Impression of The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki had publicly mulled over retirement from filmmaking before. With the original release of The Wind Rises, though, it seemed as if meant it that time. I waited for a while for this to receive a release in the USA, and today I went to the local arthouse theater to watch it.
The picture is based loosely on the younger life of Jiro Horikoshi, real-life designer of state-of-the-art airplanes for the Japanese army during the Second World War. It’s true—his dedication to crafting beautiful things results in death-dealing weapons. The story does touch on that aspect, but the fact that it doesn’t delve more deeply into it might be considered a serious flaw (especially with certain actions by Imperial Japanese forces becoming more widely known in recent decades).
In any case, the story is not only slow-paced but also borders on bland, even with the efforts at grown-up human drama. The animation, however, is often impressive. One must respect how people can hand-draw so many frames in such an elegant and coherent manner. The spectacular flying scenes that have been associated with Hayao Miyazaki are certainly present here. The scenery is also gorgeous too, which has been another trademark of the director and his studio.
Overall, The Wind Rises is decent. Would I say that it’s decent instead of good? It didn’t quite impress me the same way that Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away did. Still you could do worse than The Wind Rises.
Impressions of Superheroine Comics
There’s a fair bit of talk about the need for heroines to be just as thoughtfully crafted, inspiring, visible, and admired as their male compatriots. Thus I planned on little theme for my next Impressions post: superheroines! I took a look at the first volume of the new Wonder Woman series and the first volume of the new Captain Marvel series.
In the new Wonder Woman series, Princess Diana (also known as the titular superheroine) finds out that she wasn’t really made out of clay by the queen of the Amazon kingdom, but rather is one of many results of Zeus’ philandering—indeed, that Zeus. She also has to protect a woman carrying another one of Zeus’ offspring from the jealous Hera. Speaking of deities, their heavy involvement lends a different air than is typically associated with DC Comics, a mythic one, which is nice. The deities’ appearances are the most creative aspects of the design work. The artwork itself is a bit uneven in regards to overall quality, but it is often clean and can be fairly detailed. The plot within this volume is effective in establishing a brawny, large-scale storyline ahead.
In the new Captain Marvel series, the heroine formerly known as Ms. Marvel takes on the mantle of the alien superhero (there’s a convoluted backstory that is thankfully explained in bits and pieces). Her first major adventure takes her back in time, eventually to meet a pioneering pilot whom she admires. The artwork in the first few chapters has a very rich and heavily blackened style in the rendering and coloring. There are also plenty of very dramatically composed action scenes, thanks the reasonably dynamic layouts of panels and the reasonably fancy poses. However, soon enough the artwork changes into something more typically inked and colored; it also has less polish in some respects. Like some of the other comics that I’ve looked at on the Weblog, the title character is a nice one to follow, but the plot in itself is barely anything to write home about. As a matter of fact, it actually feels a bit unwieldy, generic, and borderline ham-fisted in regards to women’s places in the public square.
From what I understand, longtime fans of Wonder Woman haven’t been very enthusiastic with the way Wonder Woman has been handled nowadays. If I may be honest, I like this new direction. Readers of Marvel comics, on the other hand, have tended to like the new Captain Marvel, so much so that there is a Carol Corps. I thought that the first volume of the latter’s series was a mixed bag but I can certainly see the appeal.
Impression of The Lego Movie
You’d think that toy bricks wouldn’t make for a good movie. You’d think that such a movie would be merely a glorified commercial for toys. You’d think that it would be total fluff. Those were my thoughts as well when I saw the first articles and trailers. However, when I saw the kinds of reviews that The Lego Movie actually got, I changed my mind and invited Jason to meet me at the theater.
This really was a solid motion picture. Though computer-animated, it is animated in such a manner as to look like a bunch of stop-motion toys. That style lends a personality and charm. Of course, there is plenty of wild, clever, grin-inducing spectacle. Speaking of grins, the whole movie is peppered with great gags and wisecracks. The story spoofs nearly every cliche of formulaic Hollywood adventure movies. More importantly, it pokes fun at conformity and obsession with order, and it eventually delves into the theme of imagination and childlike wonder. The climax, though a bit sentimental, is truly touching, even with little toy figurines.
Yes, The Lego Movie may still the kind of franchise-based movie that Hollywood gravitates towards these days, even a toy movie. I assure you that it’s more than that. Give it a go.
Impression of More Saga of the Swamp Thing
Over the past few weeks, give or take a few days, I read through several more volumes (2 through 5, to be specific) of Saga of the Swamp Thing. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to type and share my impressions since it was likely to be more of the same. Nonetheless, maybe you might be interested, especially if you haven’t seen my impression of the first volume.
The artwork is still finely detailed, truly fitting, and sometimes startling. The panel layouts, though, can still stand to be less gimmicky and more straightforward. What about the story arcs? This set starts off with some genuinely creepy horror tales. Interestingly enough, there’s also a take-off of Walt Kelly’s Pogo (I’ll have to see if I can download a collection of those comics to my Kindle). The titular plant gets involved in wild and epic battles (including one against Batman), trippy journeys around the earth and through the heavens and the afterlife, and a romantic affair (with a human woman, which in is itself is a trippy thought). These stories are all intelligent, never quite mundane, and at times touching, however strange they might become.
There is supposed to be one more volume for Alan Moore’s stories for the Swamp Thing, but that hasn’t been released yet. In all honesty, for some reason I can’t decide whether this is actually an all-around better series than Watchmen. It might be that these stories are more emotive than the deconstructionism of Watchmen.