Princess Mononoke

1997, Movie, PG-13, 135 mins

Review

PRINCESS MONONOKE | MONONOKE HIME | PHANTOM PRINCESS, THE
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Lavishly animated and painstakingly dubbed into English, this grand-scale adventure revolves around man's relationship with the natural world, and the dire consequence of a life out of balance. It begins as a monstrous demon-boar erupts out of the woods and heads straight for a small village. Prince Ashitaka (voiced by Billy Crudup) kills the beast but receives a poisonous, supernatural wound; the village wisewoman tells him that he must uncover the demon-boar's origins and may heal himself in the process. Ashitaka's travels take him to Irontown, where imperious Lady Eboshi (Minnie Driver) has established an ironworks and a progressive social order that protects women and lepers. But her endeavors have wounded the forest and earned her the enmity of San (Claire Danes), the Princess Mononoke, human daughter of a wolf goddess (Gillian Anderson). All-out war seems inevitable, and Ashitaka finds himself torn between the cause of human progress, the rights of the forest spirits, and his growing love for San. Complicating matters further is a mercenary warrior (Billy Bob Thornton) determined to cut off the head of the Nightwalker, greatest of the animal gods, and bring it to the emperor. Directed by revered Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and scripted for US release by cult comic book icon Neil Gaiman (Sandman), this melancholy epic blends mythological archetypes with timely ecological concerns. Its imagery is never less than breathtakingly beautiful, and is occasionally truly awesome: The last stand of the boar tribe and the Nightwalker's rampage are simply unforgettable. And it deftly negotiates the line between accessibility and exoticism: The story's fairy-tale appeal is universal, but the animals are less sweetly anthropomorphized than their Disney cousins, and the clattering tree spirits, with their blank faces and child-ghost bodies, are truly eerie. Be warned: it's occasionally very violent, and may be too intense for younger children. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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