Early in Hayao Miyazakiâs latestâand probably finalâfilm, an earthquake strikes Tokyo. The earth buckles and writhes, rippling like a belly dancerâs abdomen. Itâs a remarkably moving scene, both for its raw kinetic energy and for the clear sense of physical and human destruction. Alas, the rest of The Wind Rises, even as it showcases Miyazakiâs painterly hand-drawn animation, isnât nearly so dynamic. And thatâs in spite of a story that revolves around flight, the based-on-truth tale of an ace aeronautical engineer named Jiro. Born in 1903, Jiroâs devotion to airplanes gets him unwillingly swept up in the war machine: He travels to Germany to meet Nazi engineers and helps build machines that, no matter how beautiful, are designed to kill. Thereâs an interesting tension here between technology and totalitarianism, but Jiro is so thinly developedâheâs a genius at work and a sweet husband to his consumptive wife at homeâthat the question quickly evaporates. The film has a lovely melancholy, but that feels largely due to Miyazakiâs impending departure from cinema. Heâll be missed, even if The Wind Rises is a bumpy ride.
Critic's Grade: B-
SEE IT: The Wind Rises is rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Fox Tower, Lloyd Center, Clackamas, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills.