Michael's Movie Grade: A+
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and this movie shows him at the top of his game.
This is by far one of Miyazaki's most complex films and there is no doubt that film buffs will be discussing the various allegorical meanings behind much of this movie. Yet beneath this there is just as much of the pure humanity and emotion resonance as there is in the great filmmaker's more simply works (such as My Neighbor Totoro (1988) or Kiki's Delivery Service (1990)). What makes this work so well is that before delving into the fantasy and allegorical scenes, this film takes place in our world. Specifically, World War 2 Japan, where we a young boy affected by the horrors of war, loses his mother in a fire. The emotion of these early scenes is incredibly powerful. These scenes are not always easy to watch but that is exactly what makes it hard to look away. Because of this as we enter the fantasy world, we already have a strong emotional attachment. The fantasy world becomes a mixture of a dream and an old school fairytale. This means that through fantasy, we take a deep exploration of our fears, anxieties, joys and hopes. Fantasy may seem to heighten each one, but that only makes them feel more real. Also, because this is a mixture of a dream and a fairytale, little of the logic goes explained. Rather than being a flaw, this helps make the story all the more powerful. We don't need or want to fully understand how this world works because the story is propelled by the characters and the emotions rather than by logic. To have anything explained to us, would make this less true and therefore a less effective film. Yet even as this film does a great dive into these deeper themes and emotions, it still has moments of great entertainment. I actually can't think of another Miyazaki movie that is this funny. The humor throughout the film is truly laugh out loud hilarious and does a wonderful job of helping us smile through the darker themes. The Heron Man is a truly delightful and fun character and put a smile on my face throughout much the film. Yet even with the character's wonderful comic and fun moments, he still plays an important role in the plot and has a certain amount of depth to him. As is always true of a Miyazaki film, this movie is a pure visual delight. The artwork and animation are truly beautiful and breathtaking here. There is also little doubt that the visual wonder is also part of why the fantasy works so well here.
This is simply another incredible movie in the filmography of one of the world's finest filmmakers.