Don't let this fool you. The movie is NOT about dragons.
A Studio Ghibli
animated film based on the first, third, and fourth novels in the Earthsea
series by Ursula K. Le Guin
. LeGuin's response to the film can be found here
. In a nutshell, she thought the film suffered in comparison to her own novels and that is was overly violent and preachy
, and that the characters are too white (which is a serious issue for Le Guin), but that the movie was merely dissatisfying rather than outright bad. Given Le Guin's vehemently negative opinions
of all prior attempts at adapting her work to other media this can be interpreted as getting off lightly. (Critics broadly agreed with LeGuin. The movie scores 41% on Rotten Tomatoes
, by far the worst score of all the Ghibli films.)
The film was directed by Hayao Miyazaki
's son Goro, as Miyazaki had planned to retire. The elder Miyazaki's own reaction to the end product reportedly caused some friction between father and son, as well as some concern on the part of Studio Ghibli management over their ongoing lack of a new generation of directors capable of taking over for founding directors Miyazaki and Isao Takahata
While this film is covered under the Disney/Ghibli distribution deal, licensing issues with the SciFi Channel
miniseries had prevented it from being released in North America. It finally hit US shores in August of 2010, with the dub cast featuring the likes of Willem Dafoe, Timothy Dalton, and Mariska Hargitay.
This film contains examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness / Informed Deformity: Therru. In the original books she suffered from third-degree burns on her face. In the movie, the left side of it is somewhat redder than the rest of her skin. Interestingly, slave-traders still call her ugly.
- Adaptation Distillation: It's a mix of several of the books. Le Guin said what confused her most about the film was she kept expecting it to follow one of the original plots.
- An Aesop: Don't fear death, it's what gives life its meaning.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Tenar is disliked and distrusted for her magic by village women who still want free magic.
- Broken Bird: Therru.
- Climbing Climax: On to the top of a castle tower.
- Color-Coded Patrician: Arren's purple robe.
- Cool Sword: Apparently, you need magic to draw it, so it gets one flashy action scene where the scabbard is enough, and another when it's not. Otherwise, it has on conspicuous failure in the opening sequence, and is understandably mistaken for junk.
- Deus ex Machina: Therru being able to turn into a dragon.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The sword.
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Cob.
- This became a very weird semi case of She's a Man in Japan in the German dub where Cob spoke with a very feminine voice but was still talked about as 'he' and 'the sorcerer'.
- Expy: Hare is the spitting image of Kurotowa from Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind and fulfills a similar role. Even his men resemble Torumekian soldiers.
- In fact, the film borrows heavily from several of Ghibli's previous films, which may or may not be intentional.
- Fantastic Drug: Hazia. It takes away pain and worries, but is highly addictive.
- Horse of a Different Color: Arren rides what seems to resemble a fluffy, long-eared llama (which is still called a horse, for some reason). Riding beasts that resemble oxen also seem to be in use.
- Arren's mount is possibly in the noble line of Ghibli Expys, a copy of Ashitaka's red elk Yakul.
- I Know Your True Name: The name is the thing, and the truename is the true thing. Know the truename, and you can control the thing.
- I Lied
- Immortality Immorality: The main bad guy dreams of being immortal. This is said to be against the balance of the world.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: When Therru tells Arren her true name. Also, she defeats Cob by turning into a dragon after he strangles her to death. It's never really explained why she can do this.
- We are given two extremely small hintsRoot (the king's wizard/advisor from the beginning) mentions that humans and dragons used to be the same race, and when Sparrowhawk first sees Therru he remarks that there's something strange about her.
- James Bondage: Played straight with Ged, not so straight with Arren at the same time.
- Made a Slave: Nearly happens twice.
- Mukokuseki: Le Guin, while acknowledging awareness that these characters look "stateless" to the Japanese, thought they looked too white. She was happy that there was variety to the tone and Tenar had Kargic/Nordic coloring.
- Not Good with People: Therru switches between painfully shy, when talking to someone named 'Sparrowhawk', but the first thing she says to Arren is "Did you come here to kill this lamb?"
- Although Therru and Arren's relationship is another trope entirely.
- Oedipus Complex: Introduced then abandoned in the first 10 minutes.
- Our Dragons Are Different: They look like traditional Western dragons mostly, are creatures that chose "air and fire" when humans chose "earth and sea" and seeing two of them fighting and the beginning of the is a sign that bad times are there.
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Therru and Arren. Therru's dress is a combination of pink and red, Arren has a blue tunic on for most of the movie.
- Plucky Girl: Therru, later in the film.
- Portent of Doom: The sightings of dragons fighting is taken to be a sign that the balance of the world is greatly upset, perhaps irreparably.
- The Quiet One: Arren.
- Saharan Shipwreck: Opening scenes.
- Scenery Porn: It wouldn't be a Studio Ghibli movie without it!
- Shadow Archetype: Arren's shadow is rather confusingly characterised. Here goes: It makes him kill his father (from inside), then doing nothing, then saving the love interest, then comes out to try and drown poor Arren, then out once more to save the day again and flirt with said love interest.
- Shrinking Violet: Both Arren and Therru show aspects of this.
- Slipknot Ponytail: Therru's hair-things come loose at the climax of the movie.
- Superpowered Evil Side: Arren's problem.
- Took a Level in Badass: Whenever Arren uses the sword.
- Tranquil Fury: Arren/shadow/something. Non-lethally.
- Tsundere: Therru.
- Villainous Breakdown: Cob gets a lot less sane—and less human—once Arren starts fighting back.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Cob is...not a threatening name for a wizard.
- You Have Failed Me: Subverted as when Hare fails (by losing the slaves) he reveals an opportunity for something far more important to his boss (a chance to capture Arren) and is spared.