Before my Miyazaki exodus, I did some reading on some message boards. Sifting through all the disturbing Miyazaki fan art, I’d often encounter posts regarding, “Miyazaki’s Best and Worst Movie”. On numerous occasions I discovered that many Miyazaki fans rate Porco Rosso as Miyazaki’s weakest. Well surprise, surprise, I loved this movie. Porco Rosso is a vastly underrated film about rediscovering humanity and doing what you’re most passionate about (in this case aviation). I love that Porco Rosso uses real historical events as jumping off points to tell an original story with just a hint of fantasy. In my opinion, Porco Rosso is one of Miyazaki’s best written films.
Set in the Adriatic Sea the late 1920s, Porco Rosso is the story of Italian WWI ex-fighter pilot Porco Rosso, Italian for “Red Pig”. Formerly a human known as Marco Rousolini, Porco was inexplicably transformed into a pig after abandoning the Italian military. Now a mercenary for hire, the film follows Porco as he fights air pirates, faces off against his boorish American rival Donald Curtis, and is pursued by the Italian government. Porco also befriends a young girl mechanic named Fio and together they take to the sky in this thrilling, period-piece adventure
When it comes to plotting, Porco Rosso (like many Miyazaki films) doesn’t follow any conventional guidelines. The “story” is driven solely by the characters at a leisurely pace, providing plenty of time for reflection and emotional insight. Sure, the film does technically build up to a climax in Porco’s air battle against Donald Curtis, but it isn’t about a means to an end. What I admire about Porco Rosso is how it just feels like another chapter in Porco’s life. Instead of watching an action hero race to some kind of save-everyone-solution, we are watching a film about an anti-hero caught up in conflicts he’s more or less indifferent to. The real driving element of this film is Porco’s personal feelings towards humanity.
Throughout the film it is never asked how Porco turned into a pig, nor does Porco pursue a cure. It is simply hinted that Porco became a pig after he gave up on humanity. Porco watched dozens of his friends pointlessly get killed in WWI, he watched his government betray him, and thus, Porco wanted no part of living with or serving other humans. Fio represents Porco’s exact opposite. She is warm and accepting of others as she tries to open Porco’s cynical eyes.
Porco is such a rich and complex character, it’s hard not to fall in love with him (of course that would be illegal). Additionally, I enjoy Miyazaki’s beautiful depiction of interwar Europe and admire his anti-war stance. Don’t let the ridiculous title character fool you, Porco Rosso is an immensely engaging story about one of Miyazaki’s most interesting characters ever put to paper.
P.S. This may be the only U.S. Dub where you’ll hear Michael Keaton voicing an Italian Pig and Cary Elwes voicing an over-the-top American pilot. Check it out!