Princess Mononoke (1997) / Animation-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for images of violence and gore
Running Time: 134 min.
Cast: (U.S. Version - voices) Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
Review published February 14, 2000
While there are many films of late with much more impressive visuals in the animation department, Princess Mononoke may be unrivaled for its original story and compelling emotional climax. For many American viewers, this may be a first exposure not only to the great Hayao Miyazaki's (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away) work but also to the style of Japanese animation, if which Princess Mononoke is truly one of the best examples of.
The setting in Medieval Japan, and young prince Ashitaka defends his village from a rampaging boar demon consumed with hate due to being shot with a piece of iron. The prince kills the demon, but in the process is infected with a mark on his arm that will soon spread and eventually and inevitable kill him. In the time he has left, Ashitaka reolves to find the source of what mad the boar-god this way, and to put an end to the hatred before it consumes all, so he travels east and finds a battle brewing between the humans of Irontown and the nearby forest of gods and creatures, among them a young human girl named San (Princess Mononoke).
Princess Mononoke is a unique cinematic experience that adults should not pass over because it is a cartoon. Unlike the U.S. and many other places, animation in Japan is aimed at adults primarily and therefore is far more intelligent and less "cutesy" than many of it's American brethren. In fact, renting this movie for your young children would probably be unwise, as there is quite a bit of fairly graphic violence, including dismemberments, beheadings and rotting corpses of demons. Not that children would not enjoy it, but some of the images may cause nightmares, so be warned.
For everyone else over 10, Princess Mononoke should be an experience to remember. It's certainly one of the longer cartoons you are likely to see, at two hours and fifteen minutes (or approximately 45 minutes longer than most Disney films). Yet, the film is complex and varied enough that the length is hardly an issue, and as each minute goes by, the film seems to become more and more riveting. Although the backbone of the plot is not going to surprise anyone as events take place, almost everything else about the film is not anything one may have expected coming in. Exciting action, well-developed characterizations, many deep overlying themes, and one very large heart all combined add up to an extremely satisfying and memorable experience for most viewers.
©2000 Vince Leo