Tales from Earthsea
The familiar Studio Ghibli look is there, but Tales From Earthsea, based on the books by writer of speculative fiction Ursula K Le Guin, is directed not by the great Hayao Miyazaki, but by his son Goro. So, while Earthsea is a decent enough animation with a few inspired moments, the benign worldview that made Spirited Away such a revelation is sorely missing from the stark ‘goodies and baddies’ delineation offered here.
Taking Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore, the third book of her Earthsea series as his inspiration, Miyazaki Jr opens his story with the uneasy alliance between the wizard Sparrowhawk and his pupil Arren as they begin their quest to save the kingdom of Enlad. As with Miyazaki Sr’s Howl’s Moving Castle, an imported story sits uneasily with the textbook Ghibli visual flourishes.
Apart from occasional magical touches, such as the hero’s jarring premonition of his exit from Hort Town, or his dream of drowning in the sludge-like folds of the queen’s dress, Tales From Earthsea looks less like a Ghibli classic than a filmed storyboard for some staid US-TV sword and sorcery mini-series. A stirring score and a climactic battle atop a reflective tower provide Tales From Earthsea with a satisfying resolution, but sadly the son’s sense of storytelling isn’t quite in his father’s league. Yet.