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Overall Rating
4.5

Awesome73.45%
Worth A Look: 13.27%
Average: 7.96%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 5.31%

4 reviews, 89 user ratings


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Princess Mononoke
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by Todd LaPlace

"A great movie from the greatest director you’ve never heard of."
5 stars

“Princess Mononoke” was released stateside in 1999. It grossed just more than $2 million theatrically. “Runaway Bride” was also released in 1999. It grossed just more than $152 million theatrically. “Double Jeopardy” was also released in 1999. It grossed just less than $117 million theatrically. Two of these three movies were among the top 15 movies in 1999. Two of these three movies also suck. Can you guess which two?

It’s weird that in the wake of the destruction of the traditional hand-drawn animation film, two distinct and different animation styles have risen to take its place. But while the 3-D style of Pixar and its analogs has been embraced by mainstream audiences, the richly drawn worlds of Japan’s greatest animation masters have been relegated to arthouse theaters and stores populated by “anime geeks.”

For those that leave these cinematic gems to the select niche that relishes them, they are missing some of the greatest films in recent memory. One such example is “Princess Mononoke,” the most (uncharacteristically) violent film from master anime director Hayao Miyazaki. Perhaps it is within the limited marketplace for these movies that they also achieve their greatness. Not hampered by pandering to the select “important” demographics, “Princess Mononoke” is free to explore the totality of its lush landscape.

Set in a non-descript ancient Japanese setting, a battle is being waged between the technological advancement of humans and the pure spirit of the land that is being mined for its resources. One casualty of this war is Nago, a peaceful boar god that has been transformed into a vengeful demon, one that manages to curse the last prince of a small village before he is killed. The prince, Ashitaka (voiced in the American version by Billy Crudup), is forced to forever leave his birthplace to search out the Forest Spirit to heal his wounds and to discover the source of the little ball of iron that demonized a god.

But to describe the plot in such a straight-forward simplistic manner does a disservice to the richly-drawn world of Miyazaki. In its most basic form, the film resembles the animated fantasy worlds relegated to kid flicks, but the film subsequently rejects such categorization. “Princess Mononoke” isn’t the heavy-handed message type of movie that nearly all of Disney’s other films are (even the good ones like “Beauty and the Beast”); it’s ultimately leaves the message open to interpretation. The voyage doesn’t define the characters by the color of their hats, but shows differing priorities in different characters. Ashitaka befriends both sides in the battle between harmonious nature and human progress. On the first side is San (Claire Danes), the title “royal” that lives in the forest with her adoptive family, a pack of white wolves that includes wolf god Moro (Gillian Anderson), who is weary of her daughter befriending a human, even a noble one like Ashitaka. On the other is Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver), the big boss lady of Irontown, a thriving village filled with homosocial relationships with ex-prostitutes, lepers and chauvinistic men. Irontown is so focused on making life better for its residents, it’s willing to destroy the forest and endanger the forest spirit to get there. Joining Eboshi is Jigo (Billy Bob Thornton), a mercenary for the emperor, charged with bringing his employer the head of the Forest Spirit, thought to give immortality.

But even such simple divisions are too simplistic. For all her lack of environmental concerns, Eboshi is beloved by her townsfolk merely because she accepts them. The women and lepers are not seen as weak or useless — they’re charged with engineering new weapons and overseeing the advancement of the iron factory. San is likewise simultaneously noble and flawed. She may want to save the forest and its animals’ spirits, but she does so with complete disregard for other humans. When she first meets Ashitaka, she tries to slit his throat, seeing him as just another ravaging human. Even Moro, supposedly a source of ancient reason, threatens to bite his head off if he comes near her adopted daughter. Both sides have a nearsighted justification for their actions, but neither is free from criticism. It’s a strength of Miyazaki that he possesses the patience to leave his stories be. Never one to suggest a path, he lets Ashitaka’s story unfold on its own, which ironically lends the story some realistic credence. Many contemporary American filmmakers suffer from the “Full House” syndrome — complicated stories are neatly resolved in the allotted time frame and never mentioned again. Miyazaki’s stories technically conclude, but rarely with life lesson learned. The final fate of every character is still open to much interpretation and extrapolation. Maybe Ashitaka and San will live happily ever after in the forest, but maybe they’ll forever part, never to see each other again. Maybe Eboshi will become a radical environmentalist and detonate her own town. Maybe she’ll become a skimpy swimsuit model. That’s the beauty of Miyazaki; even the improbable seems possible when he’s at the helm.

I just don’t understand American audiences. Fifteen million of us will shell out $10 for a sappy Julia Roberts movie and nearly 12 million of us will do the same for an Ashley Judd movie that doesn’t even make sense, but only 200,000 will go see a living master’s movie when it’s in the theater? Shame on you, America. You’ve let me down.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1574&reviewer=401
originally posted: 10/17/05 03:56:27
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User Comments

3/04/14 PAUL SHORTT THOUGHTFUL AND BEAUTIFULLY ANIMATED 4 stars
7/04/08 Steve My favorite movie, and with out a doubt one of the best ever made, but not for young kids. 5 stars
10/28/07 Stephen Fantastic! I usually hate anime, but this was extremely good. 5 stars
9/12/06 Eden Pretty amazing - one of the best animated films ever made 5 stars
5/31/06 William Goss Gorgeous? No doubt. Good? Entertaining, at least. Great? Not so sure. 4 stars
4/22/06 Andrew Jones Supereb. I love the visuals ,and of course, the stroy is brilliant. 5 stars
4/11/06 Alex yupi 5 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Rather dark for Miyazaki, but still a great film. 4 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Miyazaki creates a minor miracle. 5 stars
11/09/05 Katie this movie rules it rocks my socks man 5 stars
10/22/05 Jay Norris A fun and exciting trip. 4 stars
9/13/05 drew different 4 stars
5/25/05 Jake Great! Just Great, and this is coming from a guy who doesn't care about Japanese Anime! 5 stars
3/28/05 darkofnight Perfect pacing, jaw-dropping visuals, superb story - truly the greatest fantasy ever made. 5 stars
3/25/05 Taiko Yamanaka ITS THE BEST ANIME MOVIE EVER! ITS FREAKIN ALSUM!Every detail of the movie is breath taking 5 stars
1/31/05 clinger26 Oh god, this piece of crap puts on the hippie " harm the forest I'll kill you," this movie 1 stars
1/17/05 Dark Rain the best movie fuck the people who dont like it 5 stars
11/07/04 DM If you have seen this movie and don't like it, you're an idiot 5 stars
8/15/04 nick good 4 stars
4/21/04 Kagome I thought it was really kewl!!!! I had a lot of fun whaching it meny times!!! 5 stars
3/31/04 true review - correct review everytime Horrible bore with no plot, (typical Miyazaki) but brilliant compared to Spirited Away 1 stars
3/27/04 spongebobhater1017 This movie is highly overrated, sucks and Akira is far superior to this piece of shit!! 1 stars
3/15/04 Tom M. My favorite Miyazaki film. The beginning it awesome and it tails off a bit near the end. 5 stars
3/09/04 Jessica Bell I love this movie so much, it hurts when people say bad things about this movie! I love it! 5 stars
1/07/04 Raf Not as good as Spirited Away but Still in my top 10 list 4 stars
12/31/03 Ender Ohhhh man if I could rate this movie 20,000,000 stars I would. It is my all time favorite 5 stars
4/30/03 Procrastinator Truly inspiring bravery, some people who think this anime sux need a life 5 stars
4/15/03 reptilesni Overrated crap. 1 stars
3/12/03 Butterball Cenobite has great heart and lots of imagination; Dane's voice a bit "spoiled brat" sounding, though 5 stars
3/08/03 whitney i llllllllllllllloooooooooooooovvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeee it. 5 stars
2/13/03 Loyd YO FUCK ALL THOSE BASTARDS WHO SAYS THIS MOVIE SUX ! THIS IS A GREAT PIECE OF ART ! 5 stars
12/23/02 E-Rock Anime at its best. Bested only by Akira and Miyzaki's other epic, Spirited Away... 5 stars
12/21/02 krystal this is the best movie in the world. not much more than perfect. 5 stars
11/10/02 STEVE WOW!FIRST TIME I WATCHED A MOVIE 2 TIMES IN A ROW. 5 stars
11/08/02 joe shmoe blah. it sucks donkey balls 1 stars
10/29/02 Getchell Williams F'n Awsome! It was the movie that got me loving anime! 5 stars
9/23/02 The Bomb 69 shame people won't watch this because it is animated. Their loss. 5 stars
6/28/02 Zefram Mann Beautiful movie with more heart than a lot of movies I've ever seen.. 5 stars
4/06/02 Junshi it wasn't spectacular, but it left some memories and moments 4 stars
3/28/02 NeuroManson Di$ney got greedy when they saw the $100 mill Jap box $$$, Di$ney got burned, haw haw haw! 5 stars
1/19/02 Rego Allegro No more an anime - it should get the same world wide recognition as the Seventh Samurai 5 stars
9/21/01 Kevin Garcia This is one of the greatest films I have ever seen. 5 stars
8/08/01 KC Au Very well drawn, but I won't watch it again! You can't force me, Ebert!! 3 stars
7/28/01 Steve I'm no anime fan/otaku, but GREAT movie. Shit translation though, get DVD and turn on subs. 5 stars
5/02/01 Phillip Amazing one of the best anime movies For all you otakus you should see vally of the wind! 5 stars
4/25/01 J It was a very fine anime movie and was one of 1999's best. 5 stars
3/24/01 Alex So pretty.... 5 stars
3/16/01 Spetters Beautiful visuals, but what the fuck was it all about? 3 stars
3/16/01 Janelle Niles It's the best move I ever seen! 5 stars
2/28/01 The Bomb 69 unbelievable stuff, eye candy!!! 5 stars
2/12/01 LOOBER Actually one of the best movies of the year 5 stars
2/10/01 Al Simply beautiful, best to see with eyes unclouded 5 stars
2/02/01 Aiken Drum I love what this Movie teaches to people. Superb 5 stars
1/27/01 Rahan Far too underrated. Disney *wishes* they could do something like this. 5 stars
1/20/01 Trausti It's beutiful and with photo realistic backgrounds and very imaginative,compare to disney 5 stars
1/17/01 Josh Tybur Original and beautiful, but just a little to mundane of a plot.... 4 stars
11/21/00 The Bill Head Extraordinarily compelling animated masterpiece-One of the top ten best animated films ever 5 stars
11/08/00 Greyjack I'd give it four and a half stars; I can't, but it's good enough to round up. Stellar film. 5 stars
9/18/00 Michael Grimm better than Phantom Menace, awesome!!! 5 stars
9/03/00 The Bomb 69 blew me away!!! animation and story were top notch!! 5 stars
9/02/00 spunkmirej Everything about this movie rocked! The plot was great. A great movie to see. 5 stars
6/28/00 Ari Nadir Omnys I loved it! The animation was breathtaking, and the plot was clever and well-thought-out. 5 stars
6/24/00 Aaron White Makes keychains out of most Disney films. Miyazaki's richest film, and that's rich fare. 5 stars
4/28/00 Xavier Michaut The film blowed me. I've seen it for times and I love it more each time. 5 stars
3/26/00 Laura There's just no getting around how awesome it is 5 stars
3/17/00 Lame-Oh much better than Pokemon: The First Movie, you just can't miss it! 5 stars
1/17/00 TomServo50 Breathtaking in its beauty and a tremendously good story. 5 stars
1/04/00 Gotham DK Animation not quite up to classic Disney, but Disney would never do something this original 5 stars
1/04/00 Morgan Watson Great movie... 5 stars
12/09/99 Slurpee_E The best anime I've ever seen. 5 stars
12/01/99 Alexander Smith Excellent. By all means, the best anime I have ever seen! 5 stars
11/26/99 Jimmy Betts One of my favorite Animes, Subtitled, however, is a better watch. 5 stars
11/21/99 Chloris Green I've seen it twice...and I want to see it agin. All of it met my highest standards. 5 stars
11/16/99 Charlie Tangora It's just so incredibly beautiful... 5 stars
11/16/99 Tom Wilkes Breathtaking animation, and characters one can care about. 5 stars
11/16/99 Herself the Elf Simply the most breathtakingly beautiful animated movie I've ever seen. 5 stars
11/16/99 Cynthia L. It has a sublety that obviously you missed. To see it on the big screen, a gift. 5 stars
11/11/99 nellardo Gorgeous, otherworldly, yet realistic 5 stars
11/08/99 focus Brilliant and magnificient! 5 stars
11/07/99 goryturd@hotmail this is a beautifully illustrated anime.I have seen other anime(lots of it too)and its..-> 5 stars
11/07/99 Justin Sevakis A masterpiece, pure and simple. 5 stars
11/03/99 Mr. Show This was the most boring piece of heavy handed crap I've seen since Fern Gully, And the a 1 stars
11/02/99 Paradox This is the second-best anime I've ever seen. The top one was by the same director... 5 stars
10/31/99 Critic Japanese Anime, good, but not the best, hollywood tint 3 stars
10/31/99 Watership Great Film! And guys.. Disney and Miyasaki are partners, so Disney doesn't exactly lose :P 5 stars
10/31/99 Lame-Oh This is the way anime movies should be made. You lose, Disney! 5 stars
10/28/99 relayer Stunning visuals are teamed with a good story. A must see! 5 stars
10/26/99 Roman The animation is awesome (story ain't bad either) 5 stars
10/26/99 elfpunkt Miyazaki will kick the crap out of any Disney Movie, any day. This just proves it. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Oct-1999 (PG-13)
  DVD: 20-Jul-2000

UK
  N/A

Australia
  08-Feb-2001


Directed by
  Hayao Miyazaki

Written by
  Neil Gaiman
  Hayao Miyazaki

Cast
  Gillian Anderson
  Billy Crudup



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