Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gake no ue no Ponyo

So the independent summer train keeps rolling on. First it was Hurt Locker, then Moon, and now Ponyo (even though it's been out in Japan for a year). Ponyo demonstrates one of Miyazaki's skills, creating children. Ponyo is easily the cutest thing he's put on screen since 1989's My Neighbor Totoro. The visual aesthetic is, of course, beautiful, and the animation is great. Unfortunately the narrative suffers a bit, which prevents his movie from being among his best.

Ponyo is in the same vein as The Little Mermaid, about a fish (Ponyo) wanting to become a human. Along with this simple and human tale, Miyazaki throws in some epic repercussions. In essence the entire world hangs in a balance because of the decisions of one fish. This lead to some absolutely breathtaking scenes, but the scope of this otherwise intimate story was a tad too much.

On the other end is Sosuke, the little boy who is the adoration of Ponyo. Some of the best scenes are between him, Ponyo, and Sosuke's mother- who is just trying to cope with the concept of this fish who's magically turned into a girl (I must say she takes it very well). There were a number of scenes reminiscent of the Little Mermaid, with learning how to eat with utensils.

An interesting trait that is found in similar Miyazaki films (Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service) is the absence of a true antagonistic force. In Ponyo there is really no villain- even characters that seem a little bad really aren't. In cases like these, circumstance or nature are really the opposing forces. I have no problem with these, he used that force very effectively in other movies. But with the scope of the destruction of the planet in balance here, it seems there should a more conscious force behind the conflict.

Narrative problems aside, the movie was beautiful. Miyazaki's movies always seem like they're paintings in motion, and Ponyo takes this even a step further. In a genuinely exciting scene, Sosuke and his mother are trying to outrun a raging sea, with giant waves that resemble actual fish as they crash over the winding road leading to their house. All the while Ponyo running along along the surface of the water.

Though this isn't in the upper echelon of Miyazaki's cannon, that doesn't say much. Ponyo is certainly weak when it comes to the narrative (it has its fair share of holes that are solved by simply ignoring them). Despite its problems, Ponyo is still a beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable animation. Finally, even though this doesn't have anything to do with the movie itself- I really wish these movies would shown in Japanese with subtitles. I am absolutely tired of dubbed over films.


1 comment:

Ben said...

Yeah. I loved this too.