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Tales From Earthsea (Blu-ray Review)

Tales-From-EarthseaTales From Earthsea was the fourth biggest grosser in Japan in 2006.  The film is an adaptation from the Ursula K Le Guin’s popular Earthsea series of novels.  This film was apparently the product of taking the first four books and smudging them all together in one film.  The author has argued that the plot of this movie wound up being completely different from that of her books.  She also wasn’t a fan of the finished product.  I’ve not read her books, so I can’t be one to compare, contrast or give insight about.  I’m also a novice to the film as well, this being what it is to me.  The film also marks the directorial debut of the son of Hayao Miyazaki, Goro Miyazaki.  And I’ve done my research, and he does not reside in the dungeon of Shang Tsung.  He also only has two arms.

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Film 

Based on the classic “Earthsea” fantasy book series by Ursula K. Le Guin, “Tales From Earthsea” is set in a mythical world filled with magic and bewitchment. In the land of Earthsea, crops are dwindling, dragons have reappeared and humanity is giving way to chaos. Journey with Lord Archmage Sparrowhawk, a master wizard, and Arren, a troubled young prince, on a tale of redemption and self-discovery as they search for the force behind the mysterious imbalance that threatens to destroy their world.

There was something there that could have made for a great movie in Tales From Earthsea, instead it was one that was a bit overall a little too stiff, boring at times with only a few moments that brought some real interest.  The film also gives us a protagonist that we are introduced to by him committing a real heinous act, then having the movie ask us to sit and sympathize with and enjoy his adventure.  And its an adventure that wants to be a great one and an all timer, but instead feels a bit hollow and empty.

I’m really not sure what could have been done with this.  And normally I wish that books be adapted on their own and not be crammed together, but this may be an exception.  I feel like just doing book by book would craft and even slower and more dragging tale.  In this instance, I get where the filmmakers were coming with when doing a chunk of the books instead of individual.  It may have worked well that way on paper, but in terms of cinema, this Earthsea may have been needing more punch.

One thing I did love was some of the voice talent on display.  Well, mainly just Timothy Dalton and Willem Dafore as characters at odds with one another.  This is just good no matter what the project is.  Both bring such a prestige and elevate each moment they speak, and when they share time, even better.  The two also give performances and don’t succumb to some of the more traditional Anime style of acting.

Tales From Earthsea was something that seemed like it would cater more to my interests, but it just didn’t present itself well.  I don’t know if its the source material or what, but the film here was one that just slowly crawled, had some interesting parts and ideas, but overall was a bit of a snoozer for me.  I like some of the voice talent here (Cheech Marin even has a nice sized role).  Might just be more for Anime or Ghibli diehards if anything.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Image is very reflective of the other two Studio Ghibli releases available from Disney.  The images contains solid movement and accurate reflection of the coloring and inking of the picture.  Its a nice bright, but not completely vivid display that works on a nice grounded level.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich, dark and provide some decent shading.

Color Reproduction:  Colors appear accurate.  They are nice and distinct.  Nothing too vivid as some of this looks a little water colored.  There isn’t a wide array of color, but features some nice purples and more extravagant coloring.

Flesh Tones:  N/A

Noise/Artifacts: Some light specs early on in the film.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Dolby Digital, Japanese 6.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

Dynamics: The 5.1 track is solid, but rather just some standard affair.  It displays a nice balance in sound, voice and music.  Not a big sounding, engaging experience, but one that does the job good enough.

Low Frequency Extension:  Some decent work in the way of fire, waves and crashing action moments.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Contains light work from the rear speakers.  The front speakers action and movements and placement accurately reflect onscreen.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Crisp, clean and clear.

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Extras 

Tales From Earthsea comes with a DVD copy of the film, a Disney Movie Rewards code and an offer to get 4 Movies For $1 from Disney Movie Club.  The extras come courtesy of the original DVD release.  They are standard definition clips presented with AVC encoding.

Original Japanese Storyboards (HD, 1:55:28) – The entire film, told with storyboards.  Features the original Japanese audio track and English subtitles.

Original Japanese Trailers & TV Spots (HD, 10:01)

The Birth Story Of The Film Soundtrack (HD, 1:00:18) – An incredibly detailed and well documented look back at the history and creation of the film’s score.  Its just a tick over an hour long and full of interviews and behind the scenes look at writing and recording the music for the film.

Behind The Studio: Origins Of Earthsea (HD 4:07) – A brief little EPK piece promoting the film with little on making it.

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Summary 

Tales From Earthsea wasn’t my cup of tea.  It was a bit long and boring for me.  There were things I found interesting about it, but none of that really flourished into anything.  This Blu-ray features a great presentation as well as some really meaty extras that have carried over from the previous editions of the film.  Fans will definitely want to upgrade, those curious may want to see the film before they purchase.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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