Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: "Tales from Earthsea" is Pretty

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tales from Earthsea (2006)
Gedo senki – Original Japanese title
(U.S. theatrical release: August 2010)
Running time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some violent images
DIRECTOR: Goro Miyazaki
WRITERS: Goro Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa; from a concept by Hayao Miyazaki (based upon the Earthsea novels by Ursula K. Le Guin)
PRODUCERS: Toshio Suzuki and Steve Alpert and Javier Ponton
COMPOSER: Tamiya Terashima


Starring: (English dub voices) Timothy Dalton, Matt Levin, Blaire Restaneo, Mariska Hargitay, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin, Susanne Blakeslee, Terrence Stone, Liam O’Brien, and Kevin Michael Richardson

Tales from Earthsea is a 2006 Japanese animated fantasy film produced by the Studio Ghibli, best known for the animated films of director Hayao Miyazaki (Ponyo). Tales from Earthsea is directed by Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki and is based upon the first four books in the Earthsea series by author, Ursula K. Le Guin. This movie is also inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s manga/illustrated story, The Journey of Shuna (1983).

The film is set in the world of Earthsea and focuses on Prince Arren of Enlad (Matt Levin). Enlad, like the rest of Earthsea, is troubled by drought and pestilence. After killing his father, Arren takes his father’s sword and goes on the run. He is later rescued by Sparrowhawk the Archmage (Timothy Dalton). Sparrowhawk and Arren travel to the farm of an old friend of Sparrowhawks’s, a woman named Tenar (Mariska Hargitay). There, Arren is also reunited with Therru (Blaire Restaneo), a young woman he’d recently protected from slave traders.

Therru is hostile to Arren, but he and Sparrowhawk remain on the farm, plowing and planting the fields for Tenar. However, the quartet’s agrarian lifestyle is interrupted by Lord Cob (Willem Dafoe), a sinister wizard who plans to shatter the barrier between life and death so that he can live forever. Cob needs Arren for his plans and wants revenge against Sparrowhawk.

Apparently, there was some hullabaloo and controversy around the production of Tales from Earthsea, including author Ursula K. Le Guin’s mixed feelings about how the film adapted the source material of her original novels. I like this movie, but I can understand how some would be put off by the film’s staid manner. The characters are way too laid back, and the dialogue is delivered at such an easy pace as to suggest that this film lacks conflict. In fact, Goro Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa (co-writer) have put together something that lacks dramatic punch. Tales from Earthsea is the most easy-going battle between good and evil on film that I can remember experiencing. The film’s most energetic element is Cheech Marin’s voice performance as the lackey, Hare, which is not only funny, but also scene-stealing when this movie really needs someone to steal a scene in order to save a scene.

Still, Tales from Earthsea sure is pretty. The film’s color is a symphony of shimmering reds and glowing pinks, and green is used almost entirely to suggest pastoral, verdant splendor. The film’s central theme is the need for balance, especially the balance of life and death. I think that in Tales from Earthsea, color is meant to celebrate not just life, but also living. This is unusual thematic material for an animated feature film, but Tales from Earthsea is characteristic of Studio Ghibli’s manner of doing things in animated films that are different and unique.

7 of 10

Thursday, February 16, 2012

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