Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Ponyo" (2008)

My first exposure to Miyazaki was “Princess Mononoke” back in 1997. It was probably an unfortunate first impression. I had heard how this man was supposed to be the greatest animator ever, but it simply felt as though he was making some propaganda—albeit delightfully bizarre and beautiful. I need to revisit that film, but it felt at the time like it was a little too on the nose. Preachy.

I skipped “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” but kept hearing how wonderful things were and wondered if I should give him another chance when I saw the trailer to “Ponyo.” It didn’t help dissuade my impression of him as an artist more in the vein of propagandist. I let a few more years go by.

Now I have taken the plunge and watched a few Miyazaki films, starting with “Ponyo.”

First off, one has to admit the guy knows his art. Visually this is some of the most beautiful and stunning animation I have seen. I also am a sucker for the magic realism genre, so any film where bizarre things happen in the normal world and characters don’t react surprised is a good thing.

That being said, having thought about the “message” of the story for a couple weeks now, I have to call foul. It is not completely the filmmakers’ fault. Even though they have chosen the source material and “The Little Mermaid” is one of the most amazingly terrible fairy-tales ever. Yet the changes made to the tale do nothing to help things. In fact, it makes an even bigger mess.

Any story where a character makes bad choices that not only threaten terrible consequences for the protagonist but also to those they love—even the entire world—and those consequences are easily swept away simply by another’s love…

Oh wait. Maybe there is a truth behind the silliness here.

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