‘Earthsea’ reveals a lesser Miyazaki 

Hayao Miyazaki, 69, is a giant of classic and classy Japanese anime. The proof is in his films, particularly “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind,” “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away.”

Miyazaki’s son, Goro, 43, is responsible for “Tales from Earthsea,” a 4-year-old film just arriving here, with Walt Disney Studios apparently waiting years to release it.

While it looks like the elder Miyazaki’s work, it’s really not up to snuff.

Both Miyazakis, through their shared animator Takeshi Inamura, offer beautiful artwork and elaborate, complex scenery.

“Earthsea” boasts stunning views of enormous ruins and striking shipwrecks. Unending staircases bring to mind graphic artist M.C. Escher’s works.

The central point of the comparison is that while the older Miyazaki provides fascinating, meaningful action that turns the drawings into compelling humans, the younger filmmaker serves up a slow, meandering and, at times, downright boring film.

“Earthsea” author Ursula K. Le Guin had wanted Hayao Miyazaki to direct the film, but he was working on “Howl’s Moving Castle” (and, some say, had no interest in the project), so Goro stepped in.

Using material from the four books of “Earthsea” (“A Wizard of Earthsea,” “The Tombs of Atuan,” “The Farthest Shore” and “Tehanu”), Goro rearranged the storyline drastically, and poorly.

There are wizards and dragons and the struggle between good and evil, but the story is difficult to follow, or care about. The young, conflicted hero Prince Arren suffers especially; he’s a constantly morose character, who quickly turns into a downer.

The film’s “message” — something about life being meaningless without death — is ponderous, and doesn’t make sense in the context of the fairy tale. A long exposition of it nearly put children and adults in the audience to sleep. Still, the gorgeous artwork provides fine entertainment.

Movie review

Tales from Earthsea (2 stars)

Starring the voices of Willem Dafoe, Timothy Dalton, Mariska Hargitay, Cheech Marin

Written and directed by Goro Miyazaki

Rated PG-13

Running time 1 hour 55 minutes

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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