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Princess Mononoke (1997)

Cast: Yoji Matsuda, Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, more...
Director: Hayao Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Miramax
Genre: Anime, Foreign, Anime Feature Films, Animation, Cel, Studios, Ghibli
Running Time: 134 min.
Languages: English, French, Japanese
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

This $20 million animated adventure/fantasy quickly became the highest grossing Japanese film in Japanese film history (making $150 million in Japan during its first seven months). Set in the 14th century, the ecology-themed epic was directed by Hayao Miyazaki whose previous films were acquired by Disney for U.S. distribution plus other territories. Princess Mononoke depicts a mystical battle between Animal Gods of the forest and humans during Japan's Muromachi Period. Young Ashitaka receives a fatal infection after a demonic wild boar attacks his northern village. Seeking a cure, he sets out to locate the deer-like god Shishigami. Along the way, he sees the rape of the Earth by a mining village. The constant plundering by the village has brought the wrath of the Wolf God, Moro, who attacks the village along with San, a human who was raised by the wolf god. She communicates with the nature spirits -- which is why she is called Princess Mononoke ("spirits of things"). Ashitaka wants these opposing forces to co-exist, and he hopes to bring peace between San and the ironworks owner, Lady Eboshi. However, he is thwarted as higher powers, intent on killing the Shishigama, intrude, and a battle erupts over the future of all nature. ~ Bhob Stewart, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Panda! Go Panda!
If you want to introduce very young kids to Miyazaki, this cutefest's a good bet

The Castle of Cagliostro
Miyazaki's feature debut is very different, quite entertaining

Watership Down
British animated feature with similar environmental values and mystical feel

GreenCine Member Reviews

Great but flawed by jpurdom March 7, 2011 - 7:11 AM PST
0 out of 1 members found this review helpful
This is a fantastic anime. The artistry is amazing, the story is superb, and the music is haunting. They spent all this money bring in all the A-list actors... who are clearly NOT voice actors. I would have love to give this movie 10 stars but these people butchered the voices. Most of the time they are flat and bland, and really never fit the scene. It kind sounds like they were given a sheet of phrases to speak with no context. BB Thorton was probably the worst, but even the main guy was pretty lifeless. I did say that the story was superb, but there were some holes and weird things. The mistress of Irontown is so inconsistent... she doesn't make me believe that she could be a person. Likewise, the demons... there is no explanation given... they are just there. There is something about rage but its vague. There are just too many plot threads that aren't even picked up let alone woven into the story.

That said, everyone should see this movie.

Breathtaking. Watch with "eyes unclouded." by JTurner1 April 17, 2004 - 9:46 AM PDT
5 out of 6 members found this review helpful
In its theatrical Japanese release of 1997, Princess Mononoke was the hugest box office grossing movie of all time in the land of the Rising Sun until it was overtaken by James Cameron's Titanic, and, four years later, director Hayao Miyazaki's own Spirited Away. No wonder. This movie, like an earlier project of Miyazaki's, Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind, explores man's relationship with nature, hatred causing destruction, and, more importantly, real characters (in other words, no real "hero" or "villain") trying to get by in a world continually torn by war.

This is not a movie for young children, as there are disturbing shots of decapitations, amputations, and occasional blood spurts. Sometimes these elements of violence turn squeamish viewers away from Anime (especially when they're done gratuitously), but Hayao Miyazaki presents it not to sicken people but to show it for the horror that it is (plus, in this film, the violence is not overdone). Take, for example, the scene where the protagonist, Prince Ashitaka of the Emishi Tribe, possessed by a curse he received from killing a Demon God (in trying to protect his village), tries to stop samurai attacking innocent people, and in doing so shoots the arms off of one man, and, later, takes off a man's head with two arrows. The sight is horrifying to see, but the deed also increases Ashitaka's demon mark on his arm, which is slowly preparing to take his life. This is a truly horrible depiction about the dangers of violence.

Also worth noting is Princess Mononoke herself, a human girl named San raised by the Animal Gods, and her struggle against Lady Eboshi of Iron Town, who is destroying the forest merely for her people's own good (the folks are outcasts, including lepers and prostitutes). San distrusts and despises all humans, and is especially determined to destroy them all (particularly Eboshi)... or die trying. When she's rescued by Ashitaka, however, a conflict within her begins to surface: are *all* humans evil, or is there at least one who is trustworthy? If there is any character who could be considered a villain, it would be the monk, Jigo, who wants the head of the Spirit of the Forest to bring to the Emperor. Such a deed would destroy the entire forest (as we find out in the film's chilling climactic scenes) but even Jigo has his own motives, too. He is not so much evil as much as he is just "trying to get by". This pretty much sums up the conflicts between all our characters here.

Princess Mononoke may not have enjoyed similar box office success here in America, but at least it was translated excellently. As with Disney's other English language tracks for Miyazaki's films, this one is very, very well done. Acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman worked on the script, rewording it only to a) fit the mouth flaps, and b) make it understandable to a non-Japanese audience who would probably not comprehend a lot of the cultural nuances found in this film. Added to which, the voice cast includes a wonderful list of stars; Billy Crudup is perfect as Ashitaka, eliciting just the right amount of warmth, kindness, compassion, wisdom, and courage, while Claire Danes delivers passionately angry, conflicted turmoil to San. (Folks said she was miscast, but I beg to differ; her character is *required* to be outraged and aggressive, and Danes does have a strong voice to carry such emotions.) The rest of the cast includes Billy Bob Thornton as Jigo (a grossly underrated performance; his Southern drawl adds to the character), Minnie Driver (elegant choice!) as Lady Eboshi, Gillian Anderson as the Wolf-Goddess Moro, and Jada Pinkett-Smith as the friendly (if no-nonsense style) worker Toki. The translation flows smoothly to those who are not familiar with Japanese folk tales, and the story succeeds in making its point, too.

This movie may not be for everybody, as it is the kind of film that may disturb young children, but older audiences will find themselves absorbed in the artwork, which showcases gorgeous, unmatched imagination, from the finely detailed forests to the cute little Tree Spirits who appear and disappear at will to the Forest Spirit itself -- a huge deer who makes plants grow with each step he takes. And at night he becomes a ghostly specter known as the Nightwalker, traveling higher than the trees. Such images warrant the purchase of this film. Better yet, its message is not too preachy, and rarely do animated movies (save those from Japan) showcase characters as being, well, human beings.

Miramax's DVD release lacks in the extras department, featuring only a theatrical trailer (where Miyazaki and Mononoke are both mispronounced) and an interesting but short featurette involving principal members of the voice cast and the dub director, Jack Fletcher (screenwriter Neil Gaiman appears briefly). However, this is more than made up for by an absolutely breathtaking visual transfer, and, for the purists, three choices of language tracks, including the original Japanese. There are also "literal" subtitles, too.

As a Miyazaki movie and a visual tour-de-force, Princess Mononoke is a must-see.

Beautiful by edgeglx July 16, 2003 - 10:29 AM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Miyazaki has scored again with this epic animation feature. The characters are beautifully rendered and fully fleshed out by Miyazki. As the film progress, you can't help but feel for the characters, be they the forest, the evil boar or the hero/heroine. Nobody is truly good or evil in this animation, and in this sense, I would say it is suitable for older children, who are more able to grasp the grey nature of the real world, where one is not necessarily always right or wrong. Brilliant and beautiful.

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