Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tales from Earthsea

Now that the rights have disappeared from SyFy the first feature film from the son of Hayao Miyazaki is finally coming to the United States. Never mind that the film has played everywhere else in the world and is out on DVD as an import, it will finally reach screens in the US in August.

The story and has a great "plague" or evil in the land. People are leaving their homes, magic is dying, Dragons which are never seen are found to be fighting. The world is dying. Sparrowhawk a wizard wanders the land trying to find out what is causing all of the problems. He happens upon Aaron who is a prince and who in a dark fit stabbed his father, the king and fled into the night. Sparrowhawk takes Aaron along with him and the pair head off together.

The story is taken from part of the third Earthsea novel and is a grand fantasy. Its a film that bleeds off the edges of the screen. Its a film that you can film the back story floating around. On some level the fact that this is a fragment of a larger story gets in the way, there are times when things aren't wholly explained but at the same time, in retrospect, you really don't need to know everything. we know enough.

Despite the fact that much of the film will remind you of other Ghibli films in its design this film is nothing like the films that preceded it. Ghibli has not done anything so clearly western in style. If it weren't for the Ghibli house style there is nothing-at least when you are listening to the excellent English dub-to make you think that this was done in Europe, and not Japan.

This is a dark little movie at times with lots of flawed characters. Even if they seem okay now there is a sense that age has corrected many of their faults. The closest thing in the Ghibli canon would be some of the darkness of Princess Mononoke. However once you get past the steals from earlier films you'll find that this is its own beast, it is very much like a fantasy novel that is the source of the story.

I've taken some flack from some fans of Studio Ghibili because I have such a high regard for the film. They seem to think its a lesser film because its not by the elder Miyazaki and because it doesn't follow the same well worn paths followed by "the master" and other Ghibli films. I would argue that this is a better film because it doesn't follow what has gone before. Actually the film is similar to what has gone before with the darkness and magic mirroring Princess Mononoke and the sense of Europe feel, in away, of Porcco Russo. Actually its a masterpiece, which some people don't want to acknowledge.

Don't take my word for it just see it.

I've seen this film several times on import DVD and I have loved it every time. You need to see this. Do make an effort to see it on the big screen. The film will take your breath away, the dragons are magical.

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