Netflixing: Mary and the Witch's Flower

in #movies3 years ago

It occurs to me that something can be, at once, both very beautiful and very stupid.

And it also occurs to me that this combination is possible not only in people but also in works of art. Because art is more than just aesthetic, and beauty is not truth (no matter what that Grecian Urn told you).

So it is that I find myself in the unenviable position of having to review a beautiful hot mess, in the form of Mary and the Witch's Flower.

A Little Context

Mary and the Witch's Flower is the first feature film to come from Studio Ponoc.

Which was founded by a former Studio Ghibli producer and is home to several former Studio Ghibli animators. The studio's logo, as you can see, is also something of an homage to the Ghibli logo, replacing the Ghibli mascot of Totoro with the only character Ponoc can claim as a mascot, in the form of Mary herself.

And from all this, it is not hard to deduce that Studio Ponoc is transparently trying to become the next Studio Ghibli, to the point where it seems they are trying to out-Ghibli them altogether.

I have my own feelings about such a brazen approach to branding, naturally. But for the sake of objectivity I have to put those feelings aside and judge their first foray on its own merits.

Let's examine what's on offer here.

Note This

The only version of this movie that can be found on North American Netflix is the English-dubbed version. The original Japanese language track is not available, and the English dub is, frankly, terrible.

Others might be able to overlook this, but I cannot. No excuse that can be given for the absence of the Japanese dub would satisfy me. There is no technological barrier to having multiple language options, and Netflix hosts enough international content that it should be well prepared to offer those language options.

And this is not an isolated incident. My viewings of April and the Extraordinary World and also Phantom Boy were similarly hampered by such carelessness. This pattern concerns me, and I would not see it continued.

Netflix, you are on probation.

The Story

Based on a story by Mary Stewart (author of the Merlin trilogy), Mary and the Witch's Flower is about a girl who discovers a magical world.

Mary Smith is a clumsy girl who resents the fact that she was born with bright red frizzy hair, who moves in with her great aunt in advance of her parents coming so that she can start the school year at the same time as all the other children.

One day, Mary finds a mysterious wildflower known as a "fly-by-night". Crushing one of its blossoms between her hands gives her magical abilities for a single night. And no sooner does she try this than she is whisked away to a magical school for witches that floats above the clouds.

The instructors of Endor College are convinced that Mary is some kind of magical prodigy, as she is able to pass all the college's courses within minutes. When she finally confesses that all her supposed powers actually come from the mysterious flower, the professors become even more interested in her, and kidnap a child from her village as a hostage, forcing Mary to hand over the flower.

But her trials and tribulations don't end there. With the flower in their possession, the professors begin experimenting with its powers on human test subjects, courting a potential disaster of magical proportions. With only her own wits, and the help of a little broomstick, Mary will have to fight real witches and stop them from doing the unthinkable.

A Beautiful Film

There's no denying the level of craftsmanship that went into the visuals of this movie. The Studio Ponoc artists, who were headhunted from Studio Ghibli, went the extra mile to make the backgrounds lush and the animation seamless.

The level of detail on display is simply stunning, and manages to surpass even some Ghibli classics such as Howl's Moving Castle.

A Stupid Film

For all its visual resplendence, Mary and the Witch's Flower fails as a cohesive story. The narrative is undisciplined. It lacks structure.

As an example, the first act fills roughly the first hour, meaning that by the time we're done being introduced to the main characters and setting, the movie is already half over. What follows after that is a stilted and airless conflict that rushes along entirely too quickly.

The character development is also unnatural and disingenuous. Mary has known the boy Peter for less than a day before he is abducted by witches, yet once she is taken, she acts as if her dearest friend has been stolen from her.

But all of that doesn't even hold a candle to this little bundle of deus ex machina.

Flanagan the broom master saves Mary from certain peril at least twice during the runtime of this movie, deflating all the tension from the scene. And he's not the only cheap plot device in the story, either, as it turns out there is a magic spell that can cancel all other magic spells, ensuring that no mess ever gets big enough to be of any real concern to the characters or to the audience.

This film simply commits too many structural sins to be enjoyable as a story. And that's possibly the worst thing that can be said about any film, leaving Mary and the Witch's Flower with naught but the visuals to recommend it.

My Judgment

I was actually upset, once upon a time, that I didn't get to see this movie in the theater. Now, I'm just glad I didn't pay money for the privilege.

Mary and the Witch's Flower never rises above the level of a C, and it only gets that far on the strength of its visuals alone. Pretty pictures and flowing animation are not a bad thing to have, but they are also not the point of watching a movie.

It's impossible not to compare this film with the the films of Studio Ghibli, and while a lot of Ghibli films are also narratively unbalanced, few are so lopsided as to be completely undone (though I have not forgotten the mess that was Tales of Earthsea).

It's on Netflix, but it's not a must-see. And if you'd rather watch something else, I won't stop you.

Previous entries in the Netflixing series:

Past Years

TV Shows

  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 5
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  • The Joel McHale Show, with Joel McHale
  • John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 4
  • Trollhunters, Season 3
  • Aggretsuko
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 4
  • Trollhunters
  • Round Planet
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 3
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2
  • Kakegurui
  • Planet Earth II
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 2
  • Revolting Rhymes
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Season 1
  • The Polka King
  • Little Witch Academia
  • Movies

  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Coco
  • The Iron Giant
  • Jaws
  • Phantom Boy
  • The Boss Baby
  • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
  • Strictly Ballroom
  • Sort:  

    I was looking for a movie to watch in upcoming weekend and you filled my requirement! Great review and really appreciate your effort!


    So raw judgment and analysis and after read it i don't know if spend time watching it, i mean your write was so clear for me. Regards

    This is wonderful post. very interesting Netflixing movie and good I think.
    have a great day

    This movie has sold me on ponoc, I was a bit disappointed with the end result but overall I look forward to see what these guys can do in the future

    Excellent review, my friend and you are right, the ss as a whole can be looked at, but many moments simply failed and the impression is below average! Thank you @talanhorne

    @talanhorne - Sir very interesting... I like Cartoon & Anime movies, so this is very useful to me Sir... Thank you & nice you decided to share this review Sir...


    Your writing skills are very good and like a professional writer. Excellent review of The Mary and the Witch's Flower under the name of Netflix series. Thank you very much for sharing with us

    Excellent writing of nice anime film. Good work & thank you

    If you feel the movie is not that great, you don’t hasitate to point it out. On the other hand when you write a review with high results, I’m really motivated to see it. Unfortunately “Mary and the Witch's Flower” isn’t one of the movie to watch.

    ...the time we're done being introduced to the main characters and setting, the movie is already half over.

    At some point, it sounds painfull for movie being half over to get to know the main character.

    Netflix, you are on probation.

    That’s the first time I’ve heard anything like that lol. But you are right.
    When it comes to review, I’m not that super excited. Even though the level of detail on display is simply stunning as you mentioned, the story itself deserves only that much. Hopefully your next review will be more exciting.
    Still very well written! They should know there are tough critics, it eventually pushes them to do better.

    impressive writing & nice movie review. well described & shared a judgement too. @talanhorne

    reteemed & upvoted

    This article is professional & Excellent writing . so great experience.
    Thanks @talanhorne
    100% like and resteem

    A good film review & professional writing of the netflix movie series.

    Hello @talanhorne,

    Extraordinary good article & incredible writing. Good story & interesting animation movie. Thank you.


    That would be excellently explain what about content inside the movie. Powerful writing here and prefer to watch these story. Nice work @talanhorne.

    It's smart introduction of the another Netflix series of Mary and the Witch's Flower. better characters introducing here. Increase passion to watch with read article.

    Well something to definitely look forward to it will be a treat to checkout

    @talanhorne, Mary and the Witch's Flower is a another anime movie under the name of Netflix. It has some attraction of mine. But not interesting whole story after reading. I have found some anime best movies. But this one not perfect. However your summer wanna great.

    Better anime film I've heard before. But unfortunately never chance to watch this one. Hope will watch later. Perfect review @talanhorne.

    Congratulations @talanhorne
    Now you are in the MinnowsPower Loyalty Member List...!!!

    Exceptional movie review & excellent writing...!!!

    100% Upvoted by @MinnowsPower

    Useful and valuable article and good writing, thanks.@talanhorne
    Upvote Resteem

    Awesome blog post @talanhorne this is one of those serials we dont want to miss,thanks a lot for sharing.


    fantastic movies .your ideas and writing have been fulfilled.
    This is great article and good advice.
    Resteem service

    The best animated films and give life value and be loved by all circles.

    nice post and i am the big fan of anime.

    Most likely this movie is for an amateur. Thank you for a good review and look forward to the next resume

    A good and understandable review of the film. I think I'll take a look, although I will not hurry.

    Excellent review of The Mary and the Witch's Flower under the name of Netflix series .Very interesting movie. All the day I waiting for your post. I love your post and your writing skills are a professional writer.I love your work. Your blog is perfect and I support your success always for you. Thanks for sharing with dear friend.. @talanhorne

    People need to stop getting angry over the accents in this movie. The characters are BRITISH, it's set in britian and it would be pretty weird for British characters to sound American. @talanhorne

    Wonderful review about Mary and witch flower @talanhorne

    Netflix : Awesome Movie!!


    The stories are so wonderful i must say... I love the netflix movies... those are all always interestin. 😊 Thannks you fr share this secene 😁👍

    The animated film looks thrilling and entertaining and also has some unique characters but they needs to work better to improve on the film quality

    Great movie always had love for the ghibli artwork. Yonebayashi did a great work. Waiting for the next ponac film. Strong is the force in me.
    Enjoyed the movie very much. Though I'm a fan of Studio Ghibli, I loved this movie too.Great movie one should watch it and fly in their imagination.

    Thanks @talanhorne for sharing this post. 🤗💙

    Your blogs are simply superb i am animation movies a lot.

    It's on Netflix, but it's not a must-see. And if you'd rather watch something else, I won't stop you.

    Good judgement provided & excellent movie review.

    This is wonderful post.....awesome netflix movies...

    Maid-chan approves of this review and has resteemed it!

    You are amazing artist when it comes to netflix blogposts,thanks a lot for sharing.

    Love reading your blogs @talanhorne,how are you,always enjoys spending my time to read your blog posts.

    This is really cool thank you so much,have a great day @talanhorne.

    The ultimate in this blog post is your judgement,that is really cool to read.

    No excuse for not having a proper English version, I haven't watched it though but it reminds me of the animated movie 'Spirited Away'

    I enjoy nearly all the Ghibli films so I'll take a lot onto Studio Ponoc as well as check out netflix for Mary and the Witch's Flower. I've seen a few anime where I think the English dub is better then Japanese (BLASPHEMY!) BUT in my defense I only got to see it in English first then watched it later in Japanese and just could keep hearing the english voices. Anime like Yu Yu Hakusho and Dragon Ball Z to name a few.

    I had to stop reading your post at the "story" because I don't want to spoil it but I wanted to at least reply before I dive in. Thanks for at least bringing it to light @talanhorne. Looking forward to reading your other posts.

    great post and its a good movie

    This is wonderful post because it keeps both meaning very beautiful and very stupid.Thank for sharing this post with us.Keep it up :)

    Wonderful review and professional followed ✌️

    I haven't seen this movie.
    But judging from your review I think this is a must watch.
    Surely I will give it a try

    Mary and the Witch's Flower is amazing sir,thank you so much for writing about this.

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