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Tales From Earthsea Blu-ray Review


“Tales From Earthsea” is a beautifully animated Studio Ghibli film that never quite reaches its full potential.

Based on the fantasy book series by author Ursula K. Le Guin (who sadly just passed away), “Tales From Earthsea” begins with the revelation that crops are dying, people are becoming ill, dragons are reappearing, and that an impending darkness is throwing the world into imbalance. After the exposition portion, the story focuses on the central characters- an emotionally disturbed young Prince Arren and a sage wizard (Sparrowhawk). These two eventually meet up and travel to Hort Town where their journey and problems begin. It is here they encounter slavers, learn of the evil wizard Lord Cob, and meet a mysterious young (Therru) and an old acquaintance of Sparrowhawk’s named Tenar. How does all of this play together? That would be spoiling the quest.

From the first frame to the last, “Tales From Earthsea” is a beautifully animated fantasy epic. The level of detail here is truly off the charts. Everything from the colorful cloaks to the buildings look visually stunning. In that respect, the film is entirely a success. Where the film stumbles a bit, however, is with the script by Keiko Niwa and Goro Miyazaki (who is also the director). As fans and Ursula K. Le Guin herself have stated, the movie isn’t a faithful adaption of the novels and is, in fact, a sort of combination of several. To true blue fans, this may be a disappointment and indeed frustrating. From someone who hasn’t read the novels, I can say the movie does feel a bit mixed.

For the first 40 or so minutes, I was on board. I was intrigued by Sparrowhawk and Arren’s dark state of mind and wanted to know more about this universe. Once the characters reached Hort Town though, the movie loses steam a bit until the inevitable showdown with the villain of the piece. I’m not sure why Goro Miyazaki didn’t just adapt the first novel faithfully or do something new in this universe instead of mashing stories and pieces of mythology together. Again, as an outsider, I was left wanting to know more about the characters (especially Arren) and the universe itself as the film glosses over ideas such as eternal life, true names, a magic sword, dragons in the human world, etc. In other words, it has a sort of unfinished/patchwork quality to it with too many ideas and plots being thrown together in one film. Were it not for the happy ending, anyone would get the impression that this was the first part of a bigger story that we apparently will not see continued. Still, with all of that said, this is an engaging fantasy story that, despite its flaws, is worth embarking on if for no other reason than to see Studio Ghibli’s artistry on display.

Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The animation looks positively breathtaking in hi-def.

Audio Tracks: English and Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How do they sound? In regards to the English track- anytime you’ve got Timothy Dalton in the mix, it’s a win. You can’t go wrong with the original language Japanese track either.

Extras: TV spots, theatrical trailers, DVD copy, a booklet featuring written pieces by Toshio Suzuki and Goro Miyazaki, feature length storyboards, a whopping 1 hour featurette about the score and composer titled “The Birth Story Of The Film Soundtrack,” a 45 minute NTV special that contains interviews, film clips, behind-the-scenes footage and so on, and finally a half-hour extra about the song in the film titled “The Birth Story Of Therru’s Song.”

January 29, 2018 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , ,

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