Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



Oscar Predictions

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Princess Mononoke

Film #284


On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami’s curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

Year 1, Day 288

BEFORE: Time for one of the most interesting Miyazaki films, Princess Mononoke. Interesting due to the fact that it’s rated PG-13 (something you rarely see with animated films) and a fairly long runtime (at 134 minutes). My overall feeling towards this chain remains that of cautious optimism - I’ve seen some really great things, and some not so great things, so far, but am still waiting for a blow away film.

AFTER: Conflicted would be a good way to describe my thought process right now. Princess Mononoke was good for many different reasons and I wouldn’t say it was a boring film. However, I did find myself dozing off and spacing out at certain points which made me miss out on what I have to assume were some pretty important plot points. This is to say, while ill try my best to give an good review, a large part of this will be criticizing my viewing of the film, the negative bias this creates, and how to compensate (or not) for this situation.

Let’s start with what I liked about the film even with some information missing. Yet again, visuals and story made for a great combination that drew me in. I’ve gone into somewhat great detail in the past couple of films and those descriptions hold up for Princess Mononoke. Special notes for this film have to do with the darker images seen. It received a PG-13 rating not because of the story, but because of the gruesome and quite gory images. Whole arms are ripped and shot off, heads are decapitated, and pools of blood spew from bodies when injured. I found these visuals matched the story and tone of the film and are generally well-done, I do question some of the depictions of violence (a bow and arrow can rip limbs off people?).

Here’s where things get really interesting and my inner-conflict appears. As the review stands now, Princess Mononoke would get three stars, because not adjusting for an imperfect viewing experience, I felt the film was average or maybe slightly above average. It was entertaining but like Kiki’s Delivery Service, there wasn’t really anything I think I’ll vividly remember. But knowing I wasn’t devoting my full attention to the film and having this feeling/intuition that I know the film is better than this makes me want to explore this more, not just for me, but for you my dear reader so you can have a more objective basis off which to make your decision as to whether to see it yourself.

And when I say explore I mean that I’ll explain why exactly I feel the film should be better than I think it is. The viewing itself wasn’t bad (unlike The Last of the Mohicans where I couldn’t hear anything), it was just an energy/time of day issue. When I started watching the film around 1:30 I didn’t feel tired, but as time elapsed I felt my eyes beginning to close. But I wasn’t bored with the film (I still find it interesting and gripping) I was just falling asleep. The repercussions of this is that small details aren’t picked up and I miss out on important character developments and traits that are, I can only assume, vital to the film and one’s liking of it. The reason I’m spending so much time writing this is because, if you go back to me second paragraph, you’ll see I’m quite positive about it. There weren’t any major negative that stuck out and made the film bad, it’s just there wasn’t many overly positive things that stuck with me. And that’s my point here: I feel as if I paid closer attention (read: wasn’t falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon) there would have been a few, possibly many, positives to make this film a great one.

Alas, that’s not the case and so I’m left with my initial reactions to the film: average - nothing bad but nothing that stands out or really piques my interest. I will leave you with a link and a quote from the late Roger Ebert’s review. He really loved the film (called it one of the best films of the year) and describes it eloquently as usual. But the quote I’ll leave you with is one more about animation in general and what the art form does. It’s generated a lot of thought for me and will probably shape my views on the genre in films to come.

Realistic films show the physical world; animation shows its essence. Animated films are not copies of “real movies,” are not shadows of reality, but create a new existence in their own right… But great animation can make the mind sing.

RATING: 3 out of 5