(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)
(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)
SW SCORE: 44
5 out of 5 🐙
In the past year, I have set upon a quest to watch every single comic book based movie. This has pushed me to see a lot of foreign films of the genre. Most of the time, I have been very pleasantly surprised. The country that has contributed, by far, the most comic book movies is Japan, and the lion’s share of their offerings are anime adaptations of manga (Japanese comics). I was never drawn to this style of animation or storytelling, but I was determined to try a lot from every genre to give it a fair shake. It’s been great. To be fair, I’ve been working through the classics first and if you worked through the classics of any genre, you’re going to be seeing high quality examples. I’m sure anime has terrible representatives, too.
Nausicaä: Valley of the Wind, is a dystopian film set in an Earth shared between several human kingdoms and an ever growing toxic jungle inhabited by huge. supremely powerful insects. The humans try to avoid the jungle because they can’t hope to fight the insects. But the jungle is expanding and the kingdoms are running out of room. Eventually, a desperate kingdom finds a horrifying weapon from the past that they believe can destroy the jungle, its bugs, and save humanity.
I’m not going to dissect this classic because I really don’t think I have much to offer that hasn’t already been written by better critics than me. So I’m just going to tell you what I loved about it but because there is nothing I disliked.
The still animation over the opening credits is gorgeous.
The hero of the tale is Princess Nausicaä, a smart, strong, empathetic, creative, empowered woman and the story never involves a romantic subplot wherein she is saved by a male. This is remarkable for 1984. This is remarkable for a comic book movie. Well, it’s remarkable for a western comic book movie. Maybe this is old hat or de rigueur for anime? I wouldn’t know. I’ve only seen 5 of them.
The moving animation is pristine and vibrant and still looks great 36 years later. As if that wasn’t enough of a visual feast, many the backgrounds are loving hand drawn/painted still scapes that are just stunning. As if THAT wasn’t enough, the world, the creatures, the fauna, the machines, the villages, the warriors, the battle gear, the juxtaposition and melding of past and future technology, are so fresh and creative and like nothing I’ve seen in any other anime or western comic book movie.
The story unfolds like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. It starts as a conventional good versus evil story but becomes so much more complicated and rewarding. I don’t want to say anything resembling a spoiler, even though I have given a warning because half of the joy of this movie is experiencing this story for the first time.
It seems to influence and be influenced by major examples in fantasy and sci-fi and sci-fi/fantasy. It clearly takes thematic swaths from the seminal classic Dune. Its opening sequence can be felt in Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The Warrior could be a Kaiju. The realpolitik embraced by the rulers of the various kingdoms could give the regents in Game of Thrones pause. The final fulfillment of the prophecy and much of the aesthetic definitely resonates in Avatar. I would even venture, probably stupidly, that The Lion King takes cues from the triumph in this film.
How green is this valley? You need to find out.
(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.
(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)
(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so
(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)