DVD REVIEW: Tales from Earthsea
Studio Ghibli tackles the epic book series...
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Tales from Earthsea, or Gedo Senki (Ged’s War Chronicles), was originally released in Japan in 2006 and marked the directorial debut of Hayao Miyazaki’s son Goro Miyazaki, serving as the 15th full-length animated film from Studio Ghibli. Having actually been produced before Ponyo, it’s taken over five years for the film to be released in the U.S. and it makes its debut as a single-disc DVD release from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
The film is loosely based on characters and plot from the first four books in author Ursula K. Le Guins Earthsea novels. While it incorporates elements from A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu, it apparently deviates drastically from the original source material which not only created mixed feelings from the author who felt that the film was a vast deaparture, but also from fans which caused many mixed feelings and a relatively mild box office performance.
The plot of the film follows the story of a young Prince named Arren who is plagued why fear and visions of a shadow that aims to harm him, so much so that he takes the life of his own father and flees the kingdom with his father’s magical sword. He is rescued in the desert by Sparrowhawk, a powerful Archmage, who convinces him to journey with him to the city of Hortown. While there, they run into trouble with a band of slave-traders who take Arren captive. Sparrowhawk comes to his aid once again and we soon learn that the slavers work for Lord Cob, a powerful sorcerer who plans to break the laws of magic to learn the secret of eternal life, but not before defeating his old enemy Sparrowhawk. As events lead up to the final confrontation with Lord Cob, Arren must overcome his fears and find his inner strength to save the day and his friends.
The DVD release of the film features a small assortment of special features, far less than other Studio Ghibli films released previously. Enter The Lands features a large interactive map with locations inspired by all the worlds from the various Miyazaki films and which offers sneak peeks of the characters and stories from Tales from Earthsea and a few others. Behind the Studio is a brief look at the development and making of Tales from Earthsea. Studio Ghibli Trivia Challenge gives fans a chance to play an interactive game and test their knowledge.
Tales from Earthsea is not a strong or endearing as other Studio Ghibli films and Goro Miyazaki doesn’t have the same skill as his father. The film suffers from having too much action and not enough heart, an absence of a strong female lead, and it doesn’t carry any underlying messages or life lessons, something I consider a staple of the great Studio Ghibli films. Despite all of that, Tales from Earthsea is still a wildliy entertaining film with an engaging story and interesting characters, especially Sparrowhawk, and certainly interests me enough to want to read the original novels.
Tales from Earthsea is available now from Walt Disney Home Entertainment and is rated PG-13 for violent images.
Review by Michael Klein