Blu-ray Review: Princess Mononoke

After more than 15 years of Hayao Miyazaki being a festival favorite, American cinema goers were finally going to get a taste of his animated genius when Princess Mononoke was picked up by Miramax Films for distribution. They’re were a few reasons why this film became the break through including the fact that the movie had become the biggest theatrical hit in Japan ever (until Titanic). Miramax didn’t take any chances by hiring rather large names to voice the characters including Claire Danes (Homeland, Billy Bob Thorton (Slingblade) and Gillian Anderson (X-Files) so people would take notice of their prized import. Nearly two years after a debut in Tokyo, Princess Mononoke arrived on these shores and established Miyazaki as a force on the silver screen.

Prince Ashitaka (Crudup) leads his tribe in defending their village from a huge demon that’s covered in snake-like creatures. Ashitaka kills the demon only to discover it’s a boar god that was somehow damaged by a metal ball. He is injured in the battle and told that he will die soon if he doesn’t leave the tribe and seek medical healing in the lands of the boar god. While roaming in the woods he spots giant wolves and a girl named San (Danes). He also finds Irontown which has starting clear cutting the forest in order to get more access to ironsand. This turns into a battle between the humans and the spirits that protect the forest. The prince finds himself siding with the girl who runs with wolves, but is that the right side? He finds out the people of Irontown have their good reasons including a leper colony angle. Will any of this lead to a cure for the Prince?

Princess Mononoke is stunningly beautiful and filled with fantastical action. This is a time of spirit creatures brought to life by Miyazaki. There’s a bit of weirdness when you think that Titanic knocked off Princess as the biggest film in Japan. Avatar is a ham handed retelling of Princess except James Cameron can’t create a complicated characters on this level. The battle scenes are rather intense and the film isn’t made for young kids that might enjoy My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Princess Mononoke earns its PG-13 rating by being a bit shocking in its violence. This is more Ralph Bakshi (Wizards) than Walt Disney. There’s a reason why San wasn’t part of a Happy Meal box. Princess Mononoke is a movie meant to be enjoyed by an adult audience. This was the perfect break through in America for those of us who heard so much about Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, but could only read reviews from foreign film festivals.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p is brings out the beauty of the forest and the spirt creatures. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 versions of both the original Japanese cast and the English dub. There’s also a French dub. The score and dialogue mix well. The movie is subtitled in English and French.

Feature-Length Storyboards also includes the finished audio.

Original Theatrical Trailers (16:36) point out the action elements in the film.

TV Spots (13:32) are from all over the globe.

Princess Mononoke in USA (19:55) follows director Hayao Miyazaki on his tour of North America for the release of Princess Mononoke. Stops include the Toronto Film Festival, New York Film Festival and a stop by Disney Studios in Burbank, California. He recounts his previous working in Burbank when he couldn’t get backing for films including My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke. Roger Ebert shows up.

Behind the Microphone (5:13) covers the American actors making the new dub including Claire Danes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Billy Crudup and Billy Boy Thorton. Danes is amazed at how adult the film turned out to be. Neil Gaiman (Sandman) worked on the translation.

8-page Booklet with Producer’s and Director’s Statements

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present Howl’s Moving Castle. Directed and Screenplay by: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Gillian Anderson, Minnie Driver and Billy Bob Thorton. Rated: PG-13. Running Time: 133 minutes. Released: October 17, 2017.

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