Oh man, we so needed a PG-13 before we actually got it. I almost let my kids watch this movie with me. It is 100% the perfect candidate for PG-13. Like, it's pretty scary. Sure, my wife scoffed when I told her it was scary, but that's only mostly because she often doesn't respect me. This movie is violent and full of very scary bugs. There's this monster that just melts away organ by organ. Oh, the '80s! How did you do these things on a regular basis?
DIRECTOR: Hayao Miyazaki
Oh man, there are certain movies that just get me. Most of the time, I don't see it coming. I thought I had seen my favorite Miyazaki movies. I had not. Nausicaä is such a me-movie that I kind of want to recommend it to everyone. But it also is such a me-movie that I'm not sure that everyone will really enjoy it. Now, I can't say that it is a perfect movie. I know that Miyazaki really has a thing for making environmentalism a thing and I thought it was a bit heavy-handed at times, but I'm starting to wake up to the environmentalism thing. (Holy crap, I'm becoming the very hippie I've feared all along!) But the movie is just so bananas. I know that lots of people really like Miyazaki, so I have no right to claim him as my own. That being said, there are a startling amount of things that we like in common and this one seemed like a young guy just fanboying about science fiction.
I know that I'm going to get flak for not liking Starship Troopers. (I get it. Paul Verhoven made the movie ironic. Doesn't make me like it.) I am terrified of bugs to some degree, so a good man v. big bugs movie will actually scare me. But I haven't really seen a good one. A lot of them are exploitative and lazy, relying very heavily on the premise that people with guns versus bugs will draw a crowd. The potential is always there for other movies, but the execution always leaves me underwhelmed. But Nausicaä is different. Nausicaä (and I'm ashamed to write this sentence) goes so deep into world building and takes itself so seriously when it really doesn't have to that it commands respect. I'm never sure whether I want a movie like this to take itself super-seriously or with a grain of salt, but I'm going to lean with super-seriously this time. Part of why I like that attitude when it comes to this movie is that Miyazaki is a man of detail. The world is fully fleshed out, as are the characters and the plot. If anything, the movie leans a little bit into the problem that I have with many anime films in terms of getting just a bit too complicated at times. But the movie never relies too heavily on tech talk or nonsense babble. Rather, it is confusing that just requires the viewer to invest rather than ignore it. I don't see that with other anime. I'm still bummed that I don't get Akira. But Nausicaä takes it right to the level it needs to go. There is a very complex plot and lots of sci-fi tropes, but most of the information that is dropped is understandable and builds to the overall film. Similarly, the characters are relatable. As weird as the movie gets, and I keep mentally comparing it to Dune, the characters still seem like people that I could get to know. Sure, they harvest bugs that are endangering them at every turn, but I like that about them. That makes them fascinating. I think I only like sci-fi that has people I can relate to, but things like Dune don't often offer that to me. This has the rich landscape of something like Dune or Game of Thrones, but the humanity that tends to get ignored in stories like this. I mean, the story is actually pretty great and my brain filled in all of the relationship and political affiliation stuff that I had to know.
This is 1984. Not the Orwell thing, but the actual year. 1984 anime was probably a thing unto itself. I kind of expected this movie to end with a dolly shot over a kid sleeping and someone saying "DIC" like "DEEK" because it just had that look and sound to it. I don't know if there was a style thing or something going on at the time. I kind of mentioned this in my last review about The Red Turtle. 1984 anime doesn't look as clean as stuff I'm used to seeing. I don't know if Miyazaki was dealing with a budget, but there are some very odd shortcuts here. All that being said, the movie looks absolutely stunning. There's some actually amazing camera work that I wouldn't associate with cost-cutting animation. (Also, why do swords in anime make that sound? It's cool, but who decided that was a thing?) I think what makes the look of the movie amazing, besides the fact that it has a cool cool setting is the fact that a lot of Nausicaä is the protagonist on a glider. First of all, that glider is amazing and I want one. I would never use it because I'm fundamentally a coward about things like that, but I also want to be the kind of person who could just hop on a glider and take to the skies. The film really looks at landscape pieces from the perspective of someone who would view it at an extremely fast rate and from cool perspectives. Nausicaä herself is this amazing and cool action hero, so having her jump on this rad glider only makes her movie all the cooler. The movie also plays with what is expected out of setting, especially in the flying sequences. There are these absolutely bananas airships that just seem massive. They get wrecked pretty fast, which takes a little bit of their sails out (kind of a pun intended). But they are absolutely beautiful when they interact with their landscapes. Usually, this means them erupting from these gorgeously rendered clouds, but it also means that the ships blow up against stuff and that looks pretty awesome. I wonder if Miyazaki knew that these shots were going to cost some serious coin to animate, so the moment to moment animation wasn't seen as a priority. It is all fine, but it looks a little like the Saturday morning cartoons I used to inhale as a child. Regardless, the look of the movie is more than fine. It does really work. And it is really exciting. I loved the action sequences and that says a lot considering that it was an animated film. I find the emotional connections stronger in animation for some reason. The risk put to a character is usually pretty slim when I know that a stuntman isn't doing it for real. I don't know why it is that way. You can read my Fast and the Furious reviews to confirm my thoughts on all of this kind of stuff. But the action sequences are cool and they involve flying. What else can I ask for?
Can I say that I love this Miyazaki binge? I really want to watch my copy of The Last Jedi, but I have a billion more Ghibli movies to inhale. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind might be one of my favorites now, but I have a lot more to watch and rewatch. One of them just showed up at the library with my name on it, so look forward to that. This one rocked and I feel like I can just keep going.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.