Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos, Mark Hamill, Shia LaBeouf, Chris Sarandon
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
MPAA Rating: PG for violence
Language: English or Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 117
Date: 03/18/2013

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Global Warning

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki found his stride in 1988 with My Neighbor Totoro, and continued with an unbroken string of masterworks up to his most recent, Spirited Away (2002). Before that, on Castle in the Sky (1986) and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, he established his distinctive visual technique, but he was relying on traditional anime-type stories about post-apocalyptic worlds and environmental warnings. These heavy, bombastic stories rigidly clash with the master's gentle, observant style, making for a slightly unsettling viewing experience.

In Nausicaä, a young princess ventures into the poison forest to find ways to help her people survive. She's also the only one who can communicate with a race of giant bugs, the Ohmu, who defend the poison forest. Everything comes crashing down when a giant warrior is disturbed and stolen from its resting place, and every army in the world swarms in, each trying to direct it for its own purposes. As a result, we get too many characters and too many plotlines, all taking away from the story of the remarkable girl -- voiced in the English version by the terrific, underused actress Alison Lohman. Miyazaki's instincts take over from time to time in the film's rare quiet moments, but overall it's awfully preachy and wearying.

Disney's two-disc DVD set continues their tradition of brilliantly re-packaging Miyazaki's works for US audiences. It comes with both the English-language version and the original Japanese, as well as working storyboards, trailers, a featurette about recording the English voices and a featurette about the birth of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli.

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