Home > Entertainment > Movies shouldn’t pretend that the conflict was resolved

Movies shouldn’t pretend that the conflict was resolved

Due to a Netflix recommendation a few weeks ago we watched Origin: Spirits of the Past, and this past week we watched Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Both movies are quite similar: both are anime, both are based in a post apocalyptic world, both have young adult protagonists, both have the protagonist living in a society that’s chosen to be isolated and yet is still in the middle of everything, and they have so much in common that watching one really reminds you of watching the other. To be fair Nausicaa came out in 1984 and Origin came out in 2006 so Origin should remind one of Nausicaa. One thing that strikes me about both of them, is that it seems to be really hard to find someone, online, who doesn’t like them. Nearly everyone who reviews either of these movies, really, really loves them. And yet, both are obscure, and aren’t really ever recommended in person.

I think part of the reason why people love either of the movies, do so in part because the animation was good, the stories are uniquely creative, and your imagination can be left in awe with what’s happening in either of the worlds. But there’s more to a good movie than those things. I did not love either Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind or Origin: Spirits of the Past. I kind of like them, but I kind of don’t. They are fun to watch, but they leave the viewer wondering “why did I just watch that?” and the primary reason for that is that they both end as if the conflict had been resolved even though the conflict wasn’t resolved. And quite frankly, that’s really confusing.

Nausicaa ends with Nausicaa (the protagonist) nearly killing herself to stop all of the senseless violence, and a stampeding herd of giant indestructible woodlouse’s from smashing up the valley of the wind. This is wonderful and you really love the integrity and sacrifice that she shows in accomplishing these tasks. Once it’s shown that Nausicaa is okay, everyone cheers, including the Tolmekia who have been actively trying to take over the world and kill everyone who tries to oppose them. Then the credits roll and things get more confusing: we see pictures of Tolmekians, in larger than heretofore seen numbers, happily leaving lands which they were occupying. We then see some people being peacefully exploring the beauties of the toxic jungle without their protective gear. This greatly conflicts with the rest of the movie where the audience is constantly reminded that anyone who breaths the air of the toxic jungle will die, and that giant insects are actively trying to kill every human who makes a disturbance in its growing boarders. Nothing is ever brought forth as to how the toxic jungle stopped its active slaughter of mankind. The ending just shows that it has conveniently happened.

Origin ends with the E.S.T.O.C. (a giant, man made contraption with the purpose of purging the entire planet of life) self destructing, and everyone cheering and going home. But how does this resolve the struggles which have been building up during the entire movie? The Zurids still control all of the planets water and want to kill all of the humans (they should even especially want this more, now that they know that humans are capable of building something like the E.S.T.O.C.). The Ragnan’s (pretty much all of the humans on earth) haven’t been given a reason not to defend themselves, destroy the Zurids and try to gain some water rights for themselves. Plus the protagonist, Agito, comes back from the dead and says that he has learned how to live in balance with nature. Which in principle is a good idea, but doesn’t really work when “nature” consists of genetically engineered plants whose whole aim is to wipe out humans and claim the planet for themselves.

So both movies end without having given reason to the audience as to why the conflicts of the movie came to a resolution. It’s as if the writer had come up with such an over-comeable paradox that they couldn’t resolve it themselves. So they wrote a climax and ended the story there because a climax had happened, and the movie was starting to go long anyway.

Another egregious point are the movies environmental messages. Not that there’s nothing bad, per se, in the idea that humans need to learn how to sustainably live on the earth, but neither of the environments featured in the films are anything like the environment. In Nausicaa the plot device representing nature is referred to as the toxic jungle which made the only human habitable parts of the planet (besides the valley of the wind), desert. In Origin, it’s the “Forest” with its power to creating animal like plants which are actively trying to kill off humans. Neither of these feel like the nature I want to learn how to be in balance with. The result are environmentalist messages which are strong enough to repulse those who don’t like being told those things, and un-relatable enough to anyone who really tries to think about the message that’s trying to be conveyed.

Nausicaa has an amazing protagonist. She’s daring, resourceful, kind, and brave (she also talks to herself a lot). She is the type of leader any organization would love for a leader, and her character development is a joy to follow. Also, she doesn’t have a coming of age story in the move, which would have really drug the the whole thing down. Sadly a good protagonist isn’t enough to carry a science fiction like Nausicaa from kind of okay to amazing. In Origin, Agito is a good protagonist… for the first half of the movie. In the first half the audience comes to relate to him, like him, and are impressed with his ability to handle the pressures of the world in lives in. Then half way through the movie he effortlessly becomes invincible (to everything except tranquilizer darts), and leaves the movie with no interesting characters to cheer for. It’s sad that you can’t really get behind or really relate to any of the characters for the whole second half of the movie.

Nausicaa does leave the audience wondering why any of what they say even happened at all. I love it how both movies drop the audience into the middle of the “universe” and as it’s necessary to the plot, explain what happened. But Nausicaa doesn’t fully explain what actually happened. The audience learns (when an old woman is justifiabley retelling their history) that a thousand years earlier, there were giant, fire breathing, monsters who wiped out most of mankind, and then their rotting corpses decayed into poisonous jungles full of strange new life. What the movie doesn’t explain is how giants came to be. Were the giants aliens? Did Ra’s al Ghul finally defeat Batman and unleash environmental revenge on mankind? Where did the giants come from? Why do they dislike humans so much? Origin, on the other hand, explains where the “Forest” came from. Plants, genetically engineered on the Moon became sentient and were so powerful that they split the moon apart and rode down on giant chunks of the moon, causing massive environmental damage, but were able to recover before the humans could gain an upper hand over them. So Nausicaa gets a point for having a good protagonist and Origin gets a point for at least explaining why the Apocalypse happened.

Neither of the movies are painful to watch, have interesting setups, have some great art work, but both have well-that’s-kind-of-dumb moments, and don’t really leave the audience thinking that the ending shouldn’t have happened. People may complain that The Empire Strikes Back, doesn’t have an ending, and just kind of ends, but it does have an ending. The movie starts with a battle, then there’s a chase, and when the chase is over, the movie ends. There are still unresolved issues, but the movie doesn’t pretend that there’s not. In Nausicaa and Origin, the movies do pretend that all of the conflict has ended, even though nothing happened to have ended it. While I am glad I did see both movies – they’re not a total waste of time – , I’m not going to go out of my way to watch either ever again.

Categories: Entertainment
  1. Xanis
    December 4, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Actually the Zurids/Zruids/Dryads and the Forest don’t wish to destroy all of humanity. They destroyed only the parts of the modern world that would cause the eventual destruction of all life on the planet.

    The trees, as shown in the end, are now capable of both consuming and birth humans, creating the “perfect balance”, in their opinion, for humans and planets to exist. But other than that, I agree that it didn’t solve the problem with Ragna at all, but that just leaves a chance for something awesome to follow up like an all out Enhanced versus Ragna war like they should of did cause it’s only bound to happen.

    Personally, the concept would of done better if it had a tv series to follow it or started off as a tv series anyway. It had all the basic elements to be at least memorable.

  2. Xanis
    December 4, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Oh and Naussica was just…weird all the way around.

    Origin, they actually built themselves to be in the middle of everything on purpose. The idea was that Neutral City would…be neutral and form the bridge between Ragna and the Forest. That was their whole purpose. Why Ragna lost contact could only be explained by Ragna’s pure hatred of plants and plant people like Enhanced.

  3. J-Jones
    March 6, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Really well-written argument. I like both movies, but can’t love them for the reasons you’ve described. I always tend to lean toward favoring Origin, but the second half really brings it down. Kind of unrelated, but the music for Origin captivates me far more than Nausicaa, perhaps because Nausicaa featured Joe Hisaishi’s earlier Ghibli work.

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