It's spectacularly beautiful, a visual massage, about a young boy, Jiro Horikoshi, who dreams of flight and building beautiful flying machines. We watch him grow to fulfill that dream as the designer of the Japanese Zero, the plane that attacked Pearl Harbor. A basic theme is the conflict between achieving such beauty and how that beauty is used.
I loved the movie because of its beauty. I realized, though, driving home, that the characters had no real depth. Although Italian aircraft designer Gianni Caproni talks with Jiro, in dream sequences that come and go throughout the film, about war and the killing use of these beautiful machines, the on-screen Jiro remains the child-like designing genius throughout the movie, as you can see in the image of him below when he's an adult designing planes for the Japanese military. The characters all remain, literally, cartoon characters with no complexity at all.
|Screen Shot From LA Times Video Review|
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Maybe that's what he appeared to be to the people who knew him, for when his bosses find out he's engaged, they can't stop laughing as they exclaim, "He's human after all."
Miyazaki tells his story in his own rich (a term that seems too poor for this film) visuals and I feel guilt raising questions about character. Some might even argue that it was there in the imagery and I just missed it. I think my wish for more nuanced characters stems from a point in the movie when I forgot I was watching an animated film because the story was so real. And afterward when I examined that thought, the simplicity of the characters seemed to detract.
But definitely go see this film. It's more than amazing.