Tales From Earthsea (2006) | Anime Nonsense
A few years back, I had finally gotten the chance to watch Goro Miyazaki’s first film, Tales From Earthsea. And to my shock and dismay, it wasn’t only a let-down, it was loathsome. Loathsome in that the entire story and its characters were dark, dreary, heartless, and devoid of anything relatable. I wouldn’t say it was sad, but it had to have been the most depressing and angsty film I have ever seen.
Now trust me when I say that I don’t put any blame on any one person. Goro created a wonderful and personally exciting love story with “Up On Poppy Hill” just a few years later. So he’s not a bad Director, even if he never necessarily intended to become one. Perhaps the Earthsea book is really just as dark and ugly; I can’t be sure, I’ve never read it. Although I’ve read some fantasy novels that did eerily feel similar to this film: such as DragonLance: Time of the Twins and Dragonsong (part of the Dragonriders of Pern series).
Nonetheless, after watching the film, I decided to write one of my first full experience reviews, much like the kind I write here. It is a little more frank and open than I usually am, but that’s because my experience with it was so strong and emotionally exasperating. I have also edited a few punctuation errors and changed some dialogue in order to help my thoughts come across more accurately and fairly.
With that said, I would now like to share with you my first review, adapted from my Deviantart Journal from 2011…
Journal Entry: Mon Jun 27, 2011, 5:38 PM
“I just finished watching Goro Miyazaki’s (Hayao Miyazaki’s son) Directorial debut, Tales From Earthsea. And I’m sorry to say it, but it was HORRENDOUS!
Now before you go all troll on me (if any of you are planning to), let me back myself up here.
First off, the major problems of this film do not fall on the fact that some things were ripped off or borrowed from other Ghbili films, as I originally had thought. No, the biggest glaring problem with this film is that it is nearly “Dead.”
Contradictory to the film’s main plot point, this film…has NO LIFE in it. That’s right, there is no adventure, no excitement, no happy feelings, no enjoyable sequences, and no characters to relate to within this film. Everything, from beginning to end, is ONE BIG DOWNER of a sit-through.
To go deeper into this, I shall explain some of the events from the film in the order in which they happened. These are the spoilers people, but I think you may thank me later:
At the beginning, it is explained to us that a particular kingdom, which we don’t know the name of, and of which we don’t know the name of its ruler, is in great pain. The people are getting sicker, and apparently the balance of the world and nature is starting to fall away. The king then leaves his subjects to attend to something else, and he enters a large empty room with no light, that is filled with looming statues. A perfect place for a surprise assassination, and guess what, BINGO, that’s what happens.
His own son comes out of nowhere, in a fit of rage that is barely explained, or at least is barely understandable by the end of the film, and stabs his own father right through the heart. The son, named Aaran, then steals his father’s sword and runs off.
A little later, Aaran meets up with Timothy Dalton… oh, I mean Sparrowhawk, and we see that Aaran is afraid of something and he shows himself to be quite paranoid, turning his head at the slightest hint of any noise. Then the wizard Sparrowhawk and Aaran travel for a couple of days until they reach Hort Town; a sprawling metropolis filled with broken buildings. And we find out that people are being bought and sold as slaves. Great! Slave trading. Aaran stays outside for a while and comes upon a girl who is being chased by Slavers.
Aaran sort-of comes to her rescue and comes onto the slavers as being possessed. Aaran says that “life means nothing” to him, and he even tells the main slaver to go ahead and kill the girl, not exactly in those words, but he says “go ahead” in a creepy voice.
Then stupidly, after the girl runs off (we’ll see her again later), Aaran decides not to go back to the hotel that Sparrowhawk rented, and he stays outside. The slavers come back to get him, beat him up, chain him up, and throw him inside the slaver wagon. Aaran wakes up inside the slaver wagon and believes his life to be at an end. Sparrowhawk then comes to Aaran’s aid and releases him from his bonds and gets him out of the wagon. Sparrowhawk then apologizes, saying that he shouldn’t have left Aaran alone, and Aaran says he shouldn’t have stayed outside. WELL NO DUH YOU LITTLE TWERP! You’re in a town that is known for slaving, and apparently they go after any person wandering alone out in the streets. People from every shop are asking you five ways till Tuesday if you want to buy potions, beer, or sex. And you didn’t think it might have been a wiser idea to go back to Sparrowhawk?
After that point the bad events kind of die down, until the end; but even when bad things aren’t happening, the movie is a vapid, soulless pile of neutrality (nothing is good or bad, it’s just kind of depressingly boring). So, up to now we’ve seen murder, aimlessness, slavery, battery, hopelessness, foolishness, tiredness, nightmares, possession, a careless morality and blatant disregard for human life, and a city beginning to be plagued with sickness and political problems; which we never see get resolved in any way.
When I was watching Earthsea, I felt weak, depressed and uninterested. It was almost like the personality of Aaran had come through the screen and infected me. And even when the end of the movie sort of resolved things, I still felt cheated.
I’ll tell you, if there was ever a movie that made me feel the atmosphere, the emotions, and the personalities of the characters, it was Tales From Earthsea: but trust me, that’s not a good thing in this case.
Every single Ghibli film, even if they were all dramatic at times, made you feel good at heart; and they all ended on a good note. They showed you a good time; with great characters, comic relief, humorous dialogue, fanciful vehicles or mechanical devices, and normal everyday work. It made you feel at home in a way. This movie, however, made me feel like I was back in Michigan, where I grew up. Back then, I barely had any friends, never went outside much, never went anywhere, some months I just couldn’t get myself to do much of anything, the skies always seemed to be gray, and it was cold as hell. I am forever thankful that I moved away to Savannah, GA; and so I don’t appreciate it when a film makes me feel like I’m back living in that depressing State.
And if this review has made you feel sad and depressed, then Congratulations! I have just succeeded in making you feel exactly the same way that this movie made me feel. And do you want to watch an hour and forty minutes of that?……..I didn’t think so.
Happy days a coming for “Cars 2.” Go Pixar!
Let’s hope your buddies over at Ghibli can get their act together with Arriety: The Borrower.”
Okay, so at the time I wrote this, I wasn’t actually aware that Cars 2 was going to be as disappointing and lame as it was. But trust me, even at that rate, Cars 2 was a couple of steps up from Earthsea.
Again, I don’t want to entirely blame Goro for the movie turning out as depressing of a sit as it was. The nature of the story itself could have been just as much to blame, and probably wasn’t the best fantasy novel to adapt anyway.
I can say with complete honesty that the look of the film at any one point is gorgeous, and prove just how colorful and crisp of an image Ghibli is able to create for anything they produce; even if the story isn’t always top-notch. So thank goodness there is hope for Goro to improve his directing skills if Ghibli still plans to produce its own films in the future.
As of right not Ghibli has stated that their box-office draws have been a bit rocky with things like The Secret World of Arriety and their most recent When Marnie Was Here. They haven’t stated anything too definitive as to their future plans, but there is talk that they may be downsizing and becoming a smaller entity in the anime world. It would truly be sad to see that happen if that meant they were going to produce less of their own works.
Here’s hoping they will gain better ground within the coming years.