Princess Mononoke

500 Movie Challenge: Princess Mononoke

Princess MononokeAll the animation! Because frankly, most conventional live-action movies are super long. Seriously people, when did two hours become standard for a movie? That’s ridiculous. I don’t think it’s crazy to ask that movies try to keep to about 90 minutes long. If that means that I’ll be sticking to Miyazaki movies and their ilk more often, I’m fine with that.

Though I have to say, if ever a movie needed two hours plus to tell a story, it would be Princess Mononoke. I made an exception here. And I can say it was worth it.

The gist: We open not with the Princess, but with a prince. Prince Ashitaka is the last prince of his people, and now he’s being hit with a curse. The manifestation of a demon’s hate is now coursing through his body. Which makes him an excellent fighter, but also means that he will die consumed by hate. The village wigs out, of course.

Ashitaka embarks on a quest to rid himself of the curse. There are a few adventures, mainly of him showing off his supernatural ability to kill people. But then he comes across the village of Irontown, a lakeside village that specializes in producing iron en masse. They’re upsetting the gods of the forest by cutting down trees to access the ironsand, enough so that the god of the boars is planning to attack the humans.

But the wolves know it’s foolish to try and attack the humans. One of them has other plans, namely to infiltrate Irontown and kill their leader. But her plan goes awry when Ashitaka learns who she it: Princess Mononoke, a human raised by wolves with a hatred for humankind. She’s going to take down human civilization, because they’re not smart enough to see the worth of the forest like her.

What I “learned”: The best way to talk about environmentalism in a movie to present all sides as equal. And by “sides,” I mean the environmentalists and the industrialists.

Irontown seems like the obvious “bad guy” at first, chopping down the forests and giving no regard for the gods. But then you learn that the town employs former prostitutes and lepers, giving new chances to the otherwise hopeless. They also manufacture rifles light enough for women to wield. For feudal Japan, that’s an enormous deal. You start to see their point of view, that humans and moving forward may be more important than the gods of the past. It’s a well-rounded story, and actually gives merit to an initiative to protect the forest. It means something if you have to be thoroughly convinced of it.

See this movie if you like: Animation that isn’t overly happy in its portrayal of life. There’s some borderline body horror in this movie, and it doesn’t shy away from showing sickness or decay. The idyllic scenery and forest gods stand out because they’re surrounded by a variety of humans. It’s a very nice break from too-perfect Disney films. Especially with the character motion—a run actually looks like a run!

Avoid this movie if: Two hours and fifteen minutes is too long for you to spend watching an animated movie. This is a Studio Ghibli film, and over all a Japanese film, so you know the pacing will not be rushed or dragged out. They’re just taking their time to write a story. But all the same, I completely understand if anyone just can’t make themselves sit that long for a cartoon. I genuinely get it. I just think this one is more worth it than most.

New Films Watched: 51

Films Re-Watched: 2

Total Number of Films: 53

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Stay tuned for more entries in the Princess Dread Movie Challenge!

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