Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film is hard to review fairly because of our awareness that it is his last – or so he says. For decades, Miyazaki has been animating, directing and writing for cinema and is responsible for some of contemporary cinema’s most moving and philosophical animated films. A master of his specific style of animation, Miyazaki’s films are consistently visually stunning. Although my personal favourite Studio Ghibli features tend to be those of co-founder Isao Takahata, I can’t help but admire the gentle touch and intelligence that Miyazaki brings to his work. His work is both influential and original. At his best, his films are simply marvellous. At his worst, they are lengthy and slightly dull. The Wind Rises is certainly not the masterpiece that many critics have been labelling it but it remains a fitting send off for this genius of animation, art and cinema. The Wind Rises tells the loosely true story of a Japanese aircraft designer and his determination to create beautiful aeroplanes – falling in love along the way.
I read once that Miyazaki believed children should only watch one or two films a year. How much truth there is in this I can not tell you. Yet, it has always seemed to me that his films are epic events that often enthral as well as educate. The Wind Rises did not enthral me. It entertained me sufficiently and even moved me to tears but it did not affect me as deeply as I was hoping. As a critic, I always try to go into a film with no expectations but, sadly, it isn’t that easy when it comes to a Studio Ghibli creation. The studio have such a vast and impressive back-catalogue that includes acclaimed classics such as Spirited Away and Grave of the Fireflies as well as under-appreciated gems such as Only Yesterday and The Cat Returns. What all these films have in common is a child-like spirit and innocence. They are endearing and insightful movies despite all of their differences and unique quirks.
The Wind Rises tells a charming story but remains a little bit muddled. There are too many separate stories weaved into one and the main characters are just a little too perfect, sickly and overly likeable. Like most Ghibli pieces, The Wind Rises has a darker story lurking in the background, a story that is hinted at through dreams and fantasy sequences. The film is fifteen minutes too long and doesn’t come to a satisfying conclusion. It might sound as though I’m being far too picky but I had no choice but to pick this film apart. I ultimately came out of the cinema feeling a little disappointed; a feeling that quickly led to frustration because I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this was. I now realise it is mainly due to the film’s inconsistently paced narrative and a lack of depth of character. The Wind Rises is a perfectly adequate film for Miyazaki to end his career on but it is not the closing crescendo that he may have wanted it to be. My evidence lies in the fact that I simply don’t have all that much to say about it.
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