I hate to say this, because this is a Studio Ghibli film, and therefore something I should adore, but...um...I fell asleep watching Tales from Earthsea. No, literally, I fell asleep. That's not a metaphor. And then, when I woke up the next day I tried to convince myself to watch the end, but it turns out I didn't care. I don't know if this lack of caring is a result of my general tiredness and malaise, a result of the Ursula K. LeGuin novel series this film is loosely (very loosely) based on, or a result of the film itself. Usually I am all gung-ho for Ghibli films. But, to fall asleep? That's not a good sign.
I'm not one to fall asleep at movies. Not at all. Mostly because I'm not one to fall asleep. Period. I have the insomnia and a lot of what I like to call "sleep fetishes," so falling asleep on the couch has only happened a handful of times in my life. Overwhelmingly those times have been when I was ill. So, to fall asleep during a movie when I'm perfectly fine when the film began is more than a bit odd.
It's not that the movie wasn't beautiful, because anime fans know that pretty much everything from Studio Ghibli, if nothing else, is stunningly beautiful.
The music is outstanding, and the panoramic scenes, in true Ghibli fashion, are breathtaking, but it just didn't come together for me. The last thing I can remember thinking about the film before I conked out on the couch and drooled all over my arm was, "How much longer is this film?" It just didn't hold my attention at all. The characters lacked development, the central crisis was poorly explained, and the whole film (at least the parts before I fell asleep) was void of the sort of emotional complexities and appeals (pathos) I come to expect from Studio Ghibli's writers and animators.
I suppose at some point I will have to attempt a re-viewing of this film, if only in hopes that somehow the ending was so magnificent and powerful that the whole film is redeemed. That re-viewing is way on the back burner. I'd much rather watch Howl's Moving Castle for the 26th time.
In a way, as a result of my interrupted viewing, this review isn't much more than a first impression. But, first impressions are important. My first impression of this film is that it is cinematically beautiful, but otherwise mediocre. It is certainly worth a watch, but don't expect a lot from plot or characters, this is not an award winning film like many of Studio Ghibli's films have been in the past. It's an admirable attempt to translate the LeGuin novels onto the screen, but it fell short in a lot of areas. As a result, it was unable to hold my attention until the end, and to be honest, I will watch some fairly boring and horrible things just for the sake of watching them. So, take my review for what it's worth. This film may be fantastic in some way I overlooked--I honestly hope it is! Or, it could be a dud. My first impression didn't leave me with enough interest to want to discover which it might actually be. Keep your expectations low, Dear Readers, and you may be pleasantly surprised.