Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Hayao Miyazaki
1984 • 116 Minutes • 1.85:1 • Japan
Color • Japanese • Toei

Voice Cast (Japanese): Sumi Shimamoto, Mahito Tsujimura, Hisako Kyôda, Gorô Naya, Ichirô Nagai, Kôhei Miyauchi, Jôji Yanami
Voice Cast (English): Mark Hamill, Shia LaBeouf, Alison Lohman, Edward James Olmos, Chris Sarandon, Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki based on his comic
Producer: Isao Takahata

Every one of us relies on water from the wells, because mankind has polluted all the lakes and rivers. but do you know why the well water is pure? It's because the trees of the wastelands purify it! And you plan to burn the trees down? You must not burn down the toxic jungle! You should have left the giant warrior beneath the earth!

One thousand years in the future, the Earth has been destroyed in what has become known as the Seven Days of Fire.  The apocalyptic event created "the Toxic Jungle," teeming with mutated insects (known as Ohmu) that the surrounding kingdoms fear.  One of these kingdoms, the Valley of the Wind, is home to Princess Nausicaä, a peace-loving young girl who is at one with all creatures.  The worlds resources are limited and the kingdom of Tolmekia invades the Valley of the Wind in an attempt to unite and destroy the Ohmu and the Toxic Jungle by raising a monstrous creature from the past. It is up to Nausicaä to negotiate peace between the kingdoms and prevent disaster.

Hayao Miyazaki has often been referred to as the Japanese Walt Disney, due to his popularity in the world of Japanese animation.  Depending on whether or not you agree with the statement, there is no denying Miyazaki's artistry as a filmmaker nor his influence in the world of animation.  With films like Nausicaä, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, he emotionally invests the audience with his beautiful animation and imagery as well as his strong, three-dimensional leading characters.  You don't just watch a Miyazki film. You fall in love with it.  It is rare when a director's body of work is so good, that one is never disappointed when examining his filmography.  

Miyazaki excels at world building. Nausicaä offers up a world using several different sci-fi/fantasy
elements. It's a post-apocalyptic story set centuries in the future, yet it's also a fairy tale featuring kingdoms and princesses. It's a thrilling adventure and also a coming of age story. It's an anti-war story with an environmentalist message (a theme Miyazaki fans are not unfamiliar with).  Above all, the film's ultimate message of compassion is the most relevant. When the film is over, you are truly moved.

It's hard to imagine, watching this film in 2013, that the film is almost three decades old and yet it looks more sophisticated and visually stunning than most CG-created films released today.  While there is certainly nothing wrong with modern animation (some of the best animated features like Toy Story and WALL•E have been brought to life inside a computer), there is just something to be said for traditional hand-drawn animation. Especially when it looks as gorgeous as this film does.  

Beware Warriors of the Wind. Shortly after the film's Japanese release, it was recut and dubbed by English-speaking actors and released as Warriors of the Wind.  The film's storyline was altered and the peaceful message of hope and compassion was lost. Disney has since distributed a proper, uncut release on DVD and Blu-Ray with a new English dubbing.  Rent or buy this version!

Nausicaä is an essential animation classic that still resonates 30 years after its initial release and looks better than most modern CG animated films.  A beautiful movie for all ages.

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