the wind rises 1

It comes as no surprise that a Studio Ghibli film such as The Wind Rises would contain masterful animation, the kind that’s consistently put the company in the spotlight for many years. The Hayao Miyazaki movie may have a couple of small dents in the story, but it’s not enough to take away what is yet another moving film in Studio Ghibli’s impressive collection.

The Players:

  • Director: Hayao Miyazaki
  • Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
  • U.S. Voice Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mae Whitman, Werner Herzog, William H. Macy
  • Original Music By: Joe Hisaishi

Plot Synopsis:

The Wind Rises is based off the true story of Jirô Horikoshi (Gordon-Levitt) and how he came to be the man who created the Japanese fighter planes that were used throughout World War II. It shows us the struggles he went through in order to get his vision made, between the troubles with the war and unexpectedly finding true love along the way.

The Good:

  • Animation: The animation Hayao Miyazaki’s latest creation is nothing short of gorgeous. Even though they don’t need to, Studio Ghibli continually proves what kind of masters they at forming the kind of vibrant worlds that constantly draw us in. Each of their scenes, whether it’d be through the coloration or the rhythmic flow of the animation, can invoke all sorts of wonderful emotions in the viewer that make the movie-going experience incredibly memorable. There are a couple scenes that pop out in my mind, one of them being the ominous formation of the thick dark smoke clouds enveloping the city our hero is trying to get towards, building up the terror of that situation, down to the texture of the grass underneath a low-flying airplane bouncing up and down in one of Jirô’s fantastical dreams. There rarely is ever a complaint about the animation in a Ghibli Studio production, but the story and the voice actors are at times questionable to how good one of their films really can be.
  • Sound Effects: When you hear the roar of the airplane first taking off in the beginning of the film, pay close attention to the sounds you’re listening to. A lot of the sound effects heard throughout The Wind Rises stands out so clearly because a lot of it was created by people’s own voices, not through random sounds a foley artist did in a random studio somewhere. You hear a group of people create that deep, booming sound as one of the airplanes kicks into gear. In the first half of the film our hero is faced with a devastating earthquake, and when it first comes in you can even hear the sound effect people say the words “earthquake” as it sweeps through the scene. It gives The Wind Rises an additional flair, keeping the sounds and animation lodged deep in your mind well after the credits have rolled.
  • Miyazaki: The Wind Rises may not be a marvelous spectacle in the same way that Miyazaki’s previous films, but the passion and love of this real life man’s story is there in this film. Jirô’s position wasn’t comfortable at all as he was hounded by many to create the perfect aircraft to help Japan in World War II. There are some points in the film where it touches upon whether or not he was doing it for a good cause, and how the metaphor of the wind explains his life’s work, and it’s fairly easy to understand. Rather than keep it biased, Miyazaki shows different sides of the spectrum, between Jirô’s superiors demanding that he get this done for the better of Japan to his own personal wishes to just be near the side of the woman he loves. The Wind Rises is a rather sweet and slightly tragic tale and was handled wonderfully by Miyazaki.

The So-So:

  • Voice Actors: Certain audience members may sit back in their seats watching dubbed movies and quickly recognize who’s the famous actor behind the voice of the animated character. In some ways that takes some of the magic from the movie-watching experience, but sometimes it can’t be helped because that person’s voice is so memorable. When you look at the credits, we all know that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is voicing our hero, but he doesn’t exactly sound like himself. It’s easier to get swept up in the story of following this character, especially when the voice actors make a real effort to try and alter themselves for the betterment of the film. The Wind Rises is based off a true story of an aeronautical engineer, and with any plot centered on the life of a real person, everyone wants to make sure that the tale is conveyed in the best way possible. There were a couple voice actors in the cast whose voices were recognizable, and while that did take my attention away from the overall film for a minute or two, it wasn’t enough to completely ruin my experience.

The Bad:

  • Story Length: It’s understandable that The Wind Rises would be a little long in the tooth plot-wise since we’re dealing with half the life of Jirô, but there is a couple instances in the middle of the film where it feels almost unnecessary to keep the length that long. The movie slowly trudges it’s way through different areas of Japan, and even Germany, as it further explains the troubles that Jirô had to go through, but there could have been a little trimming of the fat with a couple of scenes in the middle. The Wind Rises falls in danger of losing the attention of the audience as Jirô continually travels around, trying to make the design of that perfect plane but not quite getting it right, but once Nahoko (Blunt) enters the picture, the film picks right back up.

Overall:

Many fans of Hayao Miyazaki, including myself, hope that he never retires so he can continue to make wonderful animated pictures like The Wind Rises for audiences to see around the world. Only he can make the storytelling and animation process, combining the two, appear so simple when he creates products like this for the big screen.

Rating: 9/10

The Wind Rises opens in limited U.S. theaters on February 21st.

Trailer:

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