Greetings and salutations, dear reader! On my recent day off, on a whim, I decided to spend the entire day at the cinema and just watch movies. Those movies being John Wick: Chapter 4, Shazam: Fury of the Gods, and Suzume no Tojimari. I will be reviewing each of these movie (eventually), but for now, here are my thoughts on Makoto Shinkai’s lastest movie.
Thanks to the critical and commercial success of Makoto Shinkai’s previous two entries; Your Name and Weathering With You, many have been waiting patiently for the next entry. With the great positive reactions with the last two movies, expectations from fans were high. Thankfully, Shinkai’s latest feature has done it again with Suzume, a tale that blends supernatural threats with his signature human-relationship storytelling. Although, doesn’t hit the same emotional impact like previous films- while those elements are present, just not as much as fans come to expect.
Suzume follows our titular heroine Suzume Iwato (voiced by Nanoka Hara), your typical high schooler living in rural Japan whose life is suddenly changed once she crosses paths with a mysterious boy named Souta (voice by Hokuto Matsumura). Its revealed that Souta hails from a long line of people called “Closer,” people who are charged with finding mystical doors to another dimension where an evil force known only as “The Worm” has been trying to escape. It is Souta’s duty to prevent this Worm from crossing over to the world of the living- even a small fragment of its presence is enough to cause catastrophic earthquakes that could endanger many lives. When Suzume inadvertently sets things in motion, she must team-up with Souta to stop the worm from destroying Japan.
A majority of Suzume’s runtime plays out like a road trip movie as our two leads journey through Japan searching for Doom Doors to stop the Worm. But this is a Shinkai movie after all, so there’s element of fantasy to be seen, and the movie gives time for our protagonists to meet with new people throughout the course of their journey, forming new connections. It’s no coincidence that the primary way to defeat this evil Worm is by connecting with past happy memories. Tapping into powers to fight against the worm or just spending the night at a stranger’s home, Suzume begins to understand that by seizing the day and helping those in need can humanity overcome this threat.
Yes, the movie’s delivery of this message is often at times be cringy to watch, with the delivery of the dialogue, but the film makes up for it with its clever implementation of just the most mundane things and making it essential for its supernatural plot. Fantasy only has meaning when it helps us understand the world around us, and Suzume ties up both elements in an exciting story.
Unfortunately, all is not great with this film, and that is at the expense of the animation. Yes, Makoto Shinkai is renown for his animation, the clever use of light effects and CGI to bring his films come to life. While is Suzume’s case, the usage of 3D animation has garnered mixed results. When used to support 2D animation, CGI can greatly enhance it. However, when full 3D elements are waved around the screen, its painfully obvious to the viewer that it doesn’t match the same wonder as traditional 2D animation. When you watch this movie for yourself, some objects and characters stick out, polarizing the visual aesthetics Shinkai is known for.
Ok, not to get into spoiler territory, the third act, Suzume narrative structure is unexpectedly subverted. Yes, while the changes Shinkai himself made to the script did help the movie feeling fresh, since the movie does reach the 2-hour runtime. This also adds a little confusion when comes to the rules of its fantasy setting. When the credits start rolling, we as the audience don’t truly understand how this fantasy world works, maybe we’re not supposed to. As for the ending, this has to be one the most divisive yet for a Shinkai film (just not as devisive as Last Jedi), but its conclusion doesn’t rob Suzume of its overall charm.
Despite the flaws, Suzume is still an amazing movie to watch, and the visual are worth the admission alone. In just two hours, the movie manages to balance human encounters and thrilling combat for the fate of Japan. All the while, Shinkai uses magnificent landscapes as the background of a story about love, trauma, and finding out who you are. There’s much to love about Suzume, and more than enough for us to be excited about whatever the filmmaker comes up with next.
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