Tales From Earthsea
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Complete Storyboards; NTV Special Featurette; Behind The Microphone Featurette; Original Japanese Trailers; Studio Ghibli Collection Trailer Reel.
FOLLOWING in the footsteps of Hayao Miyazaki was never going to be an easy task for his son and on the evidence of Tales From Earthsea Goro still has much to learn.
Hayao is, of course, the animated master responsible for works such as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle – but while Tales From Earthsea shares similar production values and a keen eye for detail, it’s an inferior work in many ways.
Based upon The Farthest Shore, the third instalment in Ursula K Le Guin’s complex fantasy novel series, the film lacks the magic of Hayao’s finest work and ends up becoming quite a pedestrian experience.
The story picks up as the mythical land of Earthsea finds its balance being threatened by a mystery power that causes dragons to fight each other and humans to face exceptional hardship.
Stepping into the fray is young hero Arran (voiced in the dubbed version by Matt Levin) who, with the help of magician and mentor Sparrowhawk (Timothy Dalton) and a magical sword, sets about attempting to restore order by preventing wicked sorcerer Cob (Willem Dafoe) from opening the gate between the living and the dead.
The task is made more complicated, however, by the inner turmoil surrounding Arran who has much to learn from his spiritual master.
As with any Studio Ghibli production, Tales From Earthsea doesn’t do things by half measures and spends a great deal of time exploring the mystical nature of the story, as well as the difference between good and evil and the fine line between life and death.
But it lacks any real spark to bring it to life and seems hindered by the complexity of its story. And some of the hand-drawn illustrations also lack the jaw-dropping beauty of Hayao’s very best work.
The result is a distinctly underwhelming experience that suggests Goro may have been aiming a little too high for his debut effort.
Running time: 115mins