Arguably Studio Ghibli’s weakest film, Goro Miyazaki’s debut feature is poorly-paced with a story that doesn’t sparkle, despite the beautiful, otherworldly visuals.
Cast: Jun’ichi Okada, Aoi Teshima, Bunta Sugawara
Plot: In a mythical land, a man and a young boy investigate a series of unusual occurrences.
Awards: Official Selection (Venice)
Distributor: Studio Ghibli
Subject Matter: Moderate – Immortality, Balance of Nature
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
Tales from Earthsea is arguably Studio Ghibli’s weakest film, directed by Goro Miyazaki who tried to follow in his esteemed father’s footsteps but came out with an uninspiring work that was a far cry from the usual standards of the famed studio, particularly in the department of storytelling.
Miyazaki Jr. would later make From Up on Poppy Hill (2011) for Ghibli, a significant improvement to his debut feature.
The animation visuals in Earthsea are beautiful and otherworldly, which is pretty much the only thing that might hold your attention throughout its protracted runtime of nearly two hours.
A young boy with a mysterious sword becomes acquainted with an older man (a wizard in disguise) as they find themselves being hunted down by an all-powerful dark force who desires immortality.
“This life that is both our torment and our treasure was never meant to endure for eternity.”
Although the characters speak in Japanese, the setting is very much European (also an obsession of Miyazaki Sr.) with castles and marshlands in abundance.
Despite being adapted from the reputable source text by Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea somehow doesn’t sparkle. One reason could be that the film is poorly-paced, with a narrative that doesn’t seem interested to move into higher gears.
I could imagine children getting bored by this. It’s also fairly dark and frightening at times, with a scene of gore that might haunt the little ones for nights.
Although it explores themes of mortality and the balance of nature, Earthsea never goes deep, treating much of the proceedings as merely good versus evil, not unlike many movies we have seen before.