Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ponyo: Pagan? or Pedestrian?

For anyone interested in its possible pagan themes, I regret to inform that Hayao Miyazaki's eagerly-awaited new film PONYO is a huge disappointment. That's not to say the art direction and animation are not first rate as always. But, by combining forces with Disney, Studio Ghibli has produced a film aimed at kids that simply hasn't the depth, heart or magic of Miyazaki's former masterpieces PRINCESS MONONOKE, SPIRITED AWAY or HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. Even KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE (about the child witch, remember?) has more soul than this.

I have a brief review posted here. I don't go into the underutilized pagan imagery and themes. The fact that Ponyo is a fish born of a mortal man (a wizard no less!) and a sea goddess, who becomes a girl through sheer force of will and her own suggested magical powers, or that Ponyo (it is said) can helo restore the balance of the world through love, are all things which could have been powerful threads in the story. But the details of Ponyo's abilities are almost nonexistent. The reason for the earth's inbalance (maybe to do with all the garbage by the sea shore?) are unexplained. And the relationship between the mortal wizard and the sea goddess (voiced by Liam Neeson and Cate Blanchett, no less) is unsatisfyingly vague. Pity. The film is sumptuous to look upon and often thrilling in its fast-paced action. But the ideas and symbolism so clearly aching to be given expression are given a back seat to silly dialogue and juvenile humor. I blame Disney. Hayao, please stick with your own studio next time.

In other movie news: as always Jason at The Wild Hunt has some interesting updates on the WICKER MAN remake, which has been retitled The Wicker Tree. It seems financial difficulties have been addressed and the production is moving ahead. Speed the Day!