South Park Self

only moderately dire

I am pleasantly surprised to report that Earthsea wasn't as bad as I expected it to be, although to be fair I expected it to be terrible; I should also note that Mike was feeding me Thelema cabernet at the time, so my reviewer's spectacles may have been unconscionably rose-tinted. It's practically impossible to run screaming from a room which contains Thelema cabernet. (1998, as I recollect, and, while not a patch on the legendary '88 Reserve, still wonderful). I suppose I should really be saying that I've forgiven the movie for being really bad and drecky because it was an excuse for good wine.

Le Guin's Earthsea is an amazing series of novels, and, despite its initial themes of adolescent self-discovery, I've never quite figured why it should be regarded as young adult fiction. What it is, in fact, is an amazingly restrained and beautifully written disquisition on the nature of power, identity and death, woven through with Jungian psychology, Taoism and an increasing feminist awareness. It's one of the most telling demonstrations of the fact that that the obvious clichés of fantasy are only as stupid as their writer, and in intelligent hands can be immensely sophisticated to the point where the tone and writing effectively disguise the fact that they're clichés at all. Alert readers will, of course, spot the inherent flaw in the notion of adapting such a novel to cinematic format, since intelligence is extremely rarely an attribute of movie studios, much less low-budget SciFi Channel films.

Things I Didn't Like About The Film: (I'm not even going to cut my comments to avert spoilerage, since it's my considered opinion that it'll make absolutely no difference at all to your lack of enjoyment).
  • Predictably enough, Earthsea, the film, is pretty much what you'd expect to get if you took random selection of the main events from the first two books, conflated two major and completely separate storylines into one, and patched the resulting mess together into a hackneyed fantasy which more or less completely ignores the philosophical concerns of the novels while bearing an almost accidental and deeply misleading passing resemblance to the actual events.
  • The usual incomprehensible random changes are made: for example, Sparrowhawk becomes Ged's true name, instead of Ged being Sparrowhawk's true name. Presumably this is a corollary to the Great Wiccan Law of Really Bad Craft Names Like Raven, in which some sort of cool animal or bird is considered more significant than absolutely anything else ever. Retch. The Temples at Atuan are also seriously messed around: Thar becomes a beloved Mother Priestess figure to a horde of unreasonably beautiful teenage girls instead of the dry, sparse person she is in the books, and Kossil ends up a femme fatale. Eeeeeuw.
  • The random relocation of Sparrowhawk's race from dark-skinned to blonde, blue-eyed Aryan is one of the things Le Guin most resented about the movie, and I do take her point. Mostly, however I couldn't forgive the lead character for being a sort of cut-price Dominic Monaghan, with the charm and energy surgically removed and replaced with the blockheaded gormlessness of the young Heath Ledger. (I'm thinking Knight's Tale).
  • The treatment of Shadow was absolutely stuffed up. The film conflates Sparrowhawk's Shadow, i.e. his shadow self, with the Nameless Ones, who in the books are massive, brooding, inhuman, sleeping entities: the film simply assumes they're the same thing. Most unforgivably, they also ignore the incredible visual possibilities of Sparrowhawk's shadow, as a shapeless, shifting clot of blackness, in favour of something that reminds me forcibly of a D&D imp. Sort of spindly and demonic, in a small way. With lots of teeth.
  • Oh, and overall, really bad CGI. I mean really bad. Lots of sweeping LotR shots of clearly plastic cities, ships and castles.
  • Wossname from Smallville, dark-haired girl who plays Lana Lang, really can't act.
Things I liked about the movie:
  • The cabernet.
  • Danny Glover as Ogion. (Sort of).
  • Rather a cute moment of sneaky dragon-manipulation around riddles.
Which, I think, rather disposes of that, no? Bugger, now I want to re-read the books, and I seem to have lent my copy to someone. Own up, if you're out there!

In other news, we (Evil Landlord, jo&stv, starmadeshadow) celebrated Easter this morning (i.e. the long weekend of it) by eating lots of waffles and drinking champagne. Tres civilised. I hope everyone else is enjoying Easter in their preferred fashion.
  • Current Mood: sleep-deprivation
  • Current Music: Belle and Sebastian, Push barman to open old wounds
Tags:
I saw the David Tennant Dr. Who Christmas special, and he has his own off-the-wall, rather manic charm, although I suspect my heart belongs undyingly to Christopher Eccleston. But I think Tennant could make something of it. Hopefully he'll grow on me.

Kristen Kreuk fits into that small, dark, smug bracket that for some reason really annoys me. Possibly one of her ilk bit me in kindergarten, or something.
Glad you manged to get it to play. The first David Tennant Dr Who episode proper was ... OK. I'm trying to remind myself that the first Christopher Eccleston episode wasn't amazing either. I am downloading a copy today.
I think the Doctor Who effect is definitely cumulative. But the images I've seen from the first second-season episode are very cool, if nothing else!
SF tipoff
(Anonymous)
Never was a Le Guin fan. Air of "serious writer" spoils the fun. I like my fantasy pulp-style, dammit. BTW if you haven't yet seen the Russian fantasy noir Nochnoi Dozor (Night Watch), hie thee to a video emporium and rent it. See also my review on A Congregation of Vapours, to which I cannot link. Huh.
DavetheF
Re: SF tipoff
If you're a fan of pulp fantasy (which I have to admit, I am too, to a certain extent), you'll probably enjoy the Earthsea movie. It's just the comparison with the very non-pulpy books which is painful.

I am still kicking myself that I missed Night Watch on circuit; I did see and enjoy your review. And your blog is linked from my sidebar, so you really only need to make vague sideways motions... ;>
Re: SF tipoff link balls
(Anonymous)
Sorry, of course it's linked and I'm very grateful too. Suffering from dimly lit brain at the moment.
um.
(Anonymous)
owning up.

*shuffles feet self-consciously*

in my defence, it was pressed upon me.

and i've _still_ not read it...

Jo, the more frequent.