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01.10.2002

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flick pick | Princess Mononoke [Mononoke Hime] 1997
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Neil Gaiman [English screenplay], Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Gillian Anderson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Billy Bob Thornton
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: animation
Watch it when youíre in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, fantastical 
The critic says: Ĺ/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis When Prince Ashitaka kills a rampaging boar demon one day, he manages to save his village, but suffers a horrible arm wound in the process. The wound is no normal break or tear, but a demon curse, and the villageís oracle informs Ashitaka that the curse will gradually spread through his body and kill him. Though his time is limited, she instructs him to use it by heading east, to the beastís origin, where he should seek a way to crush the evil that created the demon. This, she hints, may be his one chance for a cure. In the east, Ashitaka finds a bustling mining village run by the ambitious but humane Lady Eboshi, who takes in former prostitutes and lepers shunned by the rest of society, and teaches them useful skills like self-defense and ironwork Ö the latter of which will be put to use in her plan to demolish the villageís forest surrounds in search of iron. Itís these plans that start a fierce war between the humans and the forestís other animal inhabitants, among them, a wolf god named Mori, and her adopted human daughter, San, the Princess Mononoke. As the tension grows, Ashitaka, fueled both by his principles and a growing love for the feisty wolf-girl Princess, attempts to find a way to show both humans and animals that they can learn to live together, if they donít let their hatred destroy each other first.

Review With all the buzz that animated features like Shrek, along with everything thatís come out of the Pixar studios, have generated in recent years, you might think itís the miracle of computer animation that we should thank, for turning a medium that was once pure kid stuff into something more universally compelling. We oooh and ahhh over the convincing depiction of fur textures and facial tics, stare slack-jawed and dazzled by the complexity of those realistically-rendered worlds. But then you happen to chance upon a movie like Princess Mononoke, animated the old-fashioned way, and you realize, as you stare just as slack-jawed and dazzled: itís not about the advances of modern technology. Miyazakiís world doesnít look real, with itís simplified lines and swathes of flat color, but frequently, it looks much, much better: more lush, more frightening, more beautiful. Visually, Princess Mononoke is just plain spectacular, but the storyís pretty wonderful as well, providing complex characters that canít be boxed into a neat "good" or "bad" label, along with all the action and grand moral quandaries that are the hallmark of any good epic. And for anyone who feels a hint of apprehension concerning the fact that itís a dubbed version of the original that youíll see when you rent this flick, have no fear: with the exception of Claire Danes as San, the English-language voices capture the characters perfectly. Still, if youíre lucky enough to be watching Princess Mononoke on DVD, breeze through the English version first, but do go back and check out at least a little bit of the movie with its original Japanese voicework. (Turn the English subtitles on, of course.) óreviewed by Y. Sun

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