Blu-ray Review: Tales From Earthsea

Adapting a book into a film is tougher than it looks. The screenwriter has to find the most essential moments, characters and dialogue to take off the novel pages to bring to life before the camera. You want to capture all that makes the book enthralling and remove the elements that won’t cause lovers of the book to protest. A bigger feat is to adapt multiple books into a single film. The screenwriter wants to tell a story instead of skimming through the Cliff’s Notes. This was the case when Studio Ghibli brought together the first four novels in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series to create Tales From Earthsea.

During a nasty storm at sea, the crew of a ship sees two dragons fight to the death. This is not a good sign since dragons are normally not seen in that part of the world and nobody thought they could fight. This news hits the King of Elad hard since the kingdom is suffering from other catastrophes. Things are looking bleak and go completely dark when the prince unexpectedly returns. Prince Arren’s actions cause him to flee the kingdom and heard to the wilderness where he must battle slavers, find love and discover why the world is out of balance.

Earthsea works best during the numerous action scenes especially the dragon fight scenes that should appeal to fans of Game of Thrones. Even though elements of four books are used in the narrative, the film doesn’t feel rushed. The fantasy elements are explored without elements being footnoted in awkward ways with that “what you have to know” device that sounds like the know it all dungeon master.

It’s tough to follow in your father’s footsteps and even tougher when you’ve done all you can to avoid his path. Such was the fate of Goro Miyazaki. The oldest son of Hayao Miyazaki and Akemi Ōta, didn’t think he could be as good as his animator parents. So he chose to become a landscaper. But after working on the design of the Ghibli Museum, he found himself getting absorbed into the company until finally he was working on the script of Tales from Earthsea which led to storyboards and finally getting offered the chance to direct the project. Oddly enough it was his father who was against the move. The two reportedly didn’t talk until an early screening and Hayao was impressed at what his son had done. Sometimes you can’t refuse your family legacy. Goro would go on to direct Up On Poppy Hill for Studio Ghibli.

Earthsea is entertaining with it’s treatment of a world that has fallen out of balance. The movie brings the world of the books in motion without making you feel like you’ve read 4 books which is a magical treat.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer gets the details on the dragons vivid. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for both the English and Japanese dubs. The sound mix isn’t too overwhelming so it’s good to get a clear mix. The French track is 5.1 Dolby Digital. The subtitles are in English, Japanese and French.

Feature Length Storyboards with the final audio soundtrack to get a sense of how Goro approached the project.

The Birth Story of the Film’s Soundtrack (60:20) goes indepth on what the creation of the music.

The Birth Story of Terru’s Song (30:08) digs deep into the main musical theme. While Studio Ghibli doesn’t make musicals like a Disney film, they do understand the power of a good song to help set the tone and promotion of their films.

NTV Special (43:50) covers so much about Goro’s debut as a director.

TV Spots (1:25) promotes the fantasy kingdom and Goro’s arrival as a director.

Original Trailers (10:01) makes us ponder a world out of balance.

Shout! Factory & GKIDS present Tales From Earthsea. Directed by: Gorō Miyazaki. Screenplay by: Gorō Miyazaki & Keiko Niwa. Starring: Timothy Dalton, Matt Levin, Willem Dafoe, Mariska Hargitay and Cheech Marin. Rated: PG. Running Time: 115 minutes. Released: February 6, 2018.

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