Tales from Earthsea (Japan: Gedo senki), 2006.
Directed by Goro Miyazaki.
Featuring the voice talents of Willem Dafoe, Timothy Dalton, Mariska Hartigay, Cheech Marin, Blaire Restaneo and Matt Levin.
After a terrible omen, a wizard embarks on a quest to uncover the evil forces that are threatening the very balance of the world.
Studio Ghibli has crafted some truly wonderful animated films. The artistry is always wonderful and the imagery always dazzling. The stories are the most fantastical and imaginative of fairy tales. Much like Pixar’s CV, there aren’t too many duds in the Ghibli catalogue.
Tales from Earthsea is adapted from the novels by Ursula Le Guin. Set in the mythical world of Earthsea, we have Lord Sparrowhawk who’s investigating a mysterious imbalance effecting the land. This coincides with the young Prince Arren who kills his father before fleeing, chased by his own shadow… erm yeah. The two join up and encounter a mysterious and disfigured young girl Therru and her guardian. They must all band together to stop the evil Wizard Cob who is obsessed in his pursuit of immortality. In truth the story gets confused throughout and nothing ever seems too clear. A lot of the film seems to be allegorical which is all well and good, but you still need a plot in the forefront that drives the film forwards. There’s not really much.
The adventures of Sparrowhawk et al really fail to excite in the way you expect of Ghibli at its best. Again there’s far too much going on. There’s too much unexplained and too many little plot points that open up but are never resolved, whilst the history behind the whole world remains a little too vague. Perhaps Le Guin’s books are clearer, but this adaptation isn’t really. That said a major problem is the film is too slow moving. It’s all a little dull. Despite a world with magic, dragons, wars and evil wizards, not enough action takes place. There’s enough imaginative concept but the delivery is just misguided.
On a technical standpoint the film ticks many of the Studio Ghibli boxes. It looks wonderful. The animation isn’t up to the level of Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle, but nevertheless it’s impressive. Elsewhere the films biggest strength is the wonderful score by Tamira Terashima. It’s sweeping, epic and engaging and perhaps is the major element that will drag the audience through to the end. The voice work is also decent with the recognizable dulcet tones of Timothy Dalton and Willem Dafoe.
For genre fans only, Tales from Earthsea fails to cross over to wider audiences. Youngsters used to the colourful antics of Nemo’s or Wally’s will drift off early in this, and the film lacks the wonder and magnetic appeal of the studio’s best works.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★