This file was generated 2003-08-26 05:15 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2001-03-04.
Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> February 2001 >> Princess Mononoke
There are occasionally movies that have everything. They impress with aesthetic beauty, interesting and meaningful stories, original and exciting music, thoughtful characters, and fantastic action. Writer-director Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke is such a film. This Japanese masterpiece is a blend of everything wondrous in cinema. It has the power to teach lessons of environmental harmony, conflict resolution, ethics, and courage, all within an engrossing plot presented in magnificent style. It has the additional benefit of being animated, so its supernatural aspects do not interfere with the verisimilitude, a problem suffered by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Most of the characters in Princess Mononoke are of above- average intelligence. The character who is most easily classified as the antagonist, the British accent in the English dub is a big tip-off, is still presented as being a kind soul. There is an element of exploitation to her charity, but those who are exploited by her see her as a savior of sorts. I find the movie more interesting simply because I can't decide if this side of her tempers or magnifies her evil. The protagonist wants to see everyone live in peace, even though that means overcoming an absurd number of grudges.
Visually speaking, Mononoke offers more than its fair share of interesting sights, and rarely resorting to tried-and-true gimmicks associated with anime. Making an exception for the supernatural, the style is one of great realism, as befits a story with such true-to-life issues. The attention to detail is spectacular, and that's not trivial in a genre dominated by movies two-thirds its length. I've read that some amount of computer help was used, but I can only think of one likely candidate. The blend is superb, unlike in Tarzan.
Princess Mononoke's score is a terrific complement to the rest of the movie. Jô Hisaishi has provided the perfect background throughout. Although I can't say why, the music sounds appropriate to the period. It also offers memorable melodies, interesting instrumentations, and that sense of epic proportions.
Although the importers should be commended for making Princess Mononoke palatable to an American audience by dubbing it, I must say that I preferred the Japanese audio with English subtitles by a wide margin. As much as I may like the all-star American cast when they're in front of a camera, they have an annoying tendency to overact in front of the microphone. I also found the text of the English subtitles to be graceful in a way that the spoken translations were not, and they were often short enough that I didn't miss anything visual.
The DVD for Princess Mononoke offers interesting options for watching the movie, but almost nothing else. In addition to the original Japanese, there are audio tracks for English and French. The switching, which also changes the opening and closing credits, can only be done in the menus. Regardless of spoken languages, there are captions of the English dub and a more literal translation of the Japanese in subtitles. In the extras, there is a five minute featurette and a theatrical trailer. Both are geared towards an American audience, and the featurette fails to provide any insight into the movie or its production, only its dubbing. The menu design is fairly practical, although I would change the initial selection of the chapter selection screens.