Starring: Bunta Sugawara, Junichi Okada, Aoi Teshima
Director: Gorô Miyazaki
Running Time: 115 mins
Tales From Earthsea is a Japanese film about a man and a young boy who, after a series of unusual occurrences, journey across a land of fantasy to find an explanation.
Almost entirely missing the legendary magic of Studio Ghibli’s best aminations, Tales From Earthsea is a consistently disappointing and ultimately unmemorable watch.
Despite brief moments of beautiful calm, the film finds itself caught in two minds between a more mellow fantasy adventure and something a little more blockbuster-esque.
And because of that, it’s neither the calming animation not the exciting adventure it aims to be. But before we get into why this film doesn’t work, the one thing you absolutely can’t deny is that it’s a beautifully animated movie.
Tales From Earthsea might not quite be on the breathtaking level of classics like My Neighbour Totoro or Princess Mononoke, but it’s an undeniably striking piece of animation all the same.
Its hand-painted landscapes are a joy to behold, while it impresses on occasion with its more fantastical side, putting all the stops into making the story’s fantasy that little bit more eye-catching.
But the problem is, with a screenplay that rarely excites the imagination beyond a superficial level, even Studio Ghibli’s legendary animation doesn’t seem that astonishing.
It’s visually wonderful, but the film has so little resonance throughout, both due to a rather middling adventure story as well as a rather uninspiring sense of imagination.
And that means there really isn’t much to write home about as you follow what proves to be a frankly underwhelming tale of adventure and magic from beginning to end.
Lacking the coherence of the studio’s most imaginative films like Spirited Away, the story all too easily gets wrapped up in its own fantasy lore that – for the most part – just isn’t that interesting or even easy to understand.
Couple that with fairly generic characters across the board – from the good guys to the bad guys – and nothing about Tales From Earthsea proves particularly memorable or captivating.
All in all, it’s a real shame to watch a movie that looks so beautiful but has so little else to offer. It has brief moments of calming beauty, but Tales From Earthsea is mostly a frustrating and underwhelming entry in Studio Ghibli’s otherwise almost flawless copybook. And that’s why I’m giving it a 6.0.