Longtime Ghibli Freak Chris has some compelling arguments in favor of Goro Miyazaki's Gedo Senki in the comments to an earlier post. Wow, you really are a defender of this movie. I say bring it on! These discussions always become boring when everyone agrees on everything. Needless to say, this started me writing, and I decided to post my thoughts here instead of the comments section.
I do agree with Chris that Gedo Senki is a lovely movie. The artwork is superb, with very heavy saturation of color and light. And it seems to be more colorful - or at least less restrained - than typical Ghibli productions of the past. And it remains a beacon for defenders of classical hand-drawn animation. There really is nothing to compare this, or any Ghibli production, to in America. Hollywood has completely thrown its weight behind 3D computer animation.
We have to remember that Ghibli is a studio full of skilled artists. The famous directors get so much of the credit, but these are obviously not the creations of one man. Many of Ghibli's great artists have been working for the studio since its founding, and many others - I'm thinking of the great Michiyo Yasuda, head of the Color and Ink Dept, whose career spans back to the glory days at Toei Animation. You are always guaranteed to see something remarkable from these men and women.
I am not a reader of Ursula le Guinn's books, so I cannot comment on the movie's portrayal of the original work. I don't believe that a movie must be a copy of a book. Movies like this tend to feel somewhat lifeless and leave me feeling cynical. The Harry Potter franchise is a good example. The key word here is "adaptation." We are not seeing the original work, but an interpretation by the director, who infuses whatever new elements are deemed necessary.
It seemed to me that Hayao Miyazaki almost threw everything away from Howl's Moving Castle, beyond the description on the back of the paperback. Just the barest threads of the main characters, really. But he used that skeletal frame to tell his own story, weaving threads of his longstanding themes. I think the result is a spectacular film, even if it's somewhat insular (casual viewers are going to miss out).
So I don't think Goro Miyazaki should be judged solely on how his Tales From Earthsea matches up to the books. He needs to find his own voice. And, that, really, is where my problems and criticisms lie. But we'll get to that one of these days. Promise. I really, really mean it.