Monday, March 14, 2011

Le Guin among Strange Bedfellows

So, yesterday I found out the dvd of TALES FROM EARTHSEA, the (relatively) new Studio Ghibli film directed by Miyazaki Jr is now out over here. I've seen this a while ago, and it's pretty fair, just judged as a stand-alone anime movie: not up to Hayao Miyazaki's brilliance but highly watchable. Fans of Le Guin's books should be warned, however, that it's really not an adaptation so much as a new story set in Earthsea that weaves in some characters from Le Guin's tales.* And while it's not the horror that was the Sci-Fi Network's EARTHSEA, which ranks as a special kind of awfulness, it's not Le Guin either.

Actually, reading the credits on the dvd box helped explain one oddity of the movie. It's credited as deriving from two sources: (1) "Based on the 'Earthsea' series by Ursula K. Le Guin" and (2) "Inspired by 'Shuna's Journey' by Hayao Miyazaki". If this is right and the film brings together two separate stories, then the whole opening sequence (which doesn't come from Le Guin at all) finally makes a sort of sense.

What really made my head spin around was seeing who Disney picked as the voice talent for the English dub. Timothy Dalton? Cheech Marin? Willem DaFoe? Really? I think the voices of Cheech and Chong were about the furthest thing from my mind when reading, say, A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA. It makes me glad I don't listen to dubs much (i.e., if there's any way to avoid them -- sometimes, as when a film's shown in a theatre, there's not).

One wholly good thing about this film, though, is the beautiful, simple, haunting theme song, which I bought on dvd single soon after it came out: highly recommended, as long as you're not put off by the fact it's in Japanese.

But oh, if only the original plan years ago to have Hayao Miyazaki himself do it had come off!

--John R.

*it doesn't help that the entry in the series it draws most from is TEHANU, the worst book in the series


David Bratman said...

My description of the movie was "a mash-up of elements taken from The Farthest Shore and Tehanu." It was so emphatically not-LeGuin that it was hard to take offense at it, unlike other movies that try more and fall harder.

Sir S said...

le Guin herself, on her website, makes it clear she is very disappointed, both that this movie was made the way it was, and that she missed the chance to give Miyazaki Hayao the rights when he originally asked her. It's an interesting story.

I have Shuna's story but haven't read it yet... I should get around to that...

Lara Levitan & Aimée Stern said...

Hi, John. Please pardon this "comment", but I'm looking to get in touch with you in order to get your permission to reprint an article you wrote that Cengage would like to publish in a text book. We've sent you a few emails as well. I can be reached at Thanks so much!
-Lara Levitan

Lagomorph Rex said...

I'd been wary of this since I heard about it.. the Sci-Fi channel thing sort of soured me on Earthsea Adaptions.

The fact it's based on Tehanu, which I agree was bad, coincidentally I stopped reading the series with that volume.. and haven't yet attempted any of the later ones.. dosen't help any.

However, dubs don't bother me so long as its an animation. Which by the medium's very nature is always dubbed. Unless its silent. Live action is a different story entirely. I'd rather have the real actors, real voice than some one else's.