Something bizarre has come over the land. The kingdom is deteriorating. People are beginning to act strange... What's even more strange is that people are beginning to see dragons, which shouldn't enter the world of humans. Due to all these bizarre events, Ged, a wandering wizard, is investigating the cause. During his journey, he meets Prince Arren, a young distraught teenage boy. While Arren may look like a shy young teen, he has a severe dark side, which grants him strength, hatred, ruthlessness and has no mercy, especially when it comes to protecting Tehanu. For the witch Kumo this is a perfect opportunity. He can use the boy's "fears" against the very one who would help him, Ged.
I realize that many people might not agree with what i'm going to say about this film, but please hear me out..
first of all.. i think too many people expected it to be like other miyazaki works.. but the worst thing you could do is assume it'll have the magic and light-heartedness of other studio ghibli films.. after all, it was miyazaki's son that directed it.. and for a first film, i don't think it could've been any better.. i suppose it's tough to keep this in mind, as the art style is the same as other ghibli films.. but please try..
that being said..
the story.. that might be partially because i really enjoy this genre.. a sort of medieval setting with fantasy elements.. dragons and sorcery.. but none of the fantasy elements are too over-bearing.. the film focuses instead on the lesson it intends to convey.. sounds lame.. but i think it did a perfect job of getting the point across.. i felt like i would burst when the movie ended.. i really felt the impact of what was being said.. to deny death is to deny life.. being afraid of death is being afraid of living.. i know it sounds cliche, but it makes sense and it really hits home.. heh.. for me at least.. it's a very epic telling of the story.. and you need to keep in mind also that this was literature to begin with, and you can tell by the content of the story.. it may seem to move a bit quickly and is at parts confusing.. but that's just the way it goes whenever literature becomes film.. nothing tough to keep up with though.. just a few holes..
Animation-the scenery was breathtaking as usual.. you could really feel the tone of the setting.. the art, the music, the story-all truly strike a chord.. the character animations could have been better, that would be my only serious complaint.. since it's a more recent film, i thought they could have done more with the effects-especially in scenes involving the use of magic.. more similar to the animation in spirited away or howl's moving castle.. then again, it might have been intentional.. and i'm not sure i liked the design of the dragons.. but overall.. great stuff.
Sound-probably my favorite music in a film ever.. bah.. i love that stuff.. perfectly orchestrated.. gave me chills actually.. heh.. it was dramatic, but it added to the epic feel of the film.. it was never cheesy.. and i especially love when it sounded a bit irish with the flutes and such.. and uh.. the closing song made me break down and bawl like a baby.. it was that beautiful.
Character-the characters were totally fitting for this movie.. nothing felt like it was out of place.. the main characters had plenty of depth and were very likable.. one thing i noticed was that one of the leaders of the bad dudes, the guy with the frenchie stupid-lookin mustache, looks exactly like a bad guy in nausicaa valley of the wind.. this also, may have been on purpose.. he acted like him too.. kinda weird.. and the evil sorcerer gave me chills.. that voice.. shudder*.. so yea-the characters were perfect in my opinion.. enough said.
Enjoyment-i enjoyed it thoroughly.. yea.. that's all.
*please remember to watch this film with an open mind, not expecting the usual miyazaki 'magic'
Even a prolific animation studio like Ghibli can turn out a lesser effort. Hiroyuki Morita's THE CAT RETURNS was my personal least favorite Ghibli movie, but that film, simplistic and shallow as it was, seems to have much more accolades than 2006's TALES FROM EARTHSEA, arguably one of the first productions from the studio to split audiences and critics alike.
Ironically enough, the controversy actually began prior to the film's release. It has been stated that Hayao Miyazaki had expressed interest in directing a film based on Ursula K. LeGuin's famous fantasy novels, but the author, displeased with previous attempts, declined... until the success
of Miyazaki's HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (arguably one of the director's least excellent but still brilliant efforts). However, it was ultimately decided that the film would be handled by Miyazaki's own son, Goro, under the persuasion of producer Toshio Suzuki. Miyazaki Senior was most displeased by these turn of events and it is said that his relationship with Goro became strained during the production period. Perhaps Hayao had reason to fear that his son was not ready to tackle such an ambitious story; although TALES FROM EARTHSEA performed well financially, it was attacked by critics and even fans of the books. In fact, Goro received the "Worst Director" Golden Raspberry Award for his first attempt. All of this sounds like a cruel, undeserved fate for the debut of the son of Japan's most respected animator, but even author Ursula K LeGuin has been disappointed with Goro's film. In fact, TALES FROM EARTHSEA would not even see a release in the United States for another five years.
The criticisms TALES FROM EARTHSEA has received are not without merit. Anyone expecting another PRINCESS MONONOKE or CASTLE IN THE SKY will probably be disappointed for, while this film shows moments of brilliance and imagination, it falls short from the upper echelon of those films. The problems lie in the storyline and characterizations.
Fans of LeGuin's books will probably be even more let down by this movie. It is based heavily on the third book, "The Farthest Shore", but while most of the situations and characters survive the transition to the screen, Goro attempts to incorporate elements from the other books into the film. But he does so in a way that only results in a tangled, confusing plot which not only feels rushed, but very incomplete and disorganized. Sometimes events happen without explanation, and what little explanation we get is unsatisfying; maybe fans of the books will grasp what Goro's intentions are, but others will find themselves asking questions which unfortunately, never get answered.
The film gets off to a promising start with a stormy sequence in which a ship at sea witnesses a bloody clash between two dragons. It's exciting and intense, with a brief flash of gory violence that brings one to mind of the similarly graphic moments from PRINCESS MONONOKE. TALES FROM EARTHSEA is still on that fine start when we see Arren, a teenage prince, inexplicably murder his father and escapes into a desert. He is rescued from wolves by Sparrowhawk, a kindly sorcerer with a scar on his face (for reasons that readers of the first book "Wizard of Earthsea" will recognize). Sparrow's mission is to restore the balance that has been disrupted in the mystical land of Earthsea.
However, when these two adventurers cross paths with other characters such as a moody, introverted “slave” named Therru, a warmhearted farmer, and an evil wizard intent on gaining (predictably) eternal life, it becomes evident that Goro is trying to cram too much story worth of at least four books into a two hour film. Aside from giving the characters little time to fully develop into fleshed out personalities, the film works in a very confusing and frustratingly murky subplot about a shadowy “clone” of Arren that shows up from time to time to torment the youth. This is handled very awkwardly, with zero foreshadowing and the whole “explanation” behind the whole thing leaves questions instead of answers. I was also very unclear about the climactic finale in which a girl transforms into a dragon; again, this is done with no explanation, that it only makes the audience baffled instead of thrilled.
Perhaps another big issue with the film is the pacing; as mentioned, the film’s best sequence is the opening dragon fight, but such action moments are rather scanty throughout the rest of the movie, resulting in long, extensive stretches where nothing really happens. For instance, at the halfway point, there is a long sequence in which the characters end up working on a farm. Although intended to provide character development, this sequence only slows down the film and feels more like padding than anything else. Brief moments such as Sparrowhawk and Arren talking about blistered hands after helping to plow the field feel strangely detached from the rest of the plot instead of anything else. The real areas in which Goro shows strength as an animator are the dream sequences—and there are quite a few in this tale—in which the characters find themselves standing on sunlit landscapes with luscious colors one moment and nearly drowning in an ooze-infested lake the next. These are actually far more interesting than much of the talkier scenes in the movie.
The lack of compelling characters is another major shortcoming with TALES FROM EARTHSEA. Sparrowhawk, for instance, is nobility personified, and as such, is pretty boring. Arren could have been a compelling troubled hero — sort of a darker version of Ashi-taka from MONONOKE, but his character development comes across as rather hazy to be interesting. The slave girl Therru, despite showing some backbone and the bitterness of San, isn’t much more endearing than her co-stars. Cob probably ranks as the most disappointing villain in any Ghibli film; oh sure, he’s creepy and acts evil, but he doesn’t have much of a personality, and lacks the charisma of, say, Muska from CASTLE IN THE SKY. That he doesn’t get much to do in the film is also a letdown. Cob’s slavetrader captain henchman, Hare, is much more effective as a badguy, and arguably is the only interesting character in the whole movie to display any personality. He sneers, cackles, rasps threats, and is remorselessly ruthless. It also helps that he is voiced by Cheech Marin in the Disney-produced English dub... who naturally gives the best performance in the whole film!
Speaking of the dub, this is probably my least favorite of the Disney Ghibli dubs, not because it is badly done—Disney has never produced an unlistenable dub as far as I’m concerned; their past dubs have all been fantastic, contrary to what others may say (yes, even the ones with extra dialogue and music). Perhaps because of the murky nature of this movie, it is difficult for the dub to be as effective, despite the efforts of everyone involved. Still, the performers and voice director Gary Rydstrom do their best: As mentioned, Marin plays the part of Hare perfectly and steals the show. Timothy Dalton does an excellent job as Sparrowhawk, embuing him with wisdom, warmth, and subtlety. Mariska Hargitay is also very good as the kindly farmer Tenar. Matt Levin as Arren is a bit of a trickier issue: he starts out somewhat flatly, but he gradually improves and gets especially good at the end. On the other hand, Blaire Restaneo’s Therru is the least effective of the voice cast; she shines brilliantly in singing the film’s only song, a melancholy acapella solo originally rendered by Aoi Teshima and does all right in the tense scenes, but I wasn’t so sold on the rest of her scenes. Willem Dafoe’s Cob works best in the climactic scenes where he rasps his way to the tower, but otherwise spends most of the time talking in a very soft, monotonous voice. I don’t know if it was supposed to convey darkness or not, but I didn’t find it particularly effective (in fact, I was chuckling upon hearing him speak for the first time) and I’m still not sure if he was the right choice for the character. Simply put, he’s no match for Mark Hamill’s Muska. The rest of the voices are fine, although they’re not nearly as memorable as in any of the other Ghibli dubs. Even purists who insist on watching the film in Japanese will probably be disappointed, as the voice acting, or at least what I’ve heard, isn’t much more effective than that of the dub.
Probably the most pleasing aspect of the film is its musical score contributed by Tamiya Terashima. Ghibli films have excelled with gorgeous soundtracks, and this is no exception. Using melancholy melodies and a full orchestra and chorus reminiscent of Hans Zimmer, Terashima provides a gorgeous and poundingly dramatic symphony that compliments the mood of the story perfectly. (As mentioned, Therru’s song midway through the film is a haunting highlight.) And of course, the animation is as richly detailed and beautiful as any Ghibli film.
There are moments where TALES OF EARTHSEA does exude some haunting visuals, but all in all, it’s probably the weakest of the Studio Ghibli movies by far. Had Goro Miyazaki opted for a less daunting storyline, then maybe he wouldn’t have received so much backlash for his debut feature. As such, the obvious failings of EARTHSEA shows that he is not yet ready to fill his father’s shoes. But even with all that said, is this movie still worth watching? Absolutely, especially if you’re a Ghibli completist. Even with its faults, TALES FROM EARTHSEA still has its share of high points to make it worth a look. But don’t expect another instant classic; on that level it falls short.
I have not read the Earthsea novels, and have only seen this film once, so I am going by first impressions, and while admitedly this may not be particularly thorough, first impressions do count for a lot.
I did not enjoy this movie as much as other Ghibli, or anime films in general. Most of this was because I felt that many questions I had about the film and the world in which the film was set were left unanswered. This may have been because I did not read the book, however, I believe an addaptation should be able to stand on
its own without needing to be familiar with the source material. For example, Gankutsuou still makes sense to those who did not read Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Christo and can stand alone as it's own piece of work. The Earthsea movie for me left too many questions. "Why are there slaves? Are there only certain people who become slaves or is everyone free game?" "Why do people fear witches and wizards if they're so useful? What's the basis for this prejudice?" "Why did the Prince stab the King? Why is this problem not addressed? How can people not notice a missing Prince and stabbed King?" These are only a few of my questions.
Secondly, the magic of the worlds did not seem adequately explained or built up. 'True Names' have power, but this is only really brought up halfway into the movie. Unlike Spirited away, this magic not based on an already well known or established folk lore or canon, so more explanation or build up would have helped to make it more effective.
Characters do not seem quite as sympathetic as subsequent Ghibli films. When reasons are given for characters to be sympathetic, it is simply mentioned in exposition, while showing it through flashback or dream sequence might have been more effective. Tennar mentions how Sparrowhawk once saved her a couple times during the film, but this and her relationship with Sparrowhawk is mostly left up to exposition which is not nearly as effective as showing it. Theru is a mysterious abuse victim who hates people who do not value life, why not show the audience why rather than having a character simply mention it? Why not give the audience more clues about her past to build suspense? And then there's Arran, who is supposedly our main character who seems entierly unsympathetic and uninteresting. I honestly did not see, throughout the whole film any good qualities what would draw me into his character or psyche. For a character with a past and backstory like his, I was really expecting more, and what was built up felt like a letdown by the end of the film. Really, his 'shadow'/split personality seemed far more complex and interesting (though that was not really explained either). What really makes it disappointing though is that the cover of the DVD and film posters show a picture of Arran with a Dragon, giving the audience the impression that this will be a film about a boy and a dragon, which, it isn't.
The sound was excellent though. Unlike other ghibli movies, it went with a very medieval and Celtic sounding soundtrack with reed instruments and even what sounded like bagpipes in some segments. It was truly beautiful to listen to and was a refreshing deviation. It helped drive home that this is a medieval fantasy world. The art and animation were stunning as usual, with breathtaking scenery. The film honestly did create its own, beautiful world.
My overall problem with the film was that the rules of the world were not properly explained and left too many questions. I am very aware that certain aspects of the story are lost in medium translation, but the audience should not be left thinking at the end of the film, 'I think I would have understood what that was all about if I had read the book.' As for the 'moral of the story' it feels like the writer is trying to beat it into the audience's head rather than let them figure it out. In past films, it is left up to the audience to be mature and clever enough to figure out the moral, whether it was environmentalism, pacifism, increased urbanisation, or even just being yourself. In this fim, it was repeated over and over until it honestly became annoying to listen to. I think after the second or third time, we get it already.
This film, unlike other Ghiblis, is certainly not for young children who are easily frightened. There is blood, hints of drug usage, human trafficing, violence, abuse, and frightening images that can upset young children and those who are easily frightened.
Overall though, it was not a terrible film. The story had potential, and was unafraid to touch on dirty, gritty subject matter. I would equate it to a well done B-movie, but it was a very far cry from being an A-lister. For a first film, it was very well done, and hopefully Goro Miyazaki can step up his game and fill the shoes of past directors. This film and director really do have potential, and I hope to see great things in the future.
Let me explain first that I am not a Studio Ghibli fan. I find when I watch their films that I am constantly seeing the same recurring characters. Not the same TYPE of characters, just the same art. That greatly bugs me. I saw many of the same archetype characters that i've seen in every Ghibli film in this one as well.
Story: Adapted from Ursula K LeGuins Earthsea series. I've never read the series myself but from watching the anime I might just pick up a couple. I want to ask what part of the story inspired Goro Miyazaki
to want to direct this. There's nothing in here that really justifies creating an anime. The major problem I find is that all the times they could be doing alot of character scenes the characters are really doing nothing. This takes way too long and there are entire scenes that don't do anything to contribute. The action that happens in this anime is very....inconsistent. There were a few scenes that I thought were really well done and others that left me bewildered, and not in a good way.
Art: For a 2006 movie it was desperately mediocre. The art was very basic and the characters where very Ghibli...men have gigantic beards and women all look the same. There were a couple marketplace scenes that I paused to take a look at some of the art and it was pretty decent, but for the rest of the scenes I was bored. If you really want a comparison...watch Totoro or Porco Rosso and then watch this and scene how the art has barely improved.
Sound: I remember being slightly bothered by the music occasionally....but not too much. There are definitely better soundtracks out there but there are probably worse ones if you searched hard enough.
Character: When the art is lacklustre an anime is based completely on the story and the characters. The characters in this anime spend too much time being ambiguous and not enough time bonding with each other. There's alot of anger swelling in the two younger characters and it comes off mainly as angst instead of anger.
Enjoyment: I did not enjoy this anime. Even now I can't really remember anything of it, which is usually a bad sign. As far as Goro Miyazaki's first film...it isn't great...but it isn't terrible either, he'd work alot better in a different studio.
We know Madhouse for Death Note and One Punch Man, Kyoto Animation for Haruhi Suzumiya and Clannad, and Studio Ghibli for basically everything they make. But what about their flops? Their biggest disappointments? Who remembers these clangers?