As much as I enjoyed many things about Tales From Earthsea when I first saw it back in 2007, it took me six years or so to watch it again.
I put it off a few times (though I’m curious to watch it again now, which oddly enough – is about six years later once more!) Even though I remember enjoying the usual beautiful Ghibli colours, especially in Hort Town, which is wonderful, I didn’t rush back.
Tales from Earthsea (Gedo Senki)
However, I also loved Cob, both the way he was animated (in each stage of his character development) and the fantastic performance by Willem Dafoe.
Almost as much as this, I enjoyed Sparrowhawk’s calm manner and the scenes at the farm, but in the end, this was a film that never quite came together for me. I guess that’s clear by the way I’m once again highlighting disparate, enjoyable elements rather than rhapsodising over the whole, right?
And that reason was one of the protagonists, Arren.
Unfortunately, the film introduces him in a manner which ensures he is a completely unsympathetic character. From that point on (and this is very early in the film) I didn’t care about him as I should have – mostly because any motivation for his actions were not addressed until late in the film, and by then it was almost a moot point. I’d already made up my mind about him.
Which is a shame, because I understand that the direction of the film was fraught with tension, which doubtless contributed in some way to the issues as I see them. And it’s heartbreaking that Goro’s first film directing for Ghibli, wasn’t as strong as his follow up From Up on Poppy Hill (which I loved), and because it was sad to see a son strive and perhaps fail to meet his father’s expectations.
And for those curious about how the author of the Earthsea books, Ursula K. Le Guin, felt upon seeing the film – here is an interesting read. I feel like an author responding to criticism/adaptation of their own work is often risky, but she is of course both eloquent and respectful.
So, to sum up I guess – for me, an almost tragically flawed film with some wonderful elements.
(Still hoping to watch this again and then update this review)