The Wind Rises (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, PG-13)

TheWindRises 75While many purists prefer the original Japanese language track on Miyazaki’s films, I’ve by and large always been fine with the dubs Disney has done, as they tend to have high production values and usually have good actors as well. 

TheWindRises 500

So you’re a big Hayao Miyazaki fan, and you’ve heard that he’s said that his new feature film, The Wind Rises, will be his last as director, and though he’s said that before and not meant it (such as after the release of 1997’s masterpiece Princess Mononoke), you rush out to the theatre to see it anyway. You’re in for a surprise. While The Wind Rises is as good a film as we all as a planet have come to expect from Miyazaki, apart from the artistic virtuosity and ability to tell a great story, it doesn’t entirely feel like a Miyazaki movie. What? The whole thing involves people, and no fantastical creatures? What? The people in the film actually existed in history? What? The main character isn’t female? Etc.

Not that Miyazaki hasn’t made films set (mostly) in the real world before, or had male lead characters before, etc., but The Wind Rises is presumably his feature film that has the most discrepancies with what we’ve come to expect from the rest of his oeuvre, not counting the films he’s only served as screenwriter on. Taking his side work in screenwriting into account, The Wind Rises feels like a cross between the Miyazaki-directed Porco Rosso and the Miyazaki-written Whisper of the Heart. The Wind Rises focuses on a character named Jirô Horikoshi (voiced in the Japanese-language version by Hideaki Anno, and by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the English-language version), who is a composite between real WWII-era figures Jirô Horikoshi, who designed fighter planes, and Tatsuo Hori, a novelist. While raising the real Horikoshi to hero status in a film marketed by Disney in America might seem a little odd, given that the fighter planes he designed were used against, well, us, Miyazaki handles it with enough grace and lack of overt nationalism so as to not put off the average moviegoer (though I wouldn’t be quick to take a WWII vet to it…).

Anyway, while Jirô’s profession as a plane designer allows Miyazaki to return to his constant motif of flying (which motif is informed by Miyazaki’s father’s profession, which was helping to build fighter planes… this is all starting to make sense…), the introduction of love interest Nahoko Satomi (Japanese: Miori Takimoto, English: Emily Blunt) brings him back to his love of strong female characters. Sure, Nahoko isn’t the lead this time around, but she’s as likeable and memorable as you have come to expect from Miyazaki’s females. Elsewhere we have big set pieces, including a train wreck you won’t soon forget, and after a while this does start to feel like a Miyazaki film, despite maybe not seeming entirely like one on the surface.

While many purists prefer the original Japanese language track on Miyazaki’s films, I’ve by and large always been fine with the dubs Disney has done, as they tend to have high production values and usually have good actors as well. Gordon-Levitt and Blunt aside, the Engligh dub of The Wind Rises features such favorites as John Krasinski (who’s married to Blunt in real life), Werner Herzog, Mae Whitman, William H. Macy, and others. That said, at the time of this writing I have not personally seen the English dub of The Wind Rises; I’m reviewing the film based off of a Japanese-language screener DVD that Touchstone sent me late last year. It probably goes without saying that the original Japanese voice track is great (despite the general reliability of the English dubs, the Japanese track still tends to be better—this is best witnessed in 2001’s Spirited Away), and also that I’m going to run out and see the English dub in theatres at my first opportunity. Which brings me to some other good news about The Wind Rises—its release marks the first time a Miyazaki film has been released theatrically in St. Louis in both Japanese and English simultaneously; for at least the first week of release (and probably much longer) Plaza Frontenac will be running the English dub and the Tivoli will have the original Japanese voice track. The practice of releasing both at once in the same market has been done in other, bigger cities with Miyazaki’s past films, and I’m glad they’ve decided to do it here with this one. It’s a good reason to see it twice in theatres—besides, it’s not like you’re ever going to have the opportunity to see a new Miyazaki in the theatre again after this (weep). | Pete Timmermann

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