(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Tales From Earthsea)
Doug (vo): Tales From Earthsea is based on the series of novels that, sadly, I haven't read. But based on the majority of the film I've seen here, I just may need to.
[Note: In this one, unlike all the other Disneycember reviews, Doug stops telling the story at some points to comment on some positive aspects of the film]
Doug (vo): It starts off with a ship of people that look up and see a bunch of dragons wrestling. Okay, a strong start. But this news makes it back to the king of the land, saying that dragons never fight, that this is a horrible omen. They talk about how a lot of strange shit has been going on, like how wizards have been losing their power, balances being thrown all over the place, something bad is coming, something terrible. And just before they start to proceed forward to figure out what to do about it, the king, who seems like a pretty cool, nice character, is killed. I thought this guy was gonna be the main character. He seems so nice and strong-willed. But, no. The kid that stabbed him is the main character, and on top of that, he's the son of this guy! He steals the sword, runs away from the palace, and the opening credits roll.
[Various clips of the scenes following the prologue are shown]
Doug (vo): Holy shit! That's the way to start a story. A million questions were racing through my mind. How is this the main character? What possessed him to kill his father? His father seemed pretty cool. Why are dragons fighting? Why is it bad that they fight? Isn't that what dragons do? What place do they have in this environment? Why is the son suddenly normal now? He seems afraid of these wolves and, like, really creeped out. Wasn't this the psycho that just killed his dad a moment ago? Just...oh, my God! It's just racing through my head! Everyone thinks you have to start off these epic fantasies with these big battles and explosions or something. But in reality, all the great fantasies start off as little stories.
[The main characters are shown]
Doug (vo): They do this so you can connect with the main character, who's usually somebody who's kind of timid, kind of afraid, about to go on this big adventure. And that's exactly what this movie does. We get to know our main character, who is the prince, who's on the run from his heinous crime and comes across a wizard, played by Timothy Dalton. I'm convinced this guy's Liam Neeson's monotone if it was made more interesting. Just based on his performance, I would follow this guy anywhere. He's stern and strict, but he definitely sounds like he knows what he's talking about. It doesn't sound like a guy who's trying to sound badass, he sounds legitimately badass. Along their way, they come across a girl with a burn mark on her face. She seems beyond socially awkward, and naturally, the prince and her don't get along. But it also turns out she's been adopted by this woman who's a friend of the wizard...or Mage. Is there a difference? I don't know. I guess I'll call her Mage. Slowly but surely, they start to open up, and, of course, they find out they have a lot in common and start a nice relationship together. But troubles a-brewing when another evil Mage named Cob, played by Willem Dafoe, is one of the few wizards who hasn't lost his magic. Thus, he plans to use the imbalance that's going on in the world to somehow achieve eternal life, and the Mage seems to be the ticket how. Along the way, we discover secrets, magical powers, and the truth about what people's spirits as well as their physical bodies are capable of.
Doug (vo): For the first two thirds of this movie, I was absolutely in love. Everyone always said this film was just OK, but I didn't know what they were talking about. I was sucked in. I was sucked in because I knew this was a smaller story that was taking place in a grander battle. They kept talking about how something big was coming, some sort of big change, and there's just this feeling of dread throughout the whole thing. It's kind of like in Game of Thrones, how when you get down to it, there really aren't that many big battles in it. But it's all about the build-up and establishing the character. While there's not quite as much talk of strategy in this, there certainly is a feeling of a lot of impending doom.
[The film's villain is shown]
Doug (vo): Cob, for example, is one of the creepiest villains. Willem Dafoe, throughout almost the entire performance, does nothing but whisper his lines, and it is just unsettling. His voice is like a spider crawling its way into your ear. It's just so uncomfortable whenever he speaks. He's so hard to figure out, too. I mean, you know he's a bad guy, but he always has this confident smile on his face. You know he can do these terrible big things, but he's also very frail and moves very little. You have no idea what this guy is up to, but you know he has everything figured out. And that is one of the creepiest things about a villain, one that just has no fear whatsoever.
[Clips mostly showing the third act of the movie are shown]
Doug (vo): So like I said, watching this film, I was just engrossed. Where was this all going? What's it building up to? What's the bigger, grander picture that they're finally gonna deliver? But then, when we get to the third act, I was really disappointed. Instead of a big battle or getting a bunch of answers or getting an army together or just something that seems larger, it's just a small fight in a castle with the hero wielding his sword, a few magic spells thrown, and just fighting a great big monster while trying to save the damsel in distress. Oh, man, what a letdown! For a film that opens up with dragons wrestling and so much dread and people saying there's this great imbalance and something terrible is coming, this is that terribleness that was coming? I totally accept the possibility that maybe this is just the first part of the story...
[The poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is shown briefly, as well as several images of the film]
Doug (vo): ...like maybe this is the Fellowship of the Ring part and there's going to be more to it. But even in Fellowship, they knew how to make a bigger deal of their climax, how to make you feel that this is important stuff you're watching. Ironically, the problem I always have with Fellowship is that you never felt the simpler side of it, the normal quiet life of our main character that's going to be interrupted. Everything in Fellowship was big and huge, even the party they threw. This movie has the exact opposite problem. The simpler stuff is there and is very well done, and it has some phenomenal build-up for what they could possibly deliver. But in this movie, it never is delivered. Even the ending kind of looks like they're done and wrapping up.
[The film's ending scenes are shown]
Doug (vo): Speaking of which, I don't understand the ending at all. Without giving away too much detail, there's another interaction with the dragon, kind of, sort of, and I just don't get it. It didn't seem like something that was meant to be abstract or open to interpretation, it seemed to be like, "Yeah, you're supposed to know what this is. You're supposed to know what's going on and why it's going on".
Doug (vo): The film is directed not by Hayao Miyazaki, but by his son, Goro. And for a first film, it's really impressive. Like I said, I love the first two thirds of this movie. I don't think I've ever been so hyped to see where a fantasy film was going. I really thought this was gonna be like in Narnia, something that starts off so simple and basic but turns into this grand epic battle. Instead, it feels more like the last level in a Zelda game. Even Willem Dafoe seems to go from that terrifying voice to something that seemed more Green Goblin-ish. But, still, does that mean I should dislike the entire movie for that? I don't think so. I still love the majority of this film. If they ever did make a sequel to it, I'd probably watch it, in the hopes that it actually does go somewhere bigger. Like I said, I haven't read the books and I have no idea how close it is or far it is to it, but for what it is, I really enjoyed the journey. I just didn't enjoy where it ended up. I'll emphasize right now, though, that I'm one of those people that just likes these kind of stories, the stories that start off small and get bigger and bigger and bigger. For example, I'm one of the few people that actually liked the first Hobbit. I kind of felt like it was the Fellowship of the Ring I never got. So I don't think this is a fantasy that's going to engulf everybody. Hell, most people say it's OK at best. But personally, I could get lost in this world and its environment and watch these characters all day. Yeah, I know this review is kind of all over the place, but hopefully, you can get an idea if this is something you'd be interested in. Take your chances and see what you discover.
[One of the final scenes, showing the prince meeting a dragon, is shown]