I first came across the Earthsea trilogy in middle school or junior high when I read a book and a half of it (The Tombs of Atuan just wasn’t very interesting to me back then, I guess.) and really liked it, aside from the fact that I never finished it. Years later, I found a little box set of the trilogy at Half-Price Books and finally, finally finished reading all three books a month or so ago. The point of this whole “I have read the books!” intro is that I’m viewing this movie from the perspective of someone who has read the books. Someone who has never read them and has no idea what the original storyline is may feel completely different about the movie than I do.I try hard not to be one of the “Raaah, they changed this tiny little detail from how it was in the books; I absolutely hate the movie now!!” people, but when this movie is a mix of the third and fourth (which I haven’t read) books, that’s just a tiny little bit foreboding.
The movie opened up well enough, with a weatherworker forgetting the true names of the sea and dragons killing each other. I mean, the whole plot of the third book revolved around Ged and Arren setting out on a quest to find out why such things were occuring. Unfortunaly, this was also almost the last that was heard of this fairly integral part of the story, since aside from a scene or two in Hort and maybe one more somewhere else that I’m forgetting right now, it wasn’t really mentioned again. Cob was the entire reason that this all was happening, and while they got everything about him wanting eternal life right, it was never mentioned that he was the cause and that his defeat meant that things would turn out ok again. Also, Arren killed his father (WTF?), Roke was never mentioned much less seen, dragons played a pretty small role (Whatever happened to Orm-Embar and Kalessin?), and where was the entire epic journey? The land of the dead, crossing the wall, sealing the hole back up? Perhaps the changes in the story would make more sense if I had read the 4th book, but I haven’t.
It may be too harsh to write off the movie because it deviates from the books, particularly if one considers that Hayao Miyazaki is apparently also not too exact in book adaptions, but this movie also has none of the excitement of a Ghibli movie. The world portrayed is nothing like the imaginative worlds of, say, Totoro or Spirited Away. Dennou Coil feels more Ghibli-like than this. However, this would not have been bad had it stuck to the story of the books a bit more (since they’re not exactly Ghibli-like either) instead of changing it all up (with some scenes straight from the books, for extra confusion).
On the other hand, I watched it with my boyfriend, who is completely unfamiliar with the books. He found it boring. The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that the only reason I was interested in all of the happenings was that I wanted to see what would happen to the characters that I was familiar with from the books even if I didn’t like the outcome. Thus, is seems as if the storyline of this movie can’t win: you’re either bored or don’t like how much of it has been changed.
Being a movie, and a Ghibli movie at that, the animation is of course superb. The backgrounds and cities especially stood out. The only downside was that Arren’s face looked horrid when contorted.
As you can tell, I’m struggling to think of things to say because the art and animation was just good. There’s nothing to really complain about, and there’s nothing that was so awesome that I have to ramble on about it. I think I’ll just leave it at that.
One of the best things to come from this movie is probably the music. Aside from Therru’s Song, which I’ve loved since I first heard it in the trailer, the background music is lovely in parts (Hort’s background music!). Unfortunately, this is where I run into the same problem as with describing the art and animation, since it’s nice but just not very exciting.
When most of what you have to say about a movie deals with things you didn’t like, that’s probably a good sign that the movie is mediocre at best. As I said, the art is good. The music is good. But they’re not good enough that I can even find much to say about them, and as such, they can’t salvage a pedestrian story. My final verdict of the movie is: average. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s not horrible either. See it if you have time, but don’t make time to see it.
If I were forced to use some kind of rating system, I’d give this movie a 6 out of 10.