Celebrating Great Films

Sunday, June 10, 2012


#42 at time of writing.

I watched Prometheus a couple of days ago, billed as a prequel to Ridley Scott's Alien, so I had to re-watch the film that started it all.

In Alien, the crew of a mining vessel are woken from stasis to find that rather than having returned home to Earth, they've been roused to investigate a mysterious distress signal emanating from a dead planet. They land and discover an alien spaceship with a long-dead captain, and a roomful of hibernating eggs. Unwittingly, they bring one of the eggs back with them. Bad move.

Much has been said about how nail-bitingly tense and sinister this film is. The twists are shocking, and H. R. Giger's notorious alien delivers the ultimate horror kick.

Prometheus was entertaining, but one wonders why (beyond cynical profiteering) filmmakers feel the need to detract from the artful implication of backstory by actually showing the backstory as a separate movie (I'm looking at you and your crummy prequels, George Lucas). Alien was breathtakingly original - 33 years later, Prometheus delivers nothing new.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Princess Mononoke

#99 at time of writing.

After enjoying Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro, and especially Spirited Away, I was excited to watch the highly IMDb-rated Princess Mononoke.

A demonically possessed hog attacks the town of a forest tribe and infects a young prince. The prince, doomed to suffer a drawn-out and painful death, travels to a faraway land to seek the help of a forest spirit. But the matriarch of the local mining town is in conflict with the forest spirit and its animal denizens, including the eponymous wolf-princess Mononoke, and our hero's fate becomes entwined.

This is a much darker and bloodier affair than the other Studio Ghibli films I've seen, and in my opinion not quite as satisfying. The characters were fun, but I found it hard to empathise with them. I enjoyed the story, but certainly less compelling than it could have been. I watched the English dub (as written by Neil Gaiman) - I wonder if anything was lost in the translation.

The animation is lush and beautiful - the last major animated motion picture to be filmed on plastic animation cels - and the film was phenomenally successful in Japan, the highest-grossing film since E.T. until Titanic came along.

One of the things that most charms me about Studio Ghibli films is the visualisation of Japanese animism. The cute clockwork forest sprites were a highlight.