A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the Oscar-nominated animated drama The Wind Rises is notable for being anime legend Hayao Miyazaki's final feature-length film. The movie, dubbed in English for American audiences, may be animated, but like many other Studio Ghibli productions, it's not really for very little kids; it's a poignant and contemplative chronicle of a famous Japanese engineer who was responsible for designing the infamous zero bomber. Because of the historical setting, there are real-life disasters and catastrophes depicted in the movie, like the Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and of course World War II. There's also an upsetting subplot about the engineer's beloved, who suffers from tuberculosis, and many, many scenes of men smoking cigarettes (as was customary in that era). Because of the themes and the mature subject matter, this is an animated film best for inquisitive older tweens and teens.
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What's the story?
THE WIND RISES is a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a legendary Japanese aeronautical engineer who was responsible for designing the zero bombers used in World War II. As a boy, young Jiro dreams of becoming a fighter pilot, but because of his near-sightedness, he realizes that's not meant to be; in a dream, he encounters the world-famous Italian aeronautical engineer Giovanni Caproni (Stanley Tucci), who encourages Jiro to design planes even if he can't fly them: "Engineers turn dreams into reality." Jiro grows up, saves a young girl and her nanny during the Kanto Earthquake of 1923, goes to engineering school, and then joins an engineering firm that's competing for military contracts. Throughout his adulthood, Jiro travels and refines his vision of making beautiful planes for the glory of Japan.
Is it any good?
Visually, this is a gorgeous film. The film doesn't include any mythical creatures or fantastical worlds; it's all Japan, the sky, the fields, the wind, and those beautiful planes of Jiro's dreams. This is a contemplative story that requires a patient audience. Young kids used to high-octane adventures may not be ready for this introspective tribute to a visionary man, who may have known in the abstract that his designs would one day be used in war, but who really just wanted to, as Caproni told him, make his dreams a reality.
The second half of the film features a heartbreaking romance between Jiro and the now grown-up girl he once ushered to safety during the 1923 Earthquake. Naoko (Emily Blunt) is herself an artist who loves landscapes. They long to marry, but Naoko suffers from tuberculosis, a disease even the brilliant Jiro can't troubleshoot. Their scenes together are romantic, but also devastatingly sad -- like when he spends a night finishing blueprints with one hand firmly grasping his ill young wife's hand. The story line isn't exactly a nailbiter, but this is a quietly powerful movie about what it takes to have a singular vision and dedicate your life to it; a tale of a genius, one can only assume, much like Miyazaki himself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of dreaming and creating. How are they tied together? What does the movie have to say about striving for your dreams?
Jiro doesn't consider himself a part of the military and doesn't think too much about how his planes will be used -- just that he wants to make planes. Does he bear any responsibility for being the creator of warcraft?
Critics have mentioned that this film is a lot more serious and less whimsical than other Miyazaki fims; do you agree? What are some of your favorites?
- In theaters: February 21, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: November 18, 2014
- Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt
- Director: Hayao Miyazaki
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, History, Science and Nature
- Run time: 126 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some disturbing images and smoking
- Last updated: May 25, 2020
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