, but we are not, ultimately, disappointed. And as I say about all good quest stories, the prize is only worth what you pay for it…if it’s easy to get, it’s not much of a prize.

Rent this and watch it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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