After seeing Acts 1 and 2 in the preceding weeks, we started by closing out the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog series with the appropriately numbered Act 3. While Penny sits in the laundromat with an extra frozen yogurt pondering whether Captain Hammer is more than a tool (the rare triple-entendre!), Dr. Horrible is on a dirty-clothes kick while perfecting his plans for world domination. Oh, the missed opportunities for Dr. Horrible and his pie metaphors. Without any compelling reason not to, Penny goes to the opening of the new homeless shelter, where Captain Hammer upstages the ceremony with his ego.
But never fear, Dr. Horrible shows up with his Freeze Ray and his Death Ray to set things right (if things can ever truly be set right by murder, even if you are taking out a guy who wears a t-shirt with his logo on it). And quick as you can say “Zap! (Rowsdower)” Captain Hammer is frozen and Dr. Horrible is singing at him.
He dances, he prances, he points his Death Ray at Captain Hammer, but like the softie we know that he is, he can’t seem to get the job done. And then Captain Hammer unfreezes and grabs the Death Ray. Captain Hammer takes only the regularly alloted time for villain-gloating before pulling the Death Ray trigger at Dr. Horrible…and it malfunctions. It explodes, and Captain Hammer flees in toddler-pain. Then the tragedy unfolds – Penny has been impaled by several large shards of the exploding weapon and dies, her final words to Dr. Horrible the pathetic, “Don’t worry, Captain Hammer will save us!” And Dr. Horrible, his life empty and devoid of meaning, has finally gained entry to the Evil League Of Evil.
After the somewhat unexpectedly sour ending of Dr. Horrible, we were treated to the expected and saccharine ending of our feature presentation, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Winds. Hayao Miyazaki’s classic animation was originally released in 1984, but the 1985 stateside release was cut and mangled and bizarrely marketed as “Warriors Of The Wind” – with a completely inexplicable cover featuring characters resembling Skeletor, a Bedouin on a Pegasus, some sort of magma beast with a glowing sword, a Barbarellaesque Nausicaä, and Tanis Half-Elven, complete with short sword and hoisting an AK-47 while riding a reasonable facsimile of an Ohmu. Only the Ohmu and the Nausicaä lookalike had anything resembling relevance to the film.
So in 2005, Nausicaä got uncut and redubbed and rereleased by Buena Vista, and we thank them. The basic story follows the Princess Nausicaä, who lives in the Valley of the Winds and is friend to all giant mutant insects.
“Wait, giant mutant insects” you say? Well, yes. In Nausicaä’s day, some thousand years in the future, the world is being overrun by spreading toxic forests which harbor giant mutant insects. You can tell they’re mad when their eyes go red. The forests are filled with poisonous spores that make it impossible to breathe, and humanity is under threat of extinction by the jungle’s encroachment. But Nausicaä understands that they must live with, rather than fight against, the forests. In addition to being a Bug Whisperer, Nausicaä is a teenage research scientist with a secret underground lab (researching the origin of the forests) and the best darn glider pilot this side of the Mayor of Pejite (voiced by Mark Hamill). She has a familiar in the form of a squirrel fox that she received from Lord Yupa, a resident of the Valley of the Winds who spends his life in search of a mythical man depicted in a tapestry who will one day reunite the people and nature.
Everything is going pretty swimmingly, all things considered, until the little town gets embroiled in a war between the Kingdoms of Pejite and Tolmekia. The battle lines are drawn fairly clearly – the Tolmekians are more or less pure evil, Nausicaä’s village is totally benevolent, and Pejite is populated by well-meaning citizens who have no control over their war-hungry military apparatus. The Kingdoms are fighting over the Giant Warrior, the embodiment of a biological weapon from an ancient war which both sides hope can be used to eradicate the toxic jungle. The Tolmekians kill Nausicaä’s father, the aged king, and take the village prisoner. After escaping a Pejitean-Tolmekian air battle, Nausicaä and the Pejitean prince Asbel find themselves in a poison-free world underneath the toxic jungle, and Nausicaä comes to understand the true purpose of the jungle – its plants are engaged in purifying the soil, which has been polluted by humanity. The giant insects serve as protectors of the toxic forests to keep out humans while the purification process is ongoing.
They return to Pejite armed with this information, but find it devastated by giant insects in a self-destruct plan triggered by the Pejiteans themselves after occupation by the Tolmekians. Because the military is currently engaged in trying to repeat this destruction in the Valley of the Winds (which the Tolmekians are occupying) Nausicaä is taken prisoner. She escapes with the help of the Pejitean citizenry, and glides off to thwart Operation Ohmu Drop, where a baby Ohmu, injured and captive, is being airlifted into the Valley of the Winds in order to lure a raging herd of Ohmus in for destruction.
Nausicaä returns the baby Ohmu to the rampaging herd, which is a good thing since neither the tanks of the Tolmekians nor the Giant Warrior (who was awakened too soon in some bizarre birthing process and meltingly dies, further strengthening my Akira-based conviction that all Japanese animation ends with giant throbbing flesh babies) are able to stop the Ohmus. Of course, Nausicaä is kind of killed in the process. But was anybody surprised when the love of the Ohmu herd resurrected Nausicaä from the maybe-dead and revealed her to be the mythical (wo)man from the tapestry? No, nobody was surprised, because this was, from the start, a happy-ending movie.
While I’m at it, there are three points of interest I wanted to raise about this film. The first is completely blue. While running down plot information before seeing the film, I found that there are apparently a ton of internet sites out there dedicated to the question of whether Nausicaä is wearing underwear in the film. While it’s not that kind of movie, the combination of an incredibly short skirt and unfortunately flesh-colored tights does in fact create this impression. It’s actually a bit disconcerting, especially if you are primed to expect it, but at the same time it’s totally benign. But that’s the internet for you.
The second is the theme of environmentalism. I was led to expect that the movie was fundamentally an environmentalist story at heart, but upon watching the film, I believe that environmentalism is such a small part of the underpinnings of the film. At its heart, this is in fact an animist film, with an aware planet creating an aware forest for the purpose of cleansing itself, and creating aware giant insects to act as guardians of said forest from the dangerous influence of humans. Environmentalism is but a small part of the philosophy. It’s not about not polluting and cleaning up after yourself, it’s about living in harmony with an aware nature who knows best, so you’d better let her have her way. I didn’t see the Mother Gaea Brigade in the writing credits, but I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Finally, I thought it was interesting that not only were the 2005 voice-over actors generally heavy-hitter names, but that several of the characters they voiced seemed to resemble them greatly. Maybe it’s just me, but…
The latter two characters were so dead-on in their facial expressions that I found myself wondering if the characters were redrawn for the 2005 release after the voice talents were hired. That’s how close the resemblance was. Or maybe it’s just the power of suggestion, I don’t know.
But I still wanted to yell “Humperdinck, Humperdinck, Humperdinck!” every time Kurotowa was on screen. And with that, goodnight.