Skip to main content

Review: The Wind Rises




The Wind Rises, if you believe director and animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, is to be the last film of his career. If that is the case, he will be leaving us with the most divisive work of his filmography.

Based loosely on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, The Wind Rises follows Jiro from his dreams of flying machines as a small boy to the man who created the Zero fighter. The film begins in a dream of Jiro's, the boy flying a plane in the sky with nary a care. Jiro's pleasant flight is ended quickly as German zeppelins infiltrate his dreams dropping bombs over the idyllic Japanese countryside.

Jiro's talents as an engineering student will be the only way for him to realize his dreams of flight. Inspired by Italian aero-designer Giovanni Caproni, Jiro aims to create some of the most innovative work known to mankind. Miyazaki's film chronicles Jiro's life starting from his childhood, to the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, through the Great Depression, and Japan's entrance into World War II.

Designing the Zero Fighter Plane was the sole devotion of Jiro's life -- he thinks of nothing else and does nothing else. Even in dreams he thinks only of his next project and simultaneously converses with Giovanni Caproni. Set about creating his masterpiece many scenes feature Jiro doing nothing more than humming and fiddling about with his slide rule. As such he is a blank canvas, any personality present is brought there by the viewer.

The Wind Rises is a beautiful looking film and the story of Jiro Horikoshi is an interesting one, but unfortunately Hayao Miyazaki's efforts ultimately fall short. Gorgeous animation and fanciful sound design aside, when it comes to actualizing Jiro's story onscreen, The Wind Rises risks alienating viewers with its depiction of events during the Second World War.

Jiro and Caproni discuss war and the cost is has on their dreams and ambitions, but they glide right over the cost of human life. Caproni chooses to overlook these details and compares their planes to the pyramids, saying he would rather live in a world with the Egyptian pyramids than without. Jiro aligns himself with this line of ideology, but he never questions whether the slaves who died making those pyramids might wonder if that creation was worth all of their lives.

With Jiro's moral dilemmas soothed, he doggedly pursues designing the next level machine for Mitsubishi. Director Miyazaki never mentions that the Zero Fighter itself was built by Chinese and Korean slave labor, a bit of information which colors that debate between Jiro and Caproni significantly. This incongruity with history, along with many others in the film, is hard to ignore and makes 'Wind' even harder to enjoy.

The depiction of Nazi bombs being dropped over Japan suggests that Jiro's country was a victim of Nazi Germany when, in reality, the two countries were allies. Many times The Wind Rises lays the groundwork, presenting Japan as defending the homeland when the reality is far different. That may not be Miyazaki's intention, but viewers might come to that conclusion given that Jiro never mourns the victims, only the planes. Even in an ill-advised bit of fictional romance, Jiro seems to exist more as a passer-by than a person concerned with Nahoko's ultimate care.

In trying to keep from angering his fellow countrymen, Miyazaki may have made Jiro's internal conflict as subtle as possible, but it feels like it just isn't there. What cements that feeling is that when Jiro visits his Zeroes in a field of wreckage, he laments not human life, but that more of his planes didn't return to him.

Hayao Miyazaki has been very vocal about the negative effects of ignoring the atrocities of WWII, but sadly, the point of view he means to focus The Wind Rises on fails to get that point home. Unfortunately the exceptional beauty of Miyazaki's hand-drawn work of is overshadowed by the circumstances. Miyazaki may have found a man of similar passion in Jiro Horikoshi, but in capturing that passion, he opened the door for many more interpretations than he intended.

The Wind Rises is a complex film and one sure to arouse many different feelings. I may not have liked it, but I highly recommend that you give it a shot and decide for yourself.

Popular posts from this blog

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…