The debut film from Goro Miyazaki both succeeds and suffers from being similar to the work of his father Hayao, maker of Howl’s Moving Castle (which I also reviewed recently), while its animation is beautiful the story hardly lives up to the epic we are promised.
Arren (Matt Levin) is a young prince who after murdering his father flees the kingdom, being constantly stalked by a dark shadow. On his travels he comes across the archmage Sparrowhawk (Timothy Dalton), who is losing his magical powers in a battle with the evil Cob (Willem Defoe). The film however feels a bit aimless, while it feels like it should be building up for a big battle, instead Arren and Sparrowhawk spend a great deal of screen time walking and toiling in a field. The final battle only comes when both of their love interests are taken hostage by Cob, feeling a bit rushed in the sudden change of pace.
The characters of the film are painfully uninteresting, with Arren feeling more tired than tormented. His love story with Therru (Blaire Restaneo) is so boring and predictable it’s barely worth mentioning. Sparrowhawk, who you get the impression is meant to be a powerful character, comes across as rather pathetic and flat, rather than emulating Obi Wan, which they are clearly going for. The villain Cob spends most of the film scowling at the camera but does get something to do in the final act, where his quest for immortality suddenly emerges but it is way too late to save the troubled film.
The special features are of the making of variety, covering storyboards, the soundtrack and the film’s adaption from the source material (much if it is new for the Blu-ray), as well as the standard trailers.
Overall Verdict: An aimless film that is at least as beautiful as it is dull.
The birth of the film soundtrack (new to Blu ray)
Behind the studio: origins of Earthsea (new to Blu ray)
Studio Ghibli trailer reel
Reviewer: Matt Mallinson