Monday, April 11, 2011

Movie Log: Tales from Earthsea

The family saw this movie a couple of weeks ago, and I see -- given that I have an empty post with this title sitting as a "draft" -- that I neglected to write anything about it when it was still fresh in my mind. And Tales from Earthsea is just mediocre enough that it slithers out of the memory, given half a chance.

It's not a bad movie, though it doesn't live up to any of its heritage -- it's from Studio Ghibli, being the first movie directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro, and of course it's based on Ursula K. Le Guin's excellent novels -- and it doesn't either adapt the original stories well or make a new story of its own to tell. Instead, it mixes and matches elements from three or four of the books in ways that don't really fit together, but still stays with a linear plot so that the word "tales" in the title doesn't make sense.

It looks wonderful, in that usual Ghibli way, and Goro Miyazaki has learned the lesson of stillness from his father -- Tales from Earthsea has a camera that lingers in a way never seen in American animation, or much in any movies these days. But I found myself wishing that I had been watching it in Japanese rather than English, because the story I would have made up while watching it to explain all of the various elements would certainly have held together better, and been a better adaptation of Le Guin, than the actual movie that emerged.

There are probably at least three blogs dedicated entirely to anatomizing exactly what's wrong with this movie; go see them for further details. On the positive side, I will say that it's vastly better than the live-action Earthsea miniseries, and equally better than most of the animated movies I've seen over the last decade. It's not bad at all, as I said. But a Studio Ghibli movie of Le Guin should have been something magnificent, and it isn't, at all. It's a lumpy pudding made from random pieces of Le Guin's Earthsea, and a viewer has to be careful not to crack a tooth on it.

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