The Wind Rises (2014)

The Wind RisesJiro Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno) dreams of being able to fly, a dream he shares — apparently literally — with famed Italian engineer Caproni (Nomura Mansai). He devours an English-language aviation magazine, studies engineering at university in Tokyo and takes a job at an aeroplane manufacturer, quickly distinguishing himself with his designs and being selected for a research trip to Germany. While visiting a summer resort in 1932, Jiro happens across Naoko (Miori Takimoto), who he first met nine years earlier when their train was stopped by the Great Kanto Earthquake. The two soon marry.

You often hear people lamenting the absence of hand-drawn animation in the current cinematic landscape, but outside of Hollywood the format is still very much alive. One of the principle proponents of traditional animation is Studio Ghibli; their unique house style — youthful characters and lyrical plotting — has been charming audiences for decades. 2014 marks the end of an era, as Hayao Miyazaki, the acclaimed and beloved director of Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, retires from filmmaking. He bows out with The Wind Rises.

If there’s one thing to be said for The Wind Rises, it’s that it looks sensational. While Pixar, DreakWorks and Blue Sky agonise over individual strands of hair and realistic-looking textures, Ghibli continues to uphold the simpler but no less sophisticated standard that the studio has come to embody: traditional, intuitive and measured animation. Whether it’s the glint of sun against corrugated iron, torch-lit shadows against an alley wall or the way a paper aeroplane dances in the wind, The Wind Rises is full of magical moments and canny observations. It’s become poor practice to dwell on technical accomplishments in a review of an animated movie, but with The Wind Rises there’s sadly not much more to say.

Unlike his other films, Miyazaki’s swansong is surprisingly light on surreal imagery and childish whimsy. Gone are the sentient scarecrows and forest spirits, replaced instead by aeroplane designers and a woman with tuberculosis. The Wind Rises is loosely based on the life of Mitsubishi’s Jiro Horikoshi, but also draws elements from The Wind Has Risen, Tatsuo Hori’s account of life in a TB sanatorium. These subjects deserve to be addressed with sensitivety, and Miyazaki does so…at length. There is nothing to lighten the tone, and children weened on Scrat and Madagascar‘s penguins (heck, anyone used to the pace and tone of mainstream cinema) might struggle to remain engaged with the story. The characters are incredibly, unbearably bland, while the yawning plot neither builds momentum nor follows a clear trajectory. The only clear conflict comes from Jiro’s dreams of designing beautiful aircraft and the reality that those creations will be used to kill and destroy, it’s an interesting quandary but no substitute for engaging characters.

This is clearly a very personal film for Miyazaki — it’s not only his final feature film, but a story he has told before in the medium of manga — but it comes across as indulgent rather than insightful. Characters enjoy innumerable, beautifully animated cigarettes, engage in thorough, no doubt highly accurate discussions about aerodynamics and labour over intricate and important designs, but with little in the way of incident or drama. Miyazaki hasn’t just retired, he’s grown up — and it’s a crying shame.

2-stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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