Review by Dan Skip Allen
Hayao Miyazaki is considered one of the great animated film directors of all time, and his films have garnered much critical acclaim and fan support. With this being the case, that means getting followers who want to be animated creators like him. That's where GKIDS comes in. These people have made a handful of films since Miyazaki's retirement, including their newest work, The Deer King.
The Deer King is a warrior named Van who was enslaved by a group of people who had gathered the art of riding and training deer. While working at the mine, a group of dogs attacks everyone there. Van ends up being the only survivor with a little girl. This attack causes a plague in the land where the film takes place. Also, a doctor and tracker try to figure out what is actually going on in this land and how it involves Van and the little girl.
This film was hard to follow because there were a lot of strange words that represented places and people in the movie. The lands and different groups of people were very confusing to me. Sometimes these films don't translate to American audiences, but I wish they could have screened this with dubbed voices for critics so it wasn't lost in translation as much. That being said, what I could follow along with was enjoyable and entertaining. The father-daughter angle worked for me. The fantasy aspects were a bit hit and miss, though.
The animation in these films can be a bit of an acquired taste, but in this film, the animation was a bit straightforward. I think that played better for the story the filmmakers were trying to tell. I really liked it. The filmmakers contrasted vibrant colors against the more drab colors of the animals and the costumes, creating a nice dichotomy. The animation was one of the film's more enjoyable parts.
Despite all the feuding lands, the main storyline of the father figure trying to find and rescue the little girl was the best part of the film. Both have a connection to the overall storyline, but they mean more to one another. Even though she isn't his real child, she still calls him Dada. She has accepted him as her father and caregiver. They settled in a nice little town, and it worked for them both before all craziness started to happen.
The Deer King was a nice film for fans of this type of anime style. The story itself was more underwhelming. The father-daughter aspect is the best part of the film. Many movies and television shows have been doing the Lone Wolf and Cub type of story, and it's getting overdone lately. Still, the animation was good, opting for something more straightforward. This film might be enjoyable for some, but it was pretty confusing for me. Still, the redeeming qualities make it worth a watch.
The Deer King screens in theaters nationwide on July 13 and 14 before opening on July 15.