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Tales From Earthsea

An anime film from Studio Ghibli

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All that is Ghibli is not gold

  • Mar 31, 2013
What a disjointed mess of a film this is. Studio Ghibli has made a handful of sub par films in the past, nothing bad just a few films that don't quite live up to their incredibly high standards. For a studio with such an outstanding track record its hard for me to fathom how this film was made. Did they think that just because they got the son of Hayao Miyazaki to direct it that it would turn out to be gold? The story is all over place, it takes forever to get going, and to top it off its main character is the most pathetic, worthless, and fragile hero I've ever seen in a Ghibli movie. Hell, Kiki was more useful then this sorry excuse for a prince. A hallmark of Miyazaki films are the strong hero's and heroins within them. What would Princess Mononoke be without San and Ashitaka? How about Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind without Nausicaa and Asbel? Or Sheeta and Patzu from Castle in the Sky? See a pattern? Though young all of these characters are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, and not a one of them is in a constant need of saving. Arren, the main character of this movie, is more useless then Shinji from Evangelion. He needs saving more then Princess Peach. I think at some point every other good character get's their chance to save his sorry butt after he puts himself in a terrible situation entirely of his own doing. Normally such a trait would be redeemed by saving the day at the end, but he doesn't even get to do that, as again he needs to be saved AGAIN. He does NOTHING of consequence the entire movie.

The story starts out with a very impressive sweeping scene of a ship at sea floundering in a storm as their captain tries desperately to keep it afloat. On board is a wizard who's job it is to calm the seas, but for some reason never really explained he can't remember the words to the right spell. Whether this is because the man is just an idiot, or the captain bought a bargain price wizard, we don't know. But then suddenly a pair of dragons swoop down from the sky and scare the living daylights out of the crew. Cut to the King of this land, as he meets with a counsel of his closest advisers and wise men to consult with them over the dire situation of the country. A plague is spreading, killing sheep and young children, a plague we will never see and that plays no role whatsoever in the movie. Dragons have reentered the world and threaten the future of Earthsea as we know it! Dragons who, again, will not show up again (well, mostly) and play almost no role in the movie. In fact, the entire first part of the film is a waste and seems more a way to please fans of the books instead of for the sake of good story telling. The entire opening could be cut , and should have been, and the movie would haven stronger for it. Really, what good is it? It gives us numerous false conflicts that will play no role in the story, introduces us to characters that won't show up again, ever, and gives to us one of the most half hearted, uninspired, idiotic introductions to a main I've ever seen.

Our hero, Princes Arren, who has been given absolutely no introduction or back story at this point, just runs up to his father, stabs him in the chest, steals his sword, and runs away. All in about a fifteen second scene. No set up, no reason (come to think of it, why he does this is NEVER explained), no build up in tension, nothing. He just runs up, stabs his dad, and steals his sword, supposedly while sticking his tong out and teasing "nanananana" while he ran. Our hero everybody.

I've never read the books, but I've heard a lot of good things about them. It seems at times like Miyazaki tried too hard to throw in the mythology of the world where it didn't belong, and skimmed over more important aspects of it that might have made for a more interesting movie. For instance, slavery is a big part of this world, and directly effects most of the main characters, yet after the first act it plays little to no role in the rest of the story. Why? That would have been WAY better then what they ended up doing. Adaptions can be tricky beasts if you don't have the budget or running time to tell the full story (ala Lord of the Rings) but I never felt a sense of wonder or curiosity about the world or setting, which is absolutely vital when adapting a fantasy series. The mythology of the world, and the rules under which it operates (if indeed there are any at all) are left entirely unexplained which left me confused and dumbfounded at many key moments. Magic, dragons, wizardry, all this is fine so long as they are given rules to follow. Without such rules they are reduced to simply deus ex machina which detract from the world and the story rather then enhance them. To add to this, the idea of The Balance, which apparently holds the world together ala "The One Power" in The Wheel of Time series, is never fleshed out or explained. The characters are constantly talking about how The Balance is being threatened, and must be restored, but we are never given privy to what exactly will happen if it ISN'T restored. This would be fine (though not desired) if the story and characters were strong, but since they are as weak as they are we are left with little to no tension throughout. I didn't care about the characters, the plot took FOREVER to get anywhere, and the stakes were never adequately explained. So tell me, what was there for me to get invested in?

Now to this movies defense it isn't all bad. There is a lot to like though not nearly enough to make up for the flaws. The designs and animation were amazing, bringing back memories of Nausicaa and Princes Mononoke. These films look a lot alike; characters wear similar clothing, the settings are very similar, and the character designs share the same charm and contrast. I absolutely loved this aspect of the film. In addition what few fantasy settings we are shown, such as the town of Hort, are beautifully rendered and imagined. If the entire movie were set there, I might have liked it a lot better. Unfortunately its in only a short portion of the film as the main characters are whisked away to... a farm. Yup, a farm. They had this big huge amazing city right there, and they decide to spend most of the movies time on a farm. AH!

Some of the supporting characters are also pretty good, though non of them to me ever felt like fully realized three dimensional characters. They play their respective roles pretty well, from wise old wizard, to whimsical villain, to caring mother type and emotionally troubled girl. Again though they hardly ever step out of these roles to become real people. Hell even Arren is stuck in one dimensional land, and he's the hero!

Overall Tales from Earthsea is a staggering disappointment. It isn't without its merits, as I've stated above, but no amount of interesting settings or wonderful animation can make up for weak characters and a weak story. Sorry to say, Ghibli has finally made a bad movie.

Replay value; moderate.

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March 31, 2013
I was going to see this director's FROM UP POPPY HILL today (since it is showing in a theater), it is supposed to be better since the father co-wrote its screenplay. But I don't have time this weekend. I only saw 30-40 minutes of this movie and I couldn't remember why I did not ever finish it.
April 01, 2013
To be perfectly honest the first ten to fifteen minutes are the best part of the movie, the only problem is they play no role in the rest of the movie. They are good, but meaningless. Very strange.
More Tales From Earthsea reviews
review by . April 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****       Hayao Miyazaki has collaborated with Studio Ghibli and made some of the best animated features out there. "Spirited Away" is one of my favorite films, as well as one of the very best in the animated category. Now, his son has begun to direct. His name is Goro Miyazaki, and he continues his dad's legacy by working with the same Animation Studio, and of course, still working with Anime. But why wouldn't he? That's a question that does not need to …
review by . October 05, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   Title: Tales From Earthsea   Director: Goro Miyazaki   Starring: Timothy Dalton, Willem DaFoe   Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1   Studio: Studio Ghibli   Genre(s): Fantasy   Rated:       (For some violent images)     Buy From DVD / BluRay / Soundtrack [IMPORT] / Novel    Studio Ghibli’s “Tales From Earthsea” has had a long and hectic road. Years ago Academy Award-winning …
review by . May 25, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
Tales From Earthseais a film that is loosely based on a combination of plots and characters from the first four books in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series.  The film was directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki.      At the beginning of the film, drought and pestilence is spreading throughout the land.  The main character of the film is Arren, and he is the prince of the land.  Arren murders his father, takes his sword, and runs away.  …
About the reviewer
Jonathan J.D. Lane ()
I am a member of the US Air Force and presently serve overseas at RAF Mildenhall about three hours north of London. I grew up in Pappilion Nebraska and Crestview Florida, but since joining the Air Force … more
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