Every so often, a small group of us wander off to movies on a weekend night. This past Friday, we had planned to see Star Trek for a dollar (each), but while looking through the paper for show times. Jon saw that Ponyo on the Cliff, the new Hayao Miyazaki movie was playing, which lead to a number of "Who?" and "What's a Ponyo" kinds of questions. But with a little insistence and a promise to go see Star Trek next week, we all went off for a ten o'clock showing of a kids movie! And here, in our soon-to-be-signature symposium style, is our review.
Jon: The first thing that struck me about this movie, right from the opening, was that Miyazaki's art style had changed. Talking to my brother, he seemed to think it made the movie more like a kid's book, which is true. I think it might have owed something to the "superflat" style, emphasizing motion and fluidity over detail. Especially in the way the adults (except maybe the old ladies) are animated.
Lauren: I really liked the children's book style -- I thought it fit the overall theme of the movie, and the interactions between the characters. It would have been strange if the art had been elaborate while telling the story that it did.
Jon: I was impressed at the lack of dynamic tension in this movie. It's like they wanted to make sure four year olds could watch and not have nightmares- but please note, that's not a criticism. It took the innocence of, say Totoro, or The Cat Returns, and cranked it back a notch. I think some people might be going into this looking for Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, which are phenomenal movies, but come away a little surprised. They shouldn't; they don't call Miyazaki "Japan's Disney" for nothing.
Lauren: Yet, there was still much in the film that adults could appreciate. I definitely liked the little interwoven story about Lisa (the mother figure of the film) and her relationship with her husband and her son, and the way she reacted to Ponyo's sudden appearance in her life. The differing attitudes of the old women at the senior center gave me a few giggles, too.
Jon: That's a really good point. One of the things Miyazaki has always had a good understanding of is children, and how they interact with the world,and especially with adults around them. I loved the scene where Sosuke is signalling his dad at sea, and Lisa is refusing to say anything but "BUG OFF" because she's mad. Sosuke doesn't understand much, except that he wants to talk to his dad.
Lauren: And a lot of the time, I found myself simply listening to the fantastic score.
Jon: The music was interesting. The vaguely Wagnerian part where Ponyo is jumping on the fish was kind of odd. And the song at the end, I guess that's what you get when you try to make a faithful translation! I was not aware that having a round belly was the epitome of the nine year old girlish figure, but ok. I had a lot of fun with the crowd, too, that would come to see an animated children's feature at ten o'clock on a Friday night!
Last thought: imagine this with "Ponyo" replacing "Narwhal", and feel free to complain in the comments section!