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    DVD Video - Reviews [Princess Mononoke]


    Princess Mononoke

    Release Date:

    Studio: Buena Vista
    Year: 1997
    Run Time: 150 minutes
    Rating: PG-13
    Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, John DeMita
    Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
      Movie Summary: [Animation]

        A warrior travels to the far east to seek help from the Great Forest Spirit for a cure to a deadly curse he is under. Upon arriving, he gets caught up in a battle, fighting for the cause of the animal spirits defending their home from an exploitive iron mining town. The prince befriends the forest creatures' leader, Princess Mononoke, a human raised by wolves. A Japanese animated epic from the director of "Kiki's Delivery Service."

    DVD Details
    • Widescreen 1.85:1 (anamorphic), DD 5.1, Color, English Dub, Region 1
    • Making-of Featurette / Trailer
    See Full Disc Details...

    Reviewer: Augie De Blieck, Jr.


            I f you like mysticism and spiritualism and polytheism, youíll like Princess Mononoke. If you can do without being pounded over the head with talking wolves and monkeys and whatnot that are trying to sound mythical, this movie wonít do much for you. If youíre a fan of DVD, youíll be impressed by the transfer quality and amused at the amazing set of contradictions in the bonus feature.

    Letís just start with the movie itself. It clocks in at over 2 hours and is rated PG-13, so you know itís not a Disney movie right off the bat. But it is. Itís from Miramax, Disney owns them now and the world is just too small a place. (Disney wanted to soften it up, but werenít allowed to, contractually.)

    Confused yet? Wait Ďtil I get to the story. A boy saves his village and is subsequently ruled an outcast from the very same people in an attempt to prevent his infection of hatred he sustained while saving it from spreading to the rest of the village. He goes in search of the Nature God who can heal those wounds, which arenít wounds, really, but a rash of bad feelings. And those bad feelings think for themselves and often cause our hero boy to struggle with his own right arm. Oh, and the clean water from the unspoiled forest godís lair has the powers to cure all wounds. Then our hero comes across ďIron Town,Ē the villainous and foul polluters of the earth who want to wipe out the forests to mine iron for the purposes of making - what else? - rifles! Yes, every possible political cause is represented in this movie! (Except amputees - and there are a bunch of them in this movie as well! The lepers are treated pretty well, thoughÖ)

    In the end, thereís lots of fighting, lots of dead humans and animals and trees, and nothing changes. The filmmakers try to pawn that off as being the beauty of the movie - that it deals in shades of gray. They miss the point that if nothing changes from the beginning of the movie to the end, then thereís no point to the story.

    Gillian Anderson gets top billing for her voice work, despite appearing in all of about 5 minutes of the movie. But in an era in which Dame Judith Dench can get a Supporting Actress Oscar for Shakespeare In Love after only being in 8 minutes of that movie, I suppose it shouldnít surprise me. Claire Danes plays the title role. Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, and Jada Pinkett Smith are the other big names. Billy Crudup voices Ashitaka. the real star of the film.

    The animation is beautiful. This was meant to be a feature film. This isnít the typical television anime stuff you might see with halting animation, and heads holding still while the lips move. This is full-detail, multi-level animation. No expense is spared on backgrounds or their animation. The fighting is action-packed and very well detailed. There are also some neat tricks played with special effects animation and camera angles.

    It shows up very well on the DVD as well. They put every megabyte on this disc to work for the movie, instead of special extra features. The encoding levels are very high, sometimes reaching 10 megabytes per second. I rarely saw it dip below 7, and generally held at around 8, except for a few moments when nothing is moving on the screen. You wonít get any jagged lines or edge-enhancement issues here like you might notice on the recent Batman Beyond movie disc.

    The orchestration is very lush and the sound will envelop you. In scenes when the rain is falling on-screen, the surround speakers work extra hard to try to surround you with the falling rain. Thereís not much use for the strictly directional sound elements. Itís not like there are scenes with racecars driving by you and even the flying arrows donít often fly across the screen to necessitate a lot of directionality to the sound.

    The Special Features section doesnít include much. The trailer is there and itís nice enough. Youíll have to laugh at the little ten-minute featurette that accompanies it though. It appears that nobody behind the scenes of this movie has a clue what itís about either. The voice director talks about how this movie has no one single theme. The ĎMan Vs. Natureí theme is the most obvious, but it also gets into power, love, beauty, etc. Then you cut to Claire Danes who says itís an environmental film and very timely. Jada Pinkett Smith points out that this isnít a kiddy movie. Then Billy Bob Thornton comes on screen to say that heís proud that heís finally made a movie for his children to watch. (It wouldnít surprise me in the least that heíd show a 5 year old a movie in which there are on-screen beheading, arms ripped clean off from arrows and explosives and blood gushing out of dying animals. Iím not sure most people would do the same, though.)

    If you like this sort of thing, youíll like this movie. Thereís plenty of mysticism and mythology to go around. And Iím not one to quibble with the quality of the animation or its presentation on this disc. I just didnít find the movie to be all that entertaining, aside from the technical skill used in the animation itself and the encoding of the DVD. And at nearly two-and-a-quarter hours in length, you should be prepared for a lot of boars fighting humans fighting wolves fighting monkeys. If thatís not your thing, go watch the final piece from Fantasia 2000. Itís two hours shorter and fulfills the same theme.


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    Ratings Based on Scale of 1 - 10 (10 being Best)

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