Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Wind Rises review

Who knew an animated movie about planes could be so damn touching.
I have never seen a Hayao Miyazaki film until now. I am a bit ashamed of this fact, but it is true. People have always raved about Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, I just never got into any of it. After watching his newest film, The Wind Rises, I know I've been making a huge mistake. The Wind Rises was pretty terrific. It's about a budding young aviation expert and engineer named Jiro Horikoshi. When Jiro was a child, he dreamt of airplanes. They fascinated him on another level. Then he grows up and works for a company making planes for the Japanese and German governments. He is a genius, having the best mind for aeronautics in the entire company. Jiro tries to be a successful engineer, while also having a personal life and keeping a sane in a world filled with war and hurt. Soon he finds love, but many obstacles stand in his way. This is the story of Jiro Horikoshi. This is The Wind Rises. As I said before, I am in no way versed in the works of Hayao Miyazaki. So I wasn't familiar with his style or anything like that. In fact, the only reason I saw this movie in the first place was because it got nominated for Best Animated Film and was supposed to be good. I had medium expectations because I never really was a fan of anime. Yet, The Wind Rises "rose" to any expectations I had and made me just stare in wonder at the movie screen. Which is fitting because in a way, The Wind Rises is all about wonder. Wonder and dreams and even movies themselves. Tragedy too, but mostly wonder. Jiro is captivated by aviation and engineering as soon as he comes in contact with it. His awe and wonder is 100% genuine. He compares planes to dreams, and they appear in his dreams. It may seem far fetched, but I think  Miyazaki is talking about his (or anyone's) love of film. I completely related to Jiro's love and fascination of aviation, except with movies instead. It made a lot of sense to me. It could be that I am just unconsciously projecting my own thoughts and persona into the story. If that's the case (which it most likely is), I applaud Miyazaki even more. To make a film so emotionally relatable is amazingly hard. What he has done, is created a movie about wonder and the importance of dreams. Then pumped the movie with hope and a good story, to create the ultimate cathartic film. The movie has many dream sequences throughout it, often really helping display its themes. One in particular, shows Jiro looking in amazement as his idea for a plane be brought to life through the power of his dreams. Anyone who has ever made a film, or really done anything creative, can relate to this. The sense of sheer joy at seeing your creation come alive, even if it's just in a particularly vivid dream. All the use of hope and wonder is great, but it'd be useless without a decent story and the other things that make a good movie. Luckily, The Wind Rises has all these things. And it does them quite well.  It also keeps a nice balance between whimsy and historical tragedy, not blurring the lines between them and not going overkill on either one. Keep in mind, although this is an animated movie, it isn't necessarily for your kids. While it has a lot of wonderful visuals and things that they may enjoy, it's also about World War II and tuberculosis. The story is sad at times, but it's also a great story. Occasionally it borders on overplaying the emotion factor, but it never actually does overplay it. The voice actors are great at breathing life into the story too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very solid as Jiro, as he usually is. Emily Blunt teams up with her Looper co-star as his love interest, Nahoko. Mae Whitman plays Jiro's sister, but she came off very whiny and annoying. Maybe that's just the "little sister" character, but it didn't make her any less grating. Frozen won Best Animated Film at the Oscars. I haven't seen it, and it probably is good, but I highly doubt it's better than The Wind Rises. And I do wish this had taken home the award, however impossible that may be. The Wind Rises is as successful in storytelling and thematic tools as practically any of the better films of last year. Apparently, this is Hayao Miyazaki's last movie. This makes me quite sad, for I'm just getting started on this guy. Happy Viewing everyone. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at Facebook.com/WhitsMovies.  

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