Ooooooh boy. I feared this day. I never knew what I would do if something this absolutely unthinkable ever happened. Any cred I had as an anime fan would probably be trashed and pissed on by the otaku masses, I thought. It's blasphemous, I know, but.... I fucking hated a Hayao Miyazaki movie. GRRRRRRRRRR! I don't even like writing that! It hurts! I mean, I wasn't too crazy about Ponyo, but it was enjoyable enough. And everything else the master has done (including Cagliostro and even Future Boy Conan) I hold dear to my heart!... But Miyazaki's newest feature (and supposedly last... but we know better) The Wind Rises is a piece of animated cow shit. There, I said it... I feel both relieved and sad, and a bit scared.
The Wind Rises is an attempt at a new genre for the masterful Miyazaki: historical biography drama. The idea was noble enough, and the subject matter (the life of Japanese aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi, and his life's goal of creating the ultimate
murdering flying machine) actually intrigued me, but the execution of the plot was not unlike the Japanese mass executions of the Chinese, Koreans, and United States' POWs during the events in WWII where the planes that Horikoshi created were used to massacre tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people. It was not enjoyable to say the least.
It's like Roger Ebert always said: It's not WHAT a movie's about, it's HOW a movie is about it; meaning it doesn't matter if the subject of a movie is something you find silly and tedious (say for example taking the subject of the King of England learning to talk without stuttering), as long as the writer and director make it entertaining (and this allows the viewer to get involved in the affairs on screen) the final product can be just as much fun as The King's Speech. The Wind Rises takes something that could have been interesting (a man who wanted to build the perfect plane, only to see it turned into a mass-killing machine) and makes it tedious and boring. I mean Jesus! It's like Hayao and his son, Goro, switched places on their latest movies! Goro's most recent flick (From Up On Poppy Hill) was actually ridiculously charming, but Hayao's.... I honestly almost fell asleep 5 times during the course of it.
The Wind Rises is all about Japanese plane designer Jiro Horikoshi and his life-long dream of designing the most beautiful and amazing aeroplane ever to fly, during the years of Japan's march towards global domination. We follow his early family life, his rise to the top at the university he went to, and his eventual job as team leader for a Navy contract for a new fighter plane that they could use on their newfangled aircraft carriers to help them to take over the Pacific. We also witness the meeting and marriage of Horikoshi and the lady love of his life, and his sort-of caring devotion to her despite her tuberculosis that would sweep her away from him at a critical junction of his professional career. Tear drop.
Let me get into the nitty gritty of Wind here in order to dissect my displeasure with it. I know that I'm going to have to document every last item that disappointed me in order to make my case, since most of you will disagree with me sight unseen (as would I before I saw it, 'cause Miyazaki is a fucking animation GOD). First of all, the plot of Wind is based on the life of plane designer Jiro Horikoshi... Only it's not. The only real FACT that Miyazaki gets right in his film is the fact that Horikoshi developed the Mitsubishi A5M and the A6M ZERO fighters for the Japanese military as they began their push across Asia and the Pacific in the events leading up to and including World War II. Everything else about Horikoshi's personal life that Miyazaki put into his movie is ENTIRELY MADE UP. Seriously, he just imagined that Horikoshi felt certain ways about planes, and his mother, and Germany's war-mongering, and his wife. Fuck, I don't even think Horikoshi even got married to a girl with a terminal disease in real life even though that drama that was the biggest subplot of Wind!
Other "facts" that Miyazaki either got wrong or just plain didn't give two shits about were as follows: Horikoshi didn't really care about planes until he got to the university level of his education, but in the movie he DREAMS about them since childhood; Horikoshi did not even HAVE a sister, let alone one who went to medical school; Horikoshi was not involved in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that leveled Tokyo, or if he was there are no records of him being there, or especially being as heroic as he was in the story anywhere, even in his own memoirs; Horikoshi was actually kind of a pretty piss-poor aeronautical engineer in real life, never fully understanding or capable of creating a plane that the Navy requested for a long time (and actually asking them to not be so stringent and to lower their standards at one meeting in which the Navy probably laughed at him and said "Anta bakaaaaaaaa?" just like Asuka to the retarded Shinji); Horikoshi had two sons, which never happened in the movie (and actually could have been used to make the totally unsympathetic tardy protagonist a bit more likeable in my humble opinion); and Horikoshi actually experienced the effects of a US Firebombing, and had suffered from despair over all the death caused by his own plane, but none of those very important real-life markers were placed into the finished film, thusly leaving out all the main points of the designer's humanity.
So Miyazaki altered history for his own story. "Big deal," you say. I'd be inclined to agree with you, except all of the changes that he made seemed to be for the worst. All the alterations or the parts of Horikoshi's life that he snipped out could have only helped to make the man (whose life story we're watching) appear more human and compassionate. Instead, in Miyazaki's world, the man of the moment is a fucking robot. All we ever see him do is design planes while not smiling. Oh, he does court a dying woman while not smiling too, but he ignores her for most of their time together in order to create his aviation masterpiece. It was supposed to make him appear dedicated and hard working, but instead it simply made him look like a giant scrote and made me hate him more.
"Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" Crappy. Ill-paced, boring, and terribly constructed, if I may be so bold. I don't know how but Miyazaki seemed to have completely forgotten every last hard-earned lesson he learned in his decades of directing feature films leading up to his work on The Wind Rises. He forgets how to keep his audience interested in the goings on on screen. I told you before, I almost fell asleep multiple times during the middle third of this movie because I cared so little for this unfeeling moron as he stared at his schematics silently and blankly, or lit up a cigarette and sat down staring ahead silently or blankly. I shit you not, there were at least 5 scenes where all we saw was Horikoshi enter a room, light up a cig, and just sit there puffing for 30 seconds to a minute. These scenes brought nothing to the story. The scenes preceding them don't make us think that Horikoshi needs to ponder something that deeply either. Those smoking scenes are just there to take up valuable screen time for whatever reason.
By far my biggest concern over the well-being of Miyazaki's apparently waning talent though are the moments of the film that don't go anywhere. For example, while in Germany in order to see the new airforce that the Nazi's are building for the Blitzkrieg, Horikoshi and his buddy (whom he wasn't even pals with in real life) witness the Nazi SS troopers tracking a man and then raiding a building one night. Then end scene and "we'll never speak of it again." It was built up like our two Japanesey boys were about to be in a world of hurt for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but nothing came of it. Honestly, it wasn't until I started thinking about it hours later that I realized that the SS was probably hunting down Jews in this short scene. It could have been an important moment in Horikoshi's life where he realized the people that his country was associating itself with were evil douchebags. But no. Nothing.
Then there's the German that Horikoshi meets at the hotel in the Japanese mountains. We THINK he'll prove important to the story, but no, he soon disappears too after only serving to congratulate the protagonist for getting engaged to a TB-sufferer. Oh, and what the hell was up with the rather large subplot of Horikoshi being searched for by the Japanese secret police? It's supposedly so vital to the plot that our main man has to go into hiding, and then he has to marry his fiancee in secret too... But it's never explained why they were even after him or what would happen to him if they caught him. Hell, he even still goes to work at the Mitsubishi factory every day with no real worries as this is going on, so it can't be that dire, can it? And he's pretty much working for the military at this time too. Seriously, WHY were they supposedly after this poor schlupp?
So here we have a story about a real, historical figure where most of the plot of this over two-hour long flick is made up, all of the personality of the protagonist is removed, multiple subplots are either forgotten or ignored, and the ending of "Oh shit! After all I put into my plane and we still lost the glorious war" is tacked on so half-assedly that it really makes me wonder how much about the atrocities perpetrated by Horikoshi's plane affected either the engineer or the director when all is said and done. True, there were a few lines in the movie (honestly, two single lines at most) where they make Horikoshi say something like "Damn the Navy! I just want to make my beautiful plane FLYYYYYYYYYY!" but they felt so out of place that I'd guess that they were only added to the US dub so as not to make us believe that this was a pro-WWII Japanese jingo-istic flick, which it totally felt like. Hey, I understand, the losing side of a global conflict wants to feel good about losing... Only what gets me is in real life, Jiro Horikoshi truly was appalled by the killing done by his creation, and honestly felt some remorse and prayed that he would not be remembered as the designer of a murdering machine... Why not pull some of that into the final picture? Yeah, in the last minute of screen time we see Horikoshi looking at a bunch of his wrecked and shot down planes in his mind's eye, but we see none of the death that they caused. And then his dead wife appears and essentially tells him not to commit seppuku, and I rolled my eyes.
I find that I have two conflicting hopes for Miyazaki after watching this movie: One, I hope he makes one more great adventure film (like Mononoke Hime or Laputa) before he retires again; and Two, I also hope that he just retires for good seeing as the drop in quality of his last three movies has been exponentially negative and I don't want him to make another movie that's even worse than The Wind Rises.
Oh, I can't actually review this movie because the ROSSMAN watched it without me. Yup. He was out of town and near a theater that had this limited-release on one of its screens and he just chose to go see it. Alone... Which is something he should get used to for the immediate future.
Arrrrrrrrrr... This be a movie about that little Jap feller who made those Zero planes that the Ni--... I mean that the Japs kamikaze'd us with at the end of the Double-U Double-U Eye Eye... Arrrrrr, unless they show him to be the baby-eating soulless dick-holster that he was, me answer is "No thanks" to seein' this hear movie. I personally blew out 5 of those slant-eyed bastards as they came for me and me crew aboard the USS MacGuffin. Watched their brains splatter out the exploded canopy as I lay down heavy repellin' fire. I laughed as they crashed into the choppy sea either before or past me ship, and when they overshot us thanks to a few well-placed rounds o' me Gatling gun, bits of glass and blood would sprinkle the deck, and we'd all give the Imperial fucker the one-fingered salute to hell. Arrrrrrrrr. Glory days.