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First off, the plot is truly unique to the American film market. In a time where sex and violence is king and characterization and plot are merely regarded as afterthoughts, this movie bravely stood alone as an example of how to do a film correctly. It paid a great price for doing so; the sales were dismal compared to many other movies that debuted in 1997, and unfairly so.
It takes the conflict of "man vs. nature" and elevates it to a whole new level, adding many interesting characterization aspects in the process.
I do not wish to go into great deal regarding the plot; that has been done many times before. What I do want to say is that this movie will give you a great deal of insight into human nature and our attitude towards each other and towards the natural level. What you realize midway through the film is that there is no true "Hero" in the traditional sense in the film.
One of the many elements of this movie is that, like real wars, each side believes their side is the "right" side. My favorite line is the one they all ask about the hero: "Just who’s side is he on anyway?" After reading a few of the other comments, I was interested in the Eastern philosophic idea of the young hero who is the force of balance and harmony because that is totally him, yet he is still shown as human with human weaknesses!
The animation is spectacular. I especially liked the wolves and the wood sprites. The characters are well developed and no one is wholly evil. I was still on the side of the animals though. The plot is not in any way predictable and I was gripped from the start. The woods were full of all kinds of bizarre creatures and I liked the way they talked. I was a little startled by the violence but that was all part of the fun. A real masterpiece.
All I can say is, watch the movie with an open mind and you will enjoy it like no other. A lot of negative reviews that I’ve read through are silly, one person claimed to "not understand it" when they couldn’t even remember the characters’ names; had they paid any attention at all? This movie is really not difficult to comprehend in the least if you’re willing to actually watch it.
In summation, I want to state that is that this is a powerful movie for the whole family, despite some bloody parts -- but in most places the gore is no different than what you might find in Star Wars. This is truly an epic film, easily on the level with movies such as Braveheart.