Monday, June 25, 2018

Movie #468: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is an animated movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki and starring (in the English dub) Alison Lohman, Shia LeBeouf, Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman, Mark Hamill, Chris Sarandon, Edward James Olmos, and Tress Macneille.

1000 years in the future, the world has been destroyed by war and people live in several different kingdoms. Most of the world has been covered by a toxic jungle inhabited by huge mutant insects, the most dangerous of which are the Om (giant pillbug like creatures that stampede over cities en masse when provoked). Nausicaa (Lohman) is the princess of the Valley of the Wind, a kingdom by the sea, and while the ever-encroaching jungle is a problem, she and her family and her people are doing more or less OK.

And then a plane from the kingdom of Tolmekia crashes into their land, carrying poison spores from the jungle and a nascent super-weapon they stole from the kingdom of Pejite, and everything goes to shit. The warlike Tolmekians invade and kill her father the king (Mark Silverman), enslave the inhabitants of the valley, and take Nausciaa back to Tolmekia, but en route are shot down by a young soldier from Pejite (LeBoeuf), and wind up in the jungle, where Nausciaa learns that the trees are slowly cleansing the world and the bugs are there to prevent people from making it worse.

People, of course, proceed to do exactly that, with the Tolmekian warlord Kushana (Thurman) and the Pejites bringing a whole horse of Om to the Valley, the super-weapon getting briefly activated, and everyone learning a valuable lesson about assuming the messianic figure in the prophecy is a dude.

Like all Miyazaki films, this is beautiful shot and animated. The world-building, likewise, is pretty fantastic (it was based on a manga that Miyazaki created), and it doesn't spend much time telling us much about these different kingdoms, yet we get a good sense of who they are and what they're like just from what we do see.

Of interest is Nausicaa being an absolutely badass and laying out a bunch of Tolmekian soldiers before realizing, upon almost killing her friend and mentor Lord Yupa (Stewart) that killing is bad, and swears off violence for the rest of the movie...which is kinda what winds up saving them. In a related matter, I really enjoyed the fear and deference everyone shows to Yupa, and that it's teased early and then pays off when he takes on a bunch of enemy soldiers like an absolute boss (with all due respect to Nausicaa and her quite astute observation that killing just begets more killing, I still love the scene in movies where one lone badass takes down a whole bunch of dudes, sue me).

Like a lot of Miyazaki's stuff, there's still a lot that goes unanswered at the end of the movie, but it's not about resolution of everything, just about this particular story, which is cool. And, likewise, these characters are layered - Kushana is a warmonger and a killer, but she's doing her duty by her country and she's not utterly stupid about her actions. Everyone's got a pretty valid reason for doing what they're doing, and sometimes that leads to violence and stupidity because everybody thinks they're right. That tracks.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium

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