FILM REVIEW - Princess Mononoke
By The Masked Medic
How exciting is this? New review on the new blog site? Rest assured that the Masked Medic and associates will continue writing the highest quality reviews for you. So to start off the new year and this new venture right, I needed to find something good. I sat down with my siblings to watch another Studio Ghibli classic. Given how much I enjoyed ‘Spirited Away’, I was quite excited needless to say!
‘Princess Mononoke’ starts with the story of Ashitaka, a prince from the Emishi tribe, who is sworn protector of his people. One day, a giant boar who has been taken over by a demon, emerges from the forest to attack the village. However, Ashitaka intervenes and takes the boar down, but in doing so, is touched by the demon and his arm is cursed. He is told that the cursed arm will cause him to feel great rage and eventually kill him. Ashitaka is cast out and advised to travel West, where he may find where the demon originated from and thus a way to lift the curse. On his travels, he encounters a battle where some samurai are ravaging a village. He is chased by several of them on horseback and in an attempt to get rid of them, he fires a few arrows from his bow, however, the demon arm takes over, and the shots kill a few samurai. As his travels go on, he rescues two men he found drowning in a river. He takes them to a mystical forest where they are healed and then takes them back to their home, a town called “Iron Town”. Here he meets Lady Eboshi, the leader of Iron Town. She has armed the people with rifles and has given many of the women jobs. However, she is hellbent on taking down the great Gods of the forest, including Moro, the wolf goddess, and her adopted human daughter, San. Ashitaka attempts to intervene in the conflict, asking Lady Eboshi to stop attacking the beasts of the forest, lest they turn into demons. His attempt to save the beasts of the forest is noticed by the Great Forest Spirit. Can Ashitaka save himself before the darkness envelops his heart? Can he garner peace between the humans and the forest?
A lot of the studio Ghibli films are known to have iconic voice actors, and ‘Princess Mononoke’ is no different. Voicing the lead, Prince Ashitaka is Billy Crudup. Crudup I’ve only ever seen in one other project which was ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ where he plays Barry Allen’s father. This film however has come out almost 15 years before that, so Crudup’s voice is pretty youthful. Opposite him, playing San, was Claire Danes, of Romeo+Juliet fame. Both leads were excellent in their roles. Supporting cast, which included Minnie Driver as Lady Eboshi, Billy Bob Thornton as Jigo and Jada Pinkett Smith as Toki were also very good. Sometimes with animated movies, it’s easy to match up the voice of the actor with the animated character they are playing. However, the one that caught me by surprise was Moro, the wolf goddess, who was played by Gillian Anderson. I think Anderson is fantastic in every single project she’s in and this was no exception. A brilliant cast all around.
I only very recently got into Studio Ghibli films, much to a lot of peoples’ surprise. I know, I genuinely can’t believe it took me that long. After I watched ’Spirited Away’, I was pretty blown away. So when I got the chance to watch this one, I was like okay, let’s see how it compares. Now, the one thing that I love about Studio Ghibli fans is that no one seems to have the same favourite, which means that clearly, each film is unique enough to call out to different people. Out of the two films I’ve seen, ‘Princess Mononoke’ is definitely my favourite. Perhaps, it’s the protagonist's nature and selfless quest to create peace in a faraway land, despite knowing that his time is limited. Maybe it’s the brilliant layering of ideas, such as how to live in harmony with our environment, how some people, like Lady Eboshi, can do good for some people but still have selfish intent. I don’t know, maybe I’m rambling here. All I know is that I really liked this film and the characters in it. Bravo.
It’s evident that Studio Ghibli has a distinct style, one that has become synonymous with its success. ‘Princess Mononoke’, is clearly no different. The style was crisp and clean and I love that they don’t make all the characters aesthetically perfect. It’s a good reminder that life is a balance and we have all sorts of people that exist in the world. I’ve heaped praise on the voice acting, the cinematography and the story, however, in one aspect this film was phenomenal; the music. I thought the soundtrack was so epic, that I have of course downloaded a lot of my favourite tracks and they will be excellent for those long drives. Overall, this was an excellent film and also an excellent way to start the new year and this new venture. Here’s to more reviews for you guys soon!
Voice Acting: ★★★