*** Official PONYO Review Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by DaveF, Aug 16, 2009.

  1. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator

    Mar 4, 2001
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    One Loudoun, Ashburn, VA
    Real Name:
    David Fischer
    I'm a fan of animated movies in general and Studio Ghibli specifically. I've seen a handful of their work, and appreciated the distribution of their last several movies through Disney, thanks to John Lasseter.

    Studio Ghibli lacks the animated pizzazz of the later Disney movies and cutting edge realism of Pixar. Instead they bring a unique style, at least compared to what the domestic animation houses produce, and an organic feel to their animation, due certainly to their continued practice of traditional, hand-drawn animation. And the artwork and animation is always high quality; not flawless, but excellent.

    Studio Ghibli also brings, to my American sensibilities, a magical set of rules in for the movies, fluid in their usage but feeling consistent. The use of magic, or quasi-science, or whatever the plot device may be, is never explained but accepted upfront, works and allows for surprising, imaginative, and coherent stories.

    Their music tends to be orchestration, sometimes rather grandiose and classical feeling; again in contrast to the John Williams-esque and Phil Collins-pop-rock of Disney and such. The music fits, if to me sometimes seeming a bit over done.

    And the stories are dreamlike. They start in an unexpected place and end in an even more unexpected place. Perhaps it is the believable characters that drives the stories and makes them work. As fantastic as they may be -- down to talking bits of charcoal -- they make sense unto themselves and in their world. The stories often touch on the conflict between the modern world and the natural world. While the moves are rich, carrying me along entranced, the endings are usually abrupt, almost non-sequiters, but adequately satisfying.

    And so I've enjoyed the last few movies, especially "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle".

    "Ponyo", unfortunately, compromises every aspect of Studio Ghibli's work. The artwork is sub-par, looking amateurish in the beginning and having rough spots all througout. The rules for the world never quite make sense and feel random. The movie is skewed quite young, seemingly meant for five year olds, and left me feeling antsy, hoping for the film to pick up the pace for large chunks. And the characters are unbelievable. The protagonists are five year olds, acting like they are 10 - 13, and being tested for true love; a preposterous idea for any sense of a kindergartner. The antagonist is never explained, has only vague motivations, is indicated to be a profoundly evil megalomaniac, but whose plans are immediately forgotten and jarringly concluded as silly, over-protective father. And the music is simply pompous and unfitting.

    As a Studio Ghibli fan, I watched with the pleasure I could find: several sequences were marvelous and had that special magic. But as a whole, the movie is a mess and quite disappointing.

    3 / 5
  2. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

    Nov 1, 2000
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    I loved this movie, but FWIW, I love Miyazaki films in general. Although I can see Dave's points on his other criticisms, I disagree the most with him on the artwork of the film. Before reading Dave's reaction, I PMed another HTF member, specifically saying how much I loved the look of the movie. The underwater scenes are magnificent in their abundance, as you would expect from Miyazaki's other crowded scenes. But out of the water, the grass and trees this time around are drawn in an impressionist manner; I could look at those greens all day, more so than his previous movies, and that's saying a lot when the man has made other films such as Totoro and Mononoke. The seemingly simplistic design of the picture, with our boy's home on the hilltop, the winding hill roads, the sea in the background, and so on, provide a great sense of geography and sense of depth. And then to see all of it from a totally different perspective later in the movie--I thought this was just a lovely picture to look at.

    The movie's main characters are slighly younger than the other Miyazaki adventures, but I didn't find this to make the picture juvenile. In fact, if anything, this movie reminded me most of Totoro. It's not as quiet and contemplative as Totoro; the fantasy aspects here are both more frequent and bombastic--and glorious they are--but the backbone of the movie is made up with a boy, his mother, an absent father, and his friendship, close to what Totoro was really about. That the fantasy story and its characters aren't isn't explained thoroughly or totally satisfactory was, to me, almost beside the point. I think it probably would have served the film better to cut back out some of the backstory here, but I think the balance here was better realized than in Howl's Moving Castle, a picture that was overwhelmed by its strands.

    Disney has released this movie into quite many theaters, but it's not a full release. These half-way releases never make the box office numbers look pretty. I encourage people to check it out before it leaves, which might be pretty soon.
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Ponyo". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an
    Official Discussion Thread.

  4. JediFonger

    JediFonger Producer

    Feb 2, 2006
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    Real Name:
    YiFeng You
    seen it w/Japanese soundtrack w/ENG subtitles =). great movie. i'll venture out into cinemas to see the ENG dub version soon.

    from what i see, it's just simply "yet another masterpiece" by Miyazaki. the guy makes these so effortlessly =P.

    first of all, regarding the whole magical sense/realms stuff u kinda have to know a bit about Far East culture as well as Japanese culture specifically.

    Far East culture has a lot more mysticism and superstitious-type elements in their daily living than Western counterparts. they will literally not even build a structure until it has been "fung shui" proofed. they also believe in spirit beings walking amongst us similar to Spirited Away things. they call these "ghosts"/apparitions but not in the scary-horror sense that western audiences know the same terms. the spirits/ghosts/supernatural-esque beings show up in Ponyo as the father ocean (Trident) and mother Earth (Gaia) symbolic and allegorical. it also has links to naturalism spirituals of Native American Indians flavors. the tadpole mini-Ponyos transform and metamorphosize (Kafka style) into full grown fishes is a theme that was also in Howl when the girl turned young again. it's about belief in urself and transformation (literally). there is also a coming of age motif that runs through all of Miyazaki's works.

    as for the Japanese culture elements, it's that of family and what it means to take honor in it. that's why people have to be polite and say morning, and just manners become a huge element of play in all of Miyazaki's "plays" (films). it's also y the mother father elements of the BOY is contrasted against the father mother elements of Ponyo herself.

    there's only 1 interesting thing i'd like to see explored and that is what was Gaia (mother Earth, which was also referenced in Final Fantasy the "Spirit" within movie), who is Ponyo's mother, and the Sousouke's mom having a LONG conversation about? =P.

    in the end there is a reconciliation of the Fathers. Ponyo reconciled w/her "father" and the boy reunited with his. it'll take me a few more viewings to dig into these topics, but Miyazaki's films are never surfacey, there are always very deep undercurrent themes running just beneath the skin.

    i hope that people turn out in droves =P. unfortunately i didn't see mass marketing/advertisement for this, so it might not get the audience it desires.

    edit: i have since watched this in the cinema w/ENG dub. wow it was terrible lol. well, not completely anyways, cate blancette and liam neeson were great. the rest i dunno =P. i really feel like they changed the meaning of the film AGAIN! accept others who are different? lol in the original Japanese it's about TRUE LOVE, but then again US audiences wouldn't understand about that for 5 year olds right? lulz. pubescent luv has always been a major theme of coming of age stories for miyazaki but the ENG really dumbed it down. so i was right, the ENG is horrible =p. completely changed the story.

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