Now this was a proper mess. I’m fond of Studio Ghibli productions, particularly Miyazaki senior’s work. I like a lot of Ursula Le Guin’s writing and I really loved the original Earthsea trilogy when I was younger.
I rented this very much on a whim, as I’d seen some pretty scathing reviews and the author’s own comments. It couldn’t be that bad, could it?
The answer is, oh yes it could. If you haven’t read the books you really won’t have much of a notion what’s going on for large chunks of the film. If you have read the books you may even end up more confused as Miyazaki junior picks sequences from across Le Guin’s books and mashes them together in an attempt to make something filmable. Thus we see themes from the books present and correct but applied to different characters, or introduced and then abandoned without explanation. There is little to no explanation of character motivation. Two of the main protagonists team up because they have ‘nothing better to do’. There are several scenes which seem to be total non-sequiturs with absolutely no connection to the rest of the narrative.
Visually it’s less interesting than most recent Ghibli productions. Cob is bizarrely drawn as some sort of almost androgynous Michael Jackson / Cher hybrid. Cheech Marin hamming it up opposite Timothy Dalton’s RSC-style delivery just doesn’t work. Like so much of this film.
I’m going to have to watch Spirited Away again to remind me just how great Ghibli films can be. I may also dig out my old copy of the Earthsea Trilogy.