visually stunning? yes. cheap knock off of studio ghibli miyazaki films? also yes.
when bae and i scanned the new netflix movies the other night, we settled on watching mary and the witch’s flower, which i had heard great reviews about. i thought it was a studio ghibli film, and was excited to once more roam a mystical world and watch a young heroine grow into a powerful lady.
when the opening credits started, i saw that this was, infact, not a studio ghibli film, causing me to mimic tib’s expression (above.) after miyazaki announced his retirement (for the ump-teenth time) ghibli decided it was going to be moving away from animation, and thus those departments were left dormant. yonebayashi and another prominent creator decided to leave and create their own studio, studio ponoc. this is the first feature length film from the brand new animation studio, and honestly- it shows.
the art was very reminiscent of howl’s moving castle, spirited away, and ponyo. since it lacked a distinct style, all the elements of art made me think of the mentioned movies, and distracted me during the film. the charm of the art was not completely lost. the design of the flowers and background art were certainly top notch. i personally didn’t like the way the animals looked, the cats especially had a very amateur look to them.
the story specifically was lack luster. it took too long for the pace to speed up, and when it did, the movie ended shortly after. although visually pleasing, and i’m sure a joy for children, it lacked a lot of rules. things were too fluid, and since there was always some convenient solution, the credibility of the story suffered. the world building, although an essential element, was rushed because too much time was spent focusing on mary. the problem with this was, mary wasn’t very three dimensional. the only striking quality about her was that she had brilliant red hair, but her personality was lacking, and most of her quirks were more annoying than endearing. too much about her story was left unexplained, even at the end she was difficult to relate to. in fact, all the characters suffered from this – a lot of the actions seemed artificial, as if that’s what would push the story along, as opposed to something that seemed like authentic behavior.
the music was also not very powerful, nor striking. even now, i can’t remember a single tune from this movie. the movie as a whole took elements from several ghibli movies, causing you to wish you had just watched one of those in the first place. witch with a black cat? kiki’s delivery service. a world of islands inside a giant cloud? castle in the sky. magic involving makeshift creatures and a strange pudgy witch? howl’s moving castle and spirited away. a mystical forest and sentient animals? princess mononoke and my neighbor totoro. the entire movie was trying to take the best elements in all these films and force them together in hopes of creating charm. if you were to ask me if i’m glad i even watched this film, i would say, i wish i hadn’t. miyazaki himself even said that he would not watch this movie.
tldr; i give this a 2/10. the only points are towards the art. i wouldn’t waste your time, just go re-watch one of the classics.