Classic Review: Porco Rosso (1992)
“Porco Rosso” stars Shūichirō Moriyama, Akio Ōtsuka, Tokiko Kato, and Tsunehiko Kamijō. Released on July 18, 1992, the film follows an ex-fighter ace and a curse that transformed him into an anthropomorphic pig.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as "My Neighbor Totoro”, "Kiki’s Delivery Service”, and “The Wind Rises”. It is based on the three-part manga, Hikōtei Jidai (“The Age of the Flying Boat”), by Miyazaki. Much like "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”, Miyazaki translated his tale about a pig-like pilot into film with splendid results. This is another Studio Ghibli movie that I remembered watching only once because again, I didn’t have a lot of time viewing movies more than once. So I figured today would be a good day to revisit this animated adventure and see how well it holds up in my own eyes. For this review, I will be looking at the English dub version which has Michael Keaton as the voice of the title character, along with Cary Elwes, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, David Ogden Stiers, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley.
The film is set in an alternative World War I era, where an Italian ex-fighter ace named Marco Pagot (Marco Rossolini in the American version), also known as Porco Rosso due to his pig-like appearance, face a series of challenges during his days as a bounty hunter. Ranging from an air pirate crew known as the Mamma Aiuto Gang to his rival, Donald Curtis (Elwes), Porco is going to need a lot of help he can get in the form of his mechanic, Piccolo (Ogden Stiers), and his granddaughter, Fio (Williams-Paisley). This was one of the few occasions where Miyazaki blends his fantasy elements with real-life historical settings, with some explanations of aviation history thrown into the mix, a theme that he revisited in “The Wind Rises” in 2013. Much like his other films, Miyazaki proved that he can make this type of mixture work while also creating a well-paced and simplistic story that’s suitable for both kids and adults. Not only was the storytelling visually entertaining, but it was also thought-provoking in terms of its themes and its political commentary. Michael Keaton delivered a solid vocal performance as Porco Rosso. Even though he sounds a bit underwhelming during a few scenes, Keaton knows how to deliver the charm and likability to his character. Brad Garrett was also very entertaining as the leader of the Mamma Aiuto Gang, who provided some impressive amounts of humor without being too annoying. The animation was the film’s big highlight, mostly because of the aerial sequences. Yes, the backgrounds and the character designs looked pretty nice as well, but the aerial sequences with Porco and the other pilots were definitely some of my favorite parts of the film when it comes to its use of animation. It’s almost like the animators took some inspiration from the other war films that feature aerial dogfight sequences and applied them in “Porco Rosso” as their own. They’re fun to watch, and they’re a bit intense, too. Joe Hisaishi once again impressed me with his undeniable score that makes the film even more immersive.
Overall, “Porco Rosso” is a high-flying adventure that’s just as fun and imaginative as you would expect from Hayao Miyazaki. While a tad short from his other classics like “Spirited Away”, the film never lost track of its brilliant mixture of visual storytelling and likable characters. In other words, this is another Studio Ghibli film that I would gladly revisit again at home. I would highly recommend it to animation fans and to those who are interested in aviation.
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