"Tales from Earthsea" Movie Review

8/20/2010 Posted by Admin

"Tales from Earthsea"

Movie Review

Directed by Goro Miyazaki, Written by Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, 116 Minutes, Rated PG-13.

From our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

"Like father, like son," this is not.

"Tales from Earthsea" marks the directorial debut of legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro, who presumably is expected to take up the mantle as Studio Ghibli's head director once his father finally retires (meaning actually retire--not just claim to be retired then come out with three more masterpieces in the span of ten years). Overall, Ghibli's future isn't in completely inept hands, but it'd be a bit more pleasant to know the greatest animation company in the world had someone a bit more assured at the helm.

The film is loosely based on the fantasy novels of Ursula K. Le Guin detailing the legends of the land of Earthsea, a place not unlike many Miyazaki settings where numerous fantastical creatures--predominately dragons here--roam the land along with humans, but where humanity is slowly becoming more and more disconnected with nature due to its excesses and apathy toward its planet.

Our hero is Prince Arren. Corrupted by a mysterious darkness, he murders his father and flees into the desert, where he is found by a wizard named Sparrowhawk. Together the two head to the farm of Sparrowhawk's old friend Tenar. She is a wizard as well, though, due to the balance between man and nature slowly dwindling, most wizards are unable to use their powers. She has adopted a young girl named Therru, who has mysterious origins of her own. Arren soon discovers that he and Sparrowhawk are targets of a very powerful (and bafflingly androgynous) wizard named Cob, who seeks immortality and believes Arren to be the key.

For most of the running time, it's pretty underwhelming stuff. Very typical for Ghibli, with most of the subject matter just tired retreads of stuff Miyazaki and his equally-skilled partner Isao Takahata have covered time and time again. The difference with those two, however, is that with each film they bring something new to the table--most Ghibli films tend to be about childhood and mankind's relationship with nature, but Hayao changes it up. First it's a toned-down family drama with "My Neighbor Totoro," then a couple surreal epics with "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away," then the chalky environmental morality play "Ponyo." They all cover similar topics but manage to be very distinctive, but "Earthsea" just feels like Goro took all the cues from Miyazaki Senior and left little room for his own personal expression.

Even the animation is sub-par, with a few striking visuals here and there mostly overtaken with flat reinterpretations of previous Miyazaki imagery. The setting is similar--it lacks the pure visual splendor of other Ghibli films--often one feels as if the places within a Ghibli film are just fragments of a much larger world, but the settings of "Earthsea," despite being based on a much larger universe, feel more enclosed and limited.

Amusingly enough, though, the dilemma most Ghibli films have regarding anticlimactic final acts is generally avoided. In fact, "Earthsea" really comes to life in the final half hour or so, where some very profound feelings come out regarding death and how to live ones life, and the final action scene is incredibly exciting and gorgeously drawn. It's a shame so much of the film's power had to wait until the finale.

Mostly, the young Miyazaki needs to bring more of himself to his work--this is a decent enough display of his potential, but if he wants to match or even overcome the shadow of Hayao Miyazaki, he'll need to do better than this.

Grade: C

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes