Welcome to my blog. Here you will find details of my progress towards watching all films in the IMDB Top 250 List along with other random film musings. Enjoy!

Friday, 27 May 2011

IMDB Review #250: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

And so the challenge begins…

 There have been many films released over the past few years which have environmental undertones; Avatar, The Road and Wall-E to name a few. Whilst these films have mainly used the environmental theme to create the setting for a story, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (the second film by Hayao Miyazaki) fully embraces environmentalism, creating a story which has as its central theme the relationship between humanity and the earth. 

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Earth’s ecosystem has been destroyed in what is referred to as The Seven Day War. The central character is Nausicaa, a Princess of the Valley of the Wind, which is one of the last few habitable places on earth. Large swathes of the earth are now covered by a ‘Toxic Jungle’ which is guarded by a variety of giant insects, the most deadly of which are known as Ohms. 

War breaks out when a rival race, known as the Tolmekians, invade and destroy the rival city of Pejite in order to obtain the embryo of a Great Warrior (the creature who is thought to have destroyed the earth) which recently been discovered. On transporting the embryo back to Tolmekia, the Tolmekian airship crashes in the Valley of the Wind, prompting the Tolmekians to invade the Valley in order to retake the embryo.

The Tolmekians believe that in order for earth to survive, the Toxic Jungle must be destroyed and so plan to use the Giant Warrior to destroy the Toxic Jungle and all other people who stand in their way. However, Princess Nausicaa has discovered that it is not the plants of the toxic forest that are polluted, but rather the soil and water in which they grow. The plants themselves are actually slowly cleansing the planet so that it will be clean once more. When Nausicaa discovers the Tolmekian plan, she, along with Prince Asbel of Pejite, sets off on a mission to stop them in order to save the planet and all of the creatures and people who inhabit it.

 One of the first things that struck me when watching the film was that it was incredibly ahead of its time. Originally released in 1984, the environmental theme of the film is very relevant to the modern day and Nausicaa has to be one of the few films which may be more relevant now than when originally released.

Another thing which I thought interesting, was that Nausicaa contains that rarity in modern day cinema; a strong female lead character. Too often in animation and often in live action films, the lead female character (if indeed there can be said to be one) is the stereotypical damsel in distress. In fact, if you look closely at the Disney Pixar Films, not one of them even has a strong female character (the closest Pixar comes is Mrs Incredible in The Incredibles). It is therefore refreshing that Nausicaa bucks the contemporary trend and not only has a female as its lead character, but a strong female warrior who is not afraid to risk her life to protect all other species on the planet, be it good or evil.

The animation is lovingly rendered and each frame incredibly detailed resulting in a visual experience which doesn’t feel out of place when compared to more recent examples of traditional animation. The world in which the film takes place is exceptionally complex and is comparable to the worlds which exist in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or Avatar. Some of the different races and transportation which is used in the film clearly reference Star Wars and it is clearly one of the main inspirations behind the film.

Whilst the detail of the setting adds to the richness of the film, it also creates some complexity in the story. The last half hour of the film is chock full of different locations and tribes of people (such as the Tolmekians, the Pejite and the people of the valley). As the story nears its conclusion we constantly jump from one event to another, many of which often happening simultaneously, and this leads to a bit of conclusion in the plot.

Overall, whilst I enjoyed this film, I didn’t love it. I didn’t ever feel that emotional connection with the main characters which I need in order to truly fall in love with a film. Despite that I think there are enough interesting aspects of this film to warrant a repeat viewing, however I do not think its status as one of the top 250 films is really justified.

Rating 7/10

1 down, 249 to go…


The Film Genie said...

Hi Craig.

This film isn't in my IMDB challenge. I guess it just managed to creep up a place or two at the last minute as mine was dated 01/01/2011. Still, I might give it a watch as it looks good. Maybe a bit too much "listen to our message" but still good.

I have to say that if a film that gets 7/10 doesn't belong in the top 250, you'll have a hell of a lot of similar ratings up at the top. Are you going to use any decimals to diferenciate?

Film Genie

Craig French said...

Hey Film Genie

Yeah, I think its worth a watch - I just don't think its anything special. You are right that the message could be more subtle but its hard to judge the message given that environmentalism wasn't in the media spotlight as much in the mid eightes (I assume!).

The ratings point is interesting. My ratings at the moment are just a crude way of determining how much I liked a film overall. I think to give a decimalised rating may result in me trying to be too specific and I would inevitably end up with some films rated lower than other films which I actually liked less.

What I am doing is keeping a list of the films I watch ranked by how good they are. Perhaps once I get to the end of the challenge (or maybe once I have watched 50 or 100) I will then be in a position to give more detailed ratings. I think I can only rate the films in comparison to the other films on the list, therefore it is diffcult to give an accurate rating without having watched most of the films on the list.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.


P.S. - Just realised I hadn't added you to my blogroll - oversight has now been rectified!

Anonymous said...

I have yet to watch this film, but it is patiently waiting in my Netflix queue.

As for ratings goes, I use a slightly different system. I rate from 0 to 5 in increments of 0.5 points. I guess that if you multiply my numbers by two you can obtain what they would be in a 0 through 10 scale.

The films with a 5 star rating are very rare for me since I would have to consider them flawless. I've probably seen about 10 to 15 movies that would fall in this category, so I tend to be very selective when it comes to a perfect score.
A 4.5 I consider a masterpiece or excellent film, and those are pretty hard to come by even though I have seen a few lately due to my top 250 challenge.
Where I have the most trouble is in assigning which films deserve a 4, which to me amounts to a "great" status, and which deserve a 3.5 star rating which is equivalent to me saying a film is pretty good.
All in all, ratings are indeed a crude way to evaluate any form of art. They do help to give a quick general sense of what we like or dislike, but that's about it. I try to think about what I would say to other people that ask me about whether I liked a film or not. If my first inclination would be to say a movie was great, then I give them a 4-star rating or higher. If the word "great" is giving too much credit, then I give it a 3.5 star or lower. I think it helps.


Craig French said...

I think film ratings are always going to be problematic. Its impossible to use a qualitative statistic to describe qualitative characteristics. A picture may paint a thousand words but a rating struggles to define one.

At the end of the day, I think Niels is right, a rating is a good way to give a general sense of whether you like something or not but nothing more.


Anonymous said...

This is my least favourite out of all the Miyzakis I've seen. I didn't really 'get it', for me there was none of that sweet sympathy that he usually has in his animations. Love Totoro, Spirited Away, Porco Rosso! I guess maybe two of these are still coming your way!

Craig French said...

Yeah - Spirited Away and Totoro are both on the list but I have heard a lot of good things about Porco Rosso - I might add it as some extra curricular viewing!

impassionedcinema said...

This is in my top five Miyazaki films. It really comes to life on Blu-ray so I'd suggest that as the entry format. The score is classic Joe Hisaishi (composer of Miyazaki's films). It isn't my favorite (that would be Sprited Away, followed closely with the overlooked Castle in the Sky), but I think it earns its spot in the top 250.

Craig French said...

I don't think it is by anyway a bad film, I did enjoy it but it just didn't grip me. I suppose the real test is how much I enjoy it on a second viewing - perhaps it wil be one of those films which grows on me the more I watch it.

Having said that - Nausicaa has opened my eyes to the films of Miyazaki and I am certainly looking forward to watching more!

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