Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind

"Very Good"

Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind Review


Despite Disney's many sins and failures, it looks like someone there finally got his act together. In a generous deal with Anime auteur Hayao Miyazaki and Japan's Tokuma Publishing, Disney will oversee the worldwide release of nearly all of Miyazaki's films in their original form, without a single frame cut. The decision to do this is specious -- based as it is on the success of Miyazaki's Oscar-nominated Spirited Away, and in anticipation of the American distribution of his new film Howl's Moving Castle - but let's take what we can get. The films will be parsed out on double-disc DVD sets over the next few years, and in addition, Disney is releasing most of them to the festival circuit. You can expect many to be playing in your local art-house theatre, better late than never.

First up: 1984's Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind - the story of the titular, unfortunately-named, mini-skirted princess, warrior, visionary, and insect-whisperer; with the power to tame the threatening, misunderstood arthropods that live at the edge of the remaining human outposts in a Japanese-speaking post-apocalyptic world. You'll be pleased to know the film unfolds just as breathlessly.

The Valley of the Wind, a peaceful, sequestered human settlement is violently coerced into joining a multinational war against the insects that control the greater face of the Earth. The wise people of this valley, however, are far less susceptible to the hubris that has clouded their neighbors' judgments and they know that doom surely awaits this misguided war. They turn to their young princess to save them, and, later, to redeem the whole human race. And Nausicaä must turn to guns, swords, air gliders, scientific inquiry, and, most importantly, compassion, to get the deed done.

Because of the film's marvelous action sequences, it's easy to lose track of the fact that Nausicaä actually spends a lot of time dealing with these problems through care and sympathy. In fact, with her generous view of life and Zen-like determination to achieve environmental harmony, Nausicaä could be viewed as the consummate martyr for eco-politics (just in time for the Kyoto Accord, too). Fortunately, though, this movie is not that reducible. Politicking is not really the film's intent - it is, instead, simply a stage for a classical struggle of against-all-odds heroics. But the fact is the movie is insightful and introspective, providing a re-imagining of the Earth's organization and reversing the man vs. nature power struggle. Consequently, Nausicaä's world is an intriguing one, filled with talking points that, when sufficiently examined, provide a powerful argument for giving rational inquiry a more dominant role in our society. But that's not really the film's intent either, despite the ongoing dialogues on most Nausicaä blogs and the years-long exploration of these issues in the original Nausicaä manga. With this movie, Miyazaki simply wants to entertain. (Something studios like Disney used to do before product placement and market testing.)

And wagering heavily on this humble intention, Miyazaki cashes out big time. Despite a brief dry spell in the later portions, the movie entertains, delivering a wonderful spectacle of animation. You won't be fidgeting and you won't be texting. The movie is filled with sweeping aerial battles, operatic sword fights, and cringe-inducing combat with giant insects -- all done under Miyazaki's expert brush, with the vibrant sense of motion and confident command of color and shadow that helped popularize and internationalize the entire Anime genre. Seeing that alone on the big screen is more than worth your ten bucks.

On the negative side, the film suffers from an abrupt, clipped ending, but that seems to be the fault of some budgetary or production constraint rather than Miyazaki's decision. And, as in a lot of his early work, the dialogue is stiff and stilted, with characters sometimes explaining the exposition to the audience under the guise of talking to themselves. And what's more is that, for all its inventiveness, it doesn't really compare to Miyazaki's later pictures (such as Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away), where the animation is more refined and gorgeous and his fantasies far outstrip the imaginative constructions of this comparatively dull valley. It is surely unfair to compare this early picture against his later works, I'll admit that -- but I won't skirt the issue, mostly because the point isn't negative. In fact, watching this movie again after spending more time with his later films only underscores the success of all his pictures and proves Miyazaki's clear vision. After all, all of the sentiments and leitmotifs that come to characterize his oeuvre (most notably female heroines with mysterious family dynamics) are here in force (albeit in their incipient stages), and only slightly less remarkable than they'll later become.

For Miyazaki diehards, finally seeing this movie in American cinemas will be a renewing experience, and the double-disc DVD a necessary component in the collection. For everyone else, an inspiring, well-told adventure of a fantastic otherworld awaits. And, some will also be pleased to know, the occasional hints at Nausicaä's animated ass are done a little more forthrightly than the way Disney's hidden innuendo is usually woven into its cartoons.

Aka Kaze no tani no Naushika, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds.



Facts and Figures

Box Office Worldwide: $3.3M

Budget: $1000 thousand

Production compaines: Studio Ghibli, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Nibariki, Tokuma Shoten, Topcraft

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Nausicaä (Voice), as Jihl (Voice), Hisako Kyōda as Oh-Baba (Voice), Gorō Naya as Yupa (Voice), Ichirō Nagai as Mito (Voice), Kōhei Miyauchi as Goru (Voice), Jôji Yanami as Gikkuri (Voice), Minoru Yada as Niga (Voice), Rihoko Yoshida as Teto / Girl C (Voice), Yōji Matsuda as Asbel (Voice), Mîna Tominaga as Rastel (Voice), Yoshiko Sakakibara as Kushana (Voice), Iemasa Kayumi as Kurotowa (Voice), Tetsuo Mizutori as Commando (Voice)

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.