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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Wind Rises review: Jiro dreams of flying

The Wind Rises yellow light

Visually ravishing, as you’d expect from Hayao Miyazaki, but there is, disappointingly, no drama and no conflict here.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Studio Ghibli flicks

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s visually ravishing, of course; we’ve come to expect as much from Studio Ghibli. Legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (Ponyo) concocts gorgeous sequences that sit somewhere between steampunk engineering fantasias and grounded historical between-the-wars nostalgias. But there’s no drama and no conflict in this semifictionalized tale of Jiro Horikoshi. He dreamed of designing “beautiful airplanes” from his early-20th-century boyhood… and no obstacles stand in his way along the path to joining Mitsubishi as an aeronautical engineer. He doesn’t want to make aircraft for warfare, but that’s the direction things are moving in throughout the 1930s, and so he helps to create and build the Zero fighter plane that the Imperial Japanese navy would use throughout World War II. If you can get through to the very very end, there’s a bittersweet coda as Horikoshi revisits in his mind, as he has throughout his life, his inspiration, Italian engineer Giovanni Battista Caproni — always “Mr. Caproni” to Jiro in his imagination — wherein they acknowledge how their dreams are twisted by others into nightmares. But it’s a long slog to get there.

I viewed the subtitled Japanese-language version of ‘The Wind Rises.’ The voice cast of the English-language-dubbed version includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and Stanley Tucci.


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The Wind Rises (2014)
US/Can release: Nov 08 2013 (one-week Oscar-qualifying run)/Feb 21 2014
UK/Ire release: May 09 2014

MPAA: rated PG-13 for some disturbing images and smoking
BBFC: not yet rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Caproni clearly had a sense of humour. How else can one explain his Ca.60?

    I will probably see this when it’s readily available to me (subtitled because that’s my preference); I don’t suppose it will be put on the rolls of Great Miyazaki, but even off-day getting-tired Miyazaki has always been pretty darn worth watching.

  • Rianna Esquivas

    Hi :D I’m new here and i’m kindda confused cause i found this site from rottentomatoes. okay so I saw that you gave this a Rotten which means you say it’s bad. but in this site it’s yellow and that means “worth seeing, but wait for DVD” so that means you kindda/sorta liked it? also why is it Rotten if majority of this review is positive? I also want to know what you give this movie from a scale of 1-10. sorry I just find this site confusing. :)

  • Rotten Tomatoes allows only a Fresh or a Rotten. So when I post my reviews at RT, a green light is always Fresh and a red light is always Rotten. WIth yellow-light reviews, I have to decide if my yellow light represents an opinion that is more positive or more negative. In this case, it’s more negative. I don’t think the majority of my review is positive. This is a movie that looks very pretty — and so might be worth a look for that alone — but does not contain a satisfying story, or really a story of any kind. Most movie fans, I think, wouldn’t be happy with that. So I labeled it Rotten on RT.

    On a scale of 1-10, this is about a 4. I’m not sure how that helps more or less than a yellow light, but there you go.

  • Rianna Esquivas

    I still kindda find it confusing that this is in the 2013 list and it’s smack in the middle above Warm Bodies and The Frozen Ground which got a Fresh on RT? Does is mean you liked this more than those? Do those also get 4/10? Is is that you like this one more, or that you suggest The Wind Rises is more worth seeing? How do the rankings work? You say you rank as you see them “on the fly” does this mean you rank according to release date or from best to worst?

    Also, I really appreciate that this review is catered to movie fans in general rather than to the target audience (Ghibli/animation lovers). Cause you and me know that the Ghibli fans (and probably people who want to check it out to cause of the oscar buzz perhaps?) are the only ones who would actually pay to see this. I still haven’t seen it yet but I think i’m gonna like it cause the trailer looked so cute. :D

  • The Wind Rises probably should be lower in the annual ranking. I’ll change it.

    I wish RT had a middle rating between Fresh and Rotten. My ranking here and how I choose to rate a film at RT are always going to be fraught with problems. It’s also not easy to rank films when I’m judging them on their own individual bases and not in direct comparison to other very different films that open each year.

    “On the fly” means “as I see them over the course of the year.” I don’t wait till the year is over and then try to rank the hundreds of movies I’ve seen. The enormous difficulty of that is why I started the on-the-fly rankings in the first place.

    I’m curious as to why this all bothers you so much. Do you disagree with my take on the film? If so, why not discuss that? Or are you upset that I rated the film Rotten on RT and brought its Freshness rating down?

    I originally had no ratings system at all at this site. I don’t like reducing movies to a rating and would prefer that readers read my review if they want to know what I thought of a film. But readers demanded something. I felt the traffic-light system offered more nuance than numbers or stars. Maybe it’s too nuanced. But I’m sticking with it.

  • Rianna Esquivas

    “It should be lower on the ranking” Yeah that seems to make more sense.

    “I wish RT had a middle rating” Also makes sense, cause Fresh= Good & Rotten= Bad. When a critic has mixed feelings towards a film they have to deliberate whether it gets a fresh or a rotten. If there was a mixed rating, it would be much easier for audience members to comprehend.

    “I’m curious as to why this bothers you so much..” As I said, I’m new to this site. I’m not bothered that you didn’t like the film (or have mixed feelings, whatever the case may be.) I’m just finding it all a tad bit too confusing. Why am I posting these questions under THIS particular movie? Simple. Cause it’s the only one I haven’t seen so far and I was reading both good & bad reviews. It just so happens that RT has 11 rotten ones which is relatively few compared to the 74 fresh ones that I had to skim through.

    “are you upset that I lowered the tomatometer” The “tomatometer” doesn’t define a movie’s so-called “freshness” unless it is 100% or 0% but, all films are liked and/or disliked for one reason or another. Some points are legitimate, others are biased.

    Just so you know, yes, I did read this review (Duh, it’s like one paragraph, it took me 15 seconds.) It basically summarized what other RT critics said but emphasized the negative ones. For instance, most negative reviews complained about how the biopic seemed fictionalized and they couldn’t take it seriously because it was “a cartoon”. The positive ones commended Miyazaki’s use for using the animation medium effectively by showing us how dreams come to life. Instead of using a gazillion dollars in an epic live-acion film–he used animation and art to show beautiful dream-like sequences of a character who just so happens to be a big dreamer. I guess Miyazaki chose to make his last film about a big dreamer considering the fact that he, himself is a big dreamer. Think about it.

  • Andrea Q.

    You see, Rianna, Maryann is the type of gal who stands for what she thinks is right even if she has to stand alone. Now I have seen the film and I disagree with her review. It DID have a conflict (his inability to see, thus causing him to give up his dream to be a pilot) and it DID have drama (Naoko’s situation and the TB outbreak which I will not spoil to benefit your enjoyment). It wasn’t a slog, either. Seeing as this is Miyazaki’s last film and I am a huge fan of his, I was glad that it had a long running time cause then, I could have more time to enjoy it. Yes, I did. She gives it a 4/10 but I give it an 8.5/10. Though yes, it’s not Miyazaki’s best, but it is also far from terrible. It’s his most personal film, which is why I appreciated it.

    -If you see this film and disagree with her opinion, then go check out some other reviewers who probably share the same taste as you, there’s 74 critics who like this film, so just browse their reviews if you disagree.

  • It DID have a conflict (his inability to see, thus causing him to give up his dream to be a pilot)

    That’s not conflict. As the film opens, he has already decided that his bad eyesight means he cannot be a pilot, and he has already decided to be an engineer. If he refused to acknowledge his bad eyesight and was trying to become a pilot, and kept hitting problems because of his eyesight, and finally had to deal with his issues and change his mind about what he wanted to do with his life, *that* would be dramatic conflict. But any problems that are confronted and solved before the story even starts is not conflict for the purposes of the story we are being told.

  • You would be surprised at how many movie fans seem to tie up their own self-esteem in what rating their favorite movies have on Rotten Tomatoes.

    I’m sorry if I mistook you for one of those fans.

  • I watched this at the Toronto Film Festival a couple months ago; i was so excited to see it… and oh god it bored me. Very disappointing compared to the other Miyazaki films.

  • PapillonVIK

    Drear reviewer. Because you do not know much about Japanese animation I will inform you. In anime there is such a genre as “slice of life.” According to TVtrops “A cast of characters go about their daily lives, making observations and being themselves” Of course it does not have a conflict: “Slice of Life series don’t usually have much of a plot or, if taken to extreme, even the omnipresent Conflict, but they don’t really need one, and many Slice of Life stories use a lack of conflict to serve peaceful escapism rather than realism.” Miyazaki’s previous examples would be: Totoro and Kiki’s. Other Japanese director did this: Momura Hosoda: Girl Who Leapt Thought Time and Wolf Children. Makoto Shinkai: Garden of Words or 5 Centimeters per second. Satashi Kon: Tokyo Godfathers. Isao Takahata: My neighbors the Yamadas, Only Yesterday, Grave of the fireflies. Goro Miyazaki: From Upon The Poppy Hill. One example in American Animation: Brother Bear.
    This genre is not for everyone, because not everyone likes that kind of stuff. Some people want villains and super duper conflicts. They want to watch fights and explosions. They find this boring and can’t watch it. As an anime fan slice of life is a tricky genre. Some of them are pretty fantastic (Clannad, Usagi Drop) some some fail to amaze me.
    It’s obvious that this genre is not for you, so why criticize it? It’s like me going to watch a superhero movie, knowing that I don’t like superheroes, but going because I want to criticize it.
    This was not the best Ghibli/Miyazaki movie. The first half was kind of boring, I admit. However, second half grabbed my attention so much. In the end I felt a warm fuzzy feeling, as if fairy dust was sprinkled on me. I felt fulfilled and complete. It’s hard to describe but a lot of Ghibli films do to me. Unlike, for example, movie like Frozen left me empty and wanting more. I would give this movie 3.5 stars.
    Suggest you read this:
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SliceOfLife

  • You think dramatic conflict means only “super duper” villains and “fights and explosions”? How sad.

    Why criticize? This film is nominated for Best Animated Film at the Oscars. It’s in theaters. I’m a film critic… and my readers want to know what I think of all sorts of different films. That’s what critics do.

    If you hated Frozen and love this film (even though you call it boring too!), then I’m not the critic for you.

  • ♡ Cupcakes ♡

    The Conflict: TB Outbreak and the rise of fascism. If that wasn’t obvious enough, woman.

    And yeah Frozen was just too childish with slapstick stuff and singing and girl-power!

    This film, on the other hand is more sophisticated and has way better ART and animation.

  • Oh, and I suppose, dude, that *The Wind Rises* isn’t just about boy-power?

  • Beowulf

    It is an honor to share a feedback with such an educated and knowing scholar. Truly, we are all blessed that you deign to inform our “drear” host of her shortcomings. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • PapillonVIK

    Thanks so much for being a bitch lady. I’m younger than you but I know not to act like a jerk when someone is nice to me. Now that you did, I will too. First, I gave AN EXAMPLE of conflict such as explosions, how sad that you did not understand me. Second, there was a conflict, the war is a conflict. Miyazaki is a pacifist, and he was showing people how war effected people. Jiro would build advanced airplanes for Japan, but in the end they all disappeared. I’m pretty sure everyone who watched this received a nice history lesson of Japan. What about Naoki? Did you ignore her fully? She was sick so they did not have a lot of time together, and his job mad it even harder. Third, yes it’s nominated, you might not like that but that’s YOUR opinion not the general public. There is a reason why it was nominated, because it’s GOOD. Just because your a critic, your hate won’t change that! HOW ABOUT OPEN YOUR EYES AND READ AGAIN WHAT I JUST SAID! I did NOT say I hated Frozen! I SAID IT LEFT ME EMPTY! There were somethings I didn’t like about Frozen, there some thing I did not like about this movie. Some parts were boring, bit that doesn’t make the whole movie bad! I’m so sick of Americans thinking they have the best everything. The best animation, music, movies and so on. There are many other countries that can do that and better. Compare kids show Adventure Time to deep and realistic Clannad. Or compare Miyazaki’s heroines to Disney Princesses, no contest.
    So I suggest your very smart ass to read again what I put together about Japanese animation and how it’s NOT American! And once again OF COURSE IT DOES NOT HAVE MUCH CONFLICT! IT’S A SLICE OF LIFE!
    @Beowulf I know I am.
    @♡ Cupcakes ♡
    Thanks. If you understood the conflict, as critic she would have to. But judging from that one comment where she ignored everything I said and twisted it and put it in her words, I see the critic that she is. And I like Elfen Lied too :)

  • Deleted comment above for calling me a bitch, and for general assholishness.

  • ♡ Cupcakes ♡

    What did it say?

  • ♡ Cupcakes ♡

    No way it should be higher! It’s even better than some movies on your greenlighted list, i’ll name some:

    -The Purge
    -Pain & Gain
    -MACHETE KILLS
    -Girl most likely
    -Incredible Burt Wonderstone
    -Carrie
    -The Call

  • ♡ Cupcakes ♡

    No, it’s about the power of dreams and how they impact people. Jiro treasured Naoko, so yeah it shows that women should be treasured rather than just serve as the man’s property. Your review lacks focus, it’s like one paragraph.

  • The list represents my opinion. Not yours.

  • And perhaps *Frozen* is about more than the “girl-power” you dismiss it as.

  • I’m not repeating it. If the commenter would like to rephrase his/her comments without the attitude and condescension, he/she is welcome to do so.

  • Papillon

    Well I’m so sorry for telling the truth. You gave me attitude like that and u are one. No regrets. Yo don’t know anything and your are not a good critic. I can do batter tha you. -_-

  • Papillon

    The I’m younger than you but I know not to act like a jerk when someone is nice to me. Now that you did, I will too. First, I gave AN EXAMPLE of conflict such as explosions, how sad that you did not understand me. Second, there was a conflict, the war is a conflict. Miyazaki is a pacifist, and he was showing people how war effected people. Jiro would build advanced airplanes for Japan, but in the end they all disappeared. I’m pretty sure everyone who watched this received a nice history lesson of Japan. What about Naoki? Did you ignore her fully? She was sick so they did not have a lot of time together, and his job mad it even harder. Third, yes it’s nominated, you might not like that but that’s YOUR opinion not the general public. There is a reason why it was nominated, because it’s GOOD. Just because your a critic, your hate won’t change that! HOW ABOUT OPEN YOUR EYES AND READ AGAIN WHAT I JUST SAID! I did NOT say I hated Frozen! I SAID IT LEFT ME EMPTY! There were somethings I didn’t like about Frozen, there some thing I did not like about this movie. Some parts were boring, bit that doesn’t make the whole movie bad! I’m so sick of Americans thinking they have the best everything. The best animation, music, movies and so on. There are many other countries that can do that and better. Compare kids show Adventure Time to deep and realistic Clannad. Or compare Miyazaki’s heroines to Disney Princesses, no contest.
    So I suggest your very smart butt to read again what I put together about Japanese animation and how it’s NOT American! And once again OF COURSE IT DOES NOT HAVE MUCH CONFLICT! IT’S A SLICE OF LIFE! BTW I called you that because you were rude to me and I understand the tone you used was disrespectful.
    @Beowulf I know I am.
    @♡ Cupcakes ♡
    Thanks. If you understood the conflict, as critic she would have to. But judging from that one comment where she ignored everything I said and twisted it and put it in her words, I see the critic that she is. And I like Elfen Lied too :)

  • Shouting is not helping your cause. Neither is making assumptions about me. I have no desire to discuss this film or anything else with you.

  • Jarr

    Totally disagree. He’s in love with someone who has a fatal illness. He wants to spend every waking moment with her but he also wants to change the field of aeronautics. I do agree that the conflict between the love of his wife and his career can be heightened and intensified to make it more prevalent but I don’t think it necessarily has to be so extreme to be effective.

  • Rianna Esquivas

    Have you seen Grave of The Fireflies & Princess Mononoke? Thoughts?

    Also, if *girl-power* is your thing, than Mononoke and Kiki’s Delivery Service is the Ghibli film for you.

  • Haven’t seen them.

    “Girl power” is not my “thing.”

  • Rianna Esquivas

    Papillion seems to be giving one-sided arguments. Did you read her rant? She seems to have “worked hard” on it.

    For the record, Papillion, I didn’t care for Frozen either, not my taste.

  • BlueBoomPony

    Uh, I think he was defending the “slice of life” genre, and said that *others* won’t like it.

  • Hank Graham

    Ignoring the crude stereotyping of appealing to a supposed love of “girl power,” do see “Princess Mononoke” if you get the chance.

    I respond to it (and “Nausicaa”) very much more than most American viewers, as they represent something quite rare in movies we see distributed: an animist point-of-view.

    As you know, I’m native american, and more than even the problem of not speaking English when I was young, the difficulty of growing up non-Christian in VERY Christian America is always with me. When I was growing up in Houston, Texas, there were some kids whose parents told them not to play with my family, as if our non-Christianity might be catching.

    I can count on one hand the number of films that presented anything like the religious view that I grew up with, and those two by Miyazaki are at the top of that very short list.

    Additionally, I suspect you’ll appreciate the difference between them, as Princess Mononoke is high fantasy, while Nausicaa, although it takes a while to realize it, is hard science fiction, in which everything in it happens for a reason.

  • Both films have long been on my to-watch list. I’ll get to them eventually, I hope.

  • Lady Tenar

    If I may make a suggestion, MaryAnn, watch Princess Mononoke first. I think it is a good movie to see close together with “The Wind Rises” which I just saw, and it made me want to re-watch Mononoke. Although they could not be more different on the surface, I do think they share similar themes that reflect Miyazaki’s conflicted feelings about technology and human civilization in general. Both are essentially films about encroaching modernity and human “progress,”–beautiful and tragic, good and evil, and ultimately inevitable. Jiro is the man that brings his country into the 20th century, for better or worse. And since we know all that happened in the 20th century, especially in the era it depicts (the incredible darkness of which is always seeping in at the edges of the film for the viewer, if not Jiro himself, to see), we know it is both for better AND worse. To me, the “wind” of the film represented many things–including, at some key moments, death–but one of them is the change of the times and all it entails. “The Wind Rises. We must try to live.”

    Though it was extremely understated and cryptic–and I understand that it might be too much so for some and that is simply a matter of taste–I actually found “The Wind Rises” to be full of drama, especially in the context of the rest of Miyazaki’s oeuvre and what I know if his philosophical and political beliefs. I would be curious to see if your opinion of this film changes at all after you have seen more of his films. I am still haunted by this one. It has completely gotten under my skin.

  • Rianna Esquivas

    I’m curious to know where you’re coming from. What are some of the best and worst anime films you’ve seen in your life?

  • Please read some other threads and other reviews. I’ve discussed this before.

  • Jim King

    It’s nice to see I’m not the only one, that she does this with other people too.

  • Brody85

    So it says that you viewed this on a small screen (which I’m assuming is TV) but how is it possible since the film is not on DVD/VOD? am I missing something?? Is Spirited Away the only Ghibli film you’ve green-lighted?

  • I watched it on a screener DVD the studio sent for awards consideration for this past awards season.

    If you have questions about past films I’ve reviewed, please look through the archives here.

  • Brody85

    I did look through them, everything was yellow except spirited away. I found other anime movies like steamboy(yellow) cowboy bebop(yellow) millennium actress(?) and since you haven’t reviewed all the films you’ve seen I was just curious. Thanks for the information regarding TWR. I hope to see it soon.

  • LaSargenta

    You have to realize that the color of the light is not the review. The actual review is what she thinks about a film. Assigning a value on a scale is usually pretty useless unless the scale is correlated very specifically to certain easily-standardized categories (see the Consumer Reports rating system, for example, that is directly correlated to testing they do).

    Don’t assume that she didn’t like it just because it didn’t get a green light. Likewise, don’t assume she liked it just because it didn’t get a red. You need to read the review.

  • everything was yellow except spirited away

    Then why did you ask?

  • Brody85

    Cause your bias for this one says you *love* Ghibli flicks but, *yellow* doesn’t particularly come off as *love* so I was curious if you’ve seen other Ghibli flicks? (Yes, I’ve explored the archives to try and answer this for myself, apparently you weren’t a fan of Howl’s Moving Castle either) As for other anime films, I found Yugioh the movie which you called “the funniest film of the year” so I can imagine that that’s yellow as well?

  • My review of that film is utterly derisive. It’s not yellow: it’s red.

    No, yellow is not love, so you can assume I’ve seen other Ghibli flicks that I have not reviewed.

  • Brody85

    Those being?

  • I’m not getting into discussing other movies here. Sorry.

  • Brody85

    Okay then lets talk about this one. Is this review your immediate reaction to the film? Would you revisit it if you had a London screening? Did you have any bitter feelings about this being Miyazaki’s last work? Does this film count as style over substance? Would you still consider giving future Ghibli films a chance, or was this too disappointing? Do you think he could have done better, or was this film dead on arrival?

  • Brody85

    I’ve read it and heres what I got from her:

    Good points:
    Beautiful art & animation, bittersweet ending

    Bad points:
    Lacks drama & consequential conflict.

    The verdict:
    Worth seeing, but wait for the DVD unless you’re Miyazaki fan.

    Though frankly, I think Miyazaki neophytes could find something worth liking in here.

  • No, I would not revisit this film — I’ve got too much else to do. I have no feelings either way about Miyazaki retiring. Yes, of course I’ll give other Ghibli films a chance. For Christ’s sake, I keep giving Adam Sandler a chance.

    Perhaps you do not realize how aggressive and demanding your questions are coming across. I don’t understand why you’re grilling me like, and I don’t undestand why you seem to be taking my opinions so personally.

  • Brody85

    Miyazaki > Adam Sandler.

    “Perhaps you do not realize how aggressive and demanding your questions are coming across. I don’t understand why you’re grilling me like this, and I don’t understand why you seem to be taking my opinions so personally.”

    Obviously you’re upset. Please don’t be upset, you are after all, 50% mermaid.

  • Bluejay

    Cupcakes-Rianna-Andrea-Brody85: I’ll grant you this, you’re VERY persistent.

    WHY you’re persistent, I have no frigging idea.

  • This person is now banned, and will not be tolerated even if s/he creates a new persona.

  • lightningbarer

    You state that there’s no drama in a partially historical bio-pic.
    Are you sure you’re in the right line of work, because looking for drama in something like this is entirely wrong.
    I’d suggest you’re trolling or simply being a contrarian, because there’s no sense in what you’re wrote.
    At all.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It’s “entirely wrong” to “[look] for drama” in a dramatic presentation? Is that really what you meant to type? As they say on teh interwebs: LOL, WUT?

    Or are you confused about the difference between a bio-pic and a documentary? Because, you see, the former is by definition a dramatization. Arguably, even the latter should have some sort of dramatic hook. Some conflict, which is, of course, the heart of drama. But that is, as I say, arguable.

    But to say that bio-pics shouldn’t contain drama? I’m left asking you, sir or madam, if it is not you who are trolling.

  • lightningbarer

    I never said they shouldn’t contain drama, I only said that looking for “drama” in a partially historical bio-pic isn’t productive. “Conflict” would be a far better use of a similar term to explain things in these kinds of movies because it conveys a better understanding of the experience you get from watching it.
    I’m taking it that you’ve seen the movie so I would ask you, is the term “drama” or “conflict” a better way of describing it? Now if the writer has a different understanding of the word and has tried to convey that, then I’m at fault for calling her out, but asking for “drama and conflict” in a movie about a character’s progression through his life at important and heart wrenching moments is counter to the tone of the movie in my opinion, it’s not got to have dramatic moments to make you understand their love, pain, loss, suffering and happiness, it does that by showing people living their lives in both happy points and sad and you don’t need drama for that.

  • Danielm80

    “Showing people living their lives in both happy points and sad” is drama, but it’s not successful drama unless we know what the stakes are, and care about them.

    This morning, I got out of bed, ate breakfast, washed dishes, and surfed the Internet.

    While I was doing those things, I might have been thinking about a lost love or feeling anguish over a medical crisis or seething with anger about a post I read on this website. But if anyone had watched me scrubbing pots and typing on my computer, they would have found it awfully boring.

    If a movie is going to make us engage with its characters, it has to find ways to show their love, pain, loss, suffering, and happiness onscreen. It has to actually show the moments when the characters are fighting or arguing and the moments when they’re choosing between different courses of action. It also has to let us know why those moments are important and heart wrenching. If we can’t see or hear the conflict onscreen, we might as well be watching the characters doing dishes.

  • Bluejay

    MaryAnn has already explained to another commenter (here) what she means by lack of drama or conflict.

  • lightningbarer

    And I generally agree on what you’ve said, yet your statement about drama being successful when it fits the box you’ve made for it, that is the reason why I made my comment in the first place.

    Drama can be a very subjective word when used in a way that the reviewer has, because instantly you conjure up images of what you associate with drama and conflict. Yet when reviewing something you should try to keep a neutral stance, allowing praise when you see something good and not allowing that praise to stop you from giving detractors when needed, and that should be especially important when reviewing something you dislike, because you’re dislike is more easily on show when you don’t like the whole thing you’re reviewing.

    For something like The Wind Rises, the “drama” is in the journey that Jiro goes through, there’s no major problems for him to overcome other than those you see, which are technical and emotional.

    There’s no evil boss or haughty superior, the people working with him on the “Zero project” aren’t the faceless evil of a fascist government, they’re scientists and engineers who love their craft-like all scientists-whose government are using their knowledge and technology for warfare, the whole theme of the film when it comes to aircraft is that the designers and engineers want them to be used for pleasure, not death.
    There’s no stuck-up rich socialite parent who stands in the way of two people’s love, there’s only Jiro’s personal journey of finding and falling in love with another human being.
    There’s no looming threat of a sociological or philosophical problem between the protagonists as one is exposed to “radical” thinking from foreign lands, there’s just commitment and love from both parts.

    In each of those there’s personal drama there, but its more touching than grandiose, which is why I state that the tagline of “there’s no drama or conflict” is wrong and either written in haste or written without proper understanding.
    I don’t call The Wind Rises as the greatest Ghibli movie ever made, but it’s not a terrible movie by a long shot.

  • Documentaries require drama and conflict, too, though. Any story — true or invented — that’s going to work as a story needs this.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    “Conflict” isn’t just similar to “drama” in this context, it’s practically synonymous. Pain, loss, suffering, happiness, these are descriptors of dramatic elements. Now, being happy or sad – just because “yay” or “boo” – doesn’t make for drama in and of itself. There needs to be that conflict, too. So that we, the audience, can see what exactly is causing the happiness and sadness, and so that we can care about what happens next in the characters’ emotional journeys. Otherwise, we’re not watching a story. It’s just people going through their lives, which just isn’t that interesting most of the time.

    Again, I think you’re conflating terms. Perhaps when you say “drama” what you mean is “melodrama”, those kinds of exaggerated extremes of emotion that have become colloquially associated with “drama”. Because, no, a story doesn’t have to be melodramatic in order to be dramatic.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Yeah, you’re definitely confusing drama and melodrama.

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