Tales from Earthsea

As much as I enjoyed many things about Tales From Earthsea when I first saw it, it’s taken about six years for me to watch it again. I put it off a few times. Even though I remember enjoying the beautiful Ghibli colours, especially in Hort Town, which is wonderful, I didn’t rush back.

tales-from-earthsea1I 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.

cobAnd 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 both eloquent and respectful.

So, to sum up – an almost tragically flawed film with some wonderful elements.

7 thoughts on “Tales from Earthsea

  1. The sad part is I think Hayao Miyazaki would have probably done the film justice, because his works have been profoundly influenced by Earthsea. Instead the project fell to his son. Just a shame the timing didn’t work out in the potential collaboration.

  2. I didn’t care much for Arren either, though I was left wondering (as a result?) why I should care. Is there no place for a hero that’s hard to care about? I should go back and watch it again to be sure, but my feeling from what I recall is that his heart was in the right place.

    • Good question. I think there is, but I found myself craving one with this film – possibly part of why Sparrowhawk comes across as so noble?

      I agree, Arren did have his heart in the right place – eventually, but by the time the reflection came I was not really cheering him on. I cared more for Sparrowhawk and Therru I think.

      Looking forward to what you think on a re-watch, Brad

      • I watched it again last night, Ash. The biggest problem I had with Arren was the animation of his face when the anger and fight for control was coming out. It didn’t seem natural. The action he took at his introduction wasn’t resolved or explained well, but it didn’t stop me from growing attached to him as his character grew. After reading from the link you gave to Goro Miyazaki’s translated thoughts about where he was coming from, I can relate through the film to his ultimate question – “What is it to live properly now?”

        To kill a good man? To dare someone to kill someone you’re trying to defend, and make them both your enemy? Perhaps to do both and learn from experience that both are wrong? No. That’s not what it is to live properly now.

  3. Ah, I know what you mean there. It was a little strained perhaps? Or forced?

    I did come to like him a little by the end, and that is a pertinent question huh? It’s probably a saving grace of the storyline, though there are heavy handed moments, I loved the ideas 🙂

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