One of my great animation crimes I’ve been trying to remedy the last year or so is how many Studio Ghibli films I still haven’t seen. The list is embarrassingly long! This is why I have 2 Ghibli films as my Blind Spot picks for 2016. June gave me the first with Tales from Earthsea. I’d been wanting to see this epic fantasy film for some time and now that I have I’m glad I saw it.
I don’t know if I was kinder on this film because I just saw Warcraft- a fantasy film that made no sense and bored me out of my mind. Tales from Earthsea falls prey to some of the problems of the genre but overall it’s a satisfying enough fantasy story.
It is directed by Goro Miyazaki- Hayao’s son, and it is based on a novel by Ursula Le Guin which I have actually read. To read my review of the book click here.
Tales from Earthsea starts off with a bang. We get dragons fighting each other and the assassination of a King. (I’ll try not to spoil anything big). Our hero Aren is a very flawed character from the beginning, which I really appreciated. It made the narrative more interesting and unpredictable.
Aren meets a man named Sparrowhawk who agrees to help him bring ‘balance’ to the world again. They meet a girl named Therru who has a burn on her face and lives in a farm with her mother (I think) named Tenar. They introduce Aren to a slower way of life, and we get some nice quiet moments with them.
But it can’t last long because Aren and Sparrowhawk are being pursued by an androgynous wizard named Cob and his henchman called Hare. Cob isn’t like any other fantasy villain I’ve ever seen. He’s hypnotic and calm while also being extremely powerful.
There are also dragons and sorcery and all kinds of fantasy adventure in the story. The animation is gorgeous of course from Studio Ghibli and for his first time I think Goro did well.
However, there are some problems with Tales of Earthsea. Like many fantasy films, it gets a little muddled and confused once it has set up its world. Particularly as it gets to the ending powers change, positions are altered and we aren’t really sure what’s going on.
They try to explain some things but don’t quite explain them enough for my satisfaction, and I was left a little confused. Also while Aren’s flawed nature makes him interesting it also can be a little hard to root for.
That said, I enjoyed watching Tales from Earthsea. It is beautiful and makes some interesting choices that kept my attention. I was rarely bored watching this because it was always trying something new. I don’t know if those same risks would interest me on a rewatch but for this time I liked it.
The dub this time from Disney is very well done. We have Timothy Dalton, Mariska Hargitay, William Dafoe, Cheech Marin, and others.
It’s interesting that I guess Hayao Miyazaki didn’t think his son should have been promoted to director at such a young age. Evidently he was so convinced of it he didn’t talk to his son for the development of the film! I guess he eventually came around but doesn’t that just show how seriously Studio Ghibli takes their art? Even Hayao’s own son must go through the proper channels and get the experience needed.
With all of that, Goro still managed to do a decent job and I’d like to see more from him. Think of this as a very lightweight Princess Mononoke
Overall Grade- B-