Porco was once an ace fighter pilot during World War I. Now, he’s bounty hunter with a reputation for being a womanizer and pig. Well…the pig part isn’t so much reputation as fact. Somewhere in his past, Porco got transformed into a pig—complete with snout and floppy ears.
He’s come to terms with being a pig and allows himself behave accordingly. He has bigger fish to fry than trying to better his piggishness anyway. He’s got hordes of pirates after him and the Italian air force isn’t too fond of him either. It isn’t until he meets Fio—a young engineer—that he begins to question whether accepting his piggish persona is right.
Porco Rosso is a strange movie in that isn’t quite as weird as it should be. It doesn’t have all the unusual tech and spirits of some of Miyazaki’s work, but it has a Pig/Human for a hero. It’s odd that that is just left hanging there with no other mention of magic or weirdness in the whole movie (except, I guess, the plane purgatory scene). I kept longing for there to be more strange goings on, but nothing bizarre happened! This is probably the first time I’ve wanted more weirdness in a Studio Ghibli film, but I was left longing to know how Marco a.k.a. Porco (Marco! Porco!) got turned into a pig and if there was anyone else afflicted by human to animal transformations.
About halfway through the film, though, I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t watching a fantasy so much as an old timey, serial. From the very start, there were shades of Indiana Jones all over Porco Rosso. There’s no treasure or, ahem, aliens, but there are dog fights and a very retro, adventure feel. I really liked the tone in that way. If I watched Porco Rosso again, without any magical expectations, I think I’d be able to appreciate that more. The film is about the pirates and the competition between Porco and Curtis—the American flying ace. That’s a good story. The pig thing just threw me off.
The animation in Porco Rosso was gorgeous and detailed. If there’s one thing the people at Studio Ghibli know how to draw it’s machines. The planes were so cool looking—this coming from a person who has no feelings about planes in general. The scenery was also very nice and the character design impressive (especially the variations in all the pirates). I wish there would have been a bit more distinctiveness between the two main female characters, but this isn’t the first time that women have looked a lot alike in an animated film. There still tends to be more differences between women in Studio Ghibli films than Disney films so I don’t like complaining too much.
As always, it is good to point out the female characters in a Studio Ghibli film. There were plenty of side female characters in Porco Rosso (thanks to all the women building Porco’s plane) but only two had proper roles. Of the two, I much preferred Fio. She was an engineer who didn’t give up when Porco told her that he didn’t want a young woman working on his plane. She proved herself to be an excellent engineer and companion. She even believed so much in Porco and her plane that she put herself in an uncomfortable situation at the end of the film. Fio was brave and daring, and I’d have liked to see a whole film centered on her.
Gina, on the other hand, wasn’t given nearly so much to do. She owned a bar (giving me Marion Ravenwood vibes), but most of the time, she just was shown mooning over Porco. At the end of the film, she comes through as a bit of a hero, but it wasn’t enough to make her into an interesting character. The most memorable thing about Gina was that she was voiced by the same actress who did Megara in Hercules—which could have given me unrealistic expectations of the character.
The other most notable member of the voice cast was Cary Elwes. Instead of voicing the Baron, this time he was doing a Texas accent and playing Curtis—the semi-villain of the film. Cary Elwes is always perfect in these films, but from what I can tell, this is unfortunately the only other Studio Ghibli film he’s done a voice in. I might have to break down and rewatch Quest for Camelot to get more Cary Elwes voice-acting in the future because he’s just so good.
I know this film is about Porco, the flying pig, but I don’t have much to say about him. His development over the course of the movie was minor, and while I didn’t dislike him, I just found him sort of blandly okay as a character. He WAS voiced by Michael Keaton—which was weird because I could sometimes hear the Batman voice coming through.
Overall, I enjoyed Porco Rosso. It’s definitely not top tier as far as Studio Ghibli films go, but it was fast-paced and entertaining. It’d actually be a good entry film for people looking to start watching Studio Ghibli because it’s fairly accessible.
Warning Though: The ending of this movie is tremendously unsatisfying. Supposedly, there was going to be a sequel, but with Miyazaki’s retirement, that’s never going to happen. I wish there’d been a second movie because I hate not ever knowing what happens next.
Now, for the current rankings! You might notice that I slipped in When Marnie Was There. Yes, it’s dead last, and yes, I tried to review it. I really couldn’t drum up anything to say about it though (I fell asleep during it). Porco Rosso, however, made it in at #6–which is pretty respectable.
My Current Studio Ghibli Movie Rankings
- Howl’s Moving Castle (Review)
- Whisper of the Heart (Review)
- The Cat Returns (Review)
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Review)
- Spirited Away (Review)
- Porco Rosso
- Kiki’s Delivery Service (Review)
- Castle in the Sky (Review)
- My Neighbor Totoro
- When Marnie Was There
What Studio Ghibli movie would you most recommend to newbies?
Image Source: Kiss Them Goodbye