Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Nausicaa

Genre: Sci-Fi, Animation, Action/Adventure, Drama

Cast: The English dub has the voices of Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman and Patrick Stewart

Synopsis: Nausicaä is a young princess of the Valley of the Wind who inhabits a post-apocalyptic world overrun by a toxic jungle and giant insects. Nausicaä must prevent a neighbouring nation from using an ancient weapon against the jungle and insects.

It’s been a while since I reviewed a Myazaki film and the other day I got a huge hankering for one of his older and more mature films. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in 1984(before Studio Ghibli was founded) and although the soundtrack/sound effects may be a little dated, the animation and the story are as fresh as ever and prove that Miyazaki’s genius will transcend time and be treasured for generations to come. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that makes this film so special because it’s all so brilliant, complex and beautiful – as should be expected with any Miyazaki film.

One thing that I love about this film is its spiritual and environmental message. Unlike FernGully: The Last Rainforest which was heavy-handed with its environmental message, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind takes a more subtle route. Like one of Miyazaki’s later works, the film focuses heavily on human relationships with the environment and how greed, ill will and delusion drives conflict and poisons those relationships. Whereas FernGully features 80s pixies who help the forest grow with their songs about magical life-rain, the characters in Nausicaä are humans recovering from an environmental apocalypse who fear and resent the exquisitely animated toxic jungle which overwhelms the planet. Also inhabiting the planet are ginormous insects and the mysterious Ohmu which are kind of like divine crustacean-beetles. The message of the movie is that humans, the jungle and insects inhabit the same world and we need to learn to live together in complete balance.

In the midst of it all stands feminist-icon princess Nausicaä who must navigate all manner political and diplomatic hurdles while still managing to be a bad-ass. She flies, she’s kind, she fights like a demon and she befriends all sorts of cool animals. She’s essentially what I want my future-daughter to be: tough, kind, intelligent and principled. It’s rare to see this quality of heroine in today’s films, although tough heroine’s are a staple of Miyazaki’s films, just like multi-dimensional “almost-villains” which feature in this movie too. Nausicaä is the driving force behind the film and the audience comes to care for her deeply. In a way, she’s a greater hero than Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke because she’s a lot more accessible and less pious. The audience develops with her and as her understanding and respect for the environment grows so does ours.

As mentioned before, the soundtrack is a little bit dated but, if you love 8-s electro sci-fi music, this won’t be much of a problem. The film’s composer, Joe Hisaishi, is every bit as gifted as Miyazaki and he created a mind-blowing soundtrack that perfectly complements the eerie and desolate landscape in the film. If you’re baked, the music becomes otherworldly and reverberates in your body. It’s really a wonderful experience. Although the music may be a little outdated, nothing else in the movie is. The animation is as crisp and mesmerising as ever and the film’s central themes are arguably more important today than they were 20 years ago. I seriously advise everyone to watch this film with an open mind and, if you do, then prepare to be astounded.

High-lights:

  • A beautifully animated dystopian future that almost feels Tolkienian. It’s even more incredible considering the film is 20 years old!
  • A well-rounded main character who is a feminist icon.
  • The important environmental message.
  • Scenes of remarkable beauty. In my mind there are two stand-out scenes. The first is the scene in which Patrick Stewart’s character discovers Nausicaä secret garden which is all glowy and pretty. The second scene is the one in which Nausicaä flies over the desert and sees a lone Ohmu watching the sunrise.

Downers:

  • The soundtrack may annoy some people.
  • The pacing could have been tighter in places.

Summary:

I think that this movie could appeal to a wide audience because it is essentially a mish-mash of lots of different genres weaved seamlessly together to create a visual and well-plotted masterpiece. Please don’t write this movie off because it’s an anime and because it was created in the decade of stylistic horrors which was the 1980s. If you watch this movie I guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised.

9.5/10

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9 Comments

Filed under Action/Adventure, Animation, Drama, Mind Blowingly Awesome, Sci-Fi

9 responses to “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

  1. I really enjoyed this movie. I felt the ending was a little rushed and I was put off by the occasional 80s synth music, but it’s quintessential classic Miyazaki, which I personally prefer over more modern Miyazaki (which again I define to be anything post-Princess Mononoke).

  2. What I found even more impressive was that despite the fact that Laputa came out only 2 years after this one, the animation is SIGNIFICANTLY better, looking better than most modern animated movies.

    • I went to see this at the Egyptian Theater when I was living in Los Angeles and the quality of the animation when you see it on the big screen is mind-blowing. It definitely competes with both Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke in terms of animated brilliance.

      • A (relatively minor) issue I have with newer Ghibli movies is how they use CG in their animation; I preferred the purely hand-drawn animation of their older movies.

  3. Great review. Still need to watch this one…

  4. My sentimental favourite, as I saw this as a child. I liked your comparison to Ferngully, which was a pretty heavy-handed film in terms of its environmental message. I would encourage you to check out the graphic novel, which expand tremendously on the movie, and is regarded by many as Miyazaki’s greatest work.

  5. Pingback: Akira (1988) | bakedmoviereviews

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