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Earwig and the Witch | Review

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Studio Ghibli can probably be considered as the world’s greatest animation studio. It never kowtowed to basic expressions of animation and continued to push the boundaries of hand-drawings to sweep away audiences in the studio’s ever-imaginative worlds (see Spirited Away). Even their simplest productions, such as Isao Takahata’s My Neighbors the Yamadas, had an aura of magnifying wonder to them. Their latest film, Earwig and the Witch, is the studio’s first fully 3D animated feature…and should be their last. Directed by Gorō Miyazaki, son of the great Hayao Miyazaki, the film follows the story of a young girl named Earwig (Kokoro Hirasawa) who gets adopted by a witch named Bella Yaga (Shinobu Terijama), so she can become her “apprentice” by helping her with spells. Bella Yaga’s abusive tenure forces Earwig to learn spells on her own with Thomas (Gaku Hamada), the talking cat, so she can finally be the one who controls the household. While the plot isn’t necessarily bad, Earwig and the Witch‘s cyclical structure makes for a pretty dull viewing experience, not particularly improved with its cheap-looking 3D animation.

Studio Ghibli's first CG movie, 'Earwig and the Witch,' is an insult |  Engadget

As I’ve mentioned in my previous paragraph, Studio Ghibli has essentially perfected the art of 2D, hand-drawn animation by crafting fully realized fictional worlds, which exalted the purely freeing imagination of many of their film’s child protagonists. In Spirited Away, we’re essentially seeing the entire world through Chihiro’s eyes–our eyes widen at seeing its incredibly detailed food and larger-than-life characters. That’s just but one isolated example of the many memorable images Studio Ghibli pictures has embedded in our minds over the years. So for (G.) Miyazaki to use fully synthesized/3D animation for his picture feels like a pure insult at what his father, Toshio Suzuki, Yasuyoshi Tokuma, and the late Isao Takahata have brought to the table for the past 35 years.

Sure, there’s a somewhat valid argument to say that the studio needs to “modernize” itself or at least experiment with a cheaper, more popular form of animation–but when that same studio has been revolutionizing the way audiences perceive animated drawings for 35 years, is it essential? It also doesn’t help that the 3D animation presented in Earwig and the Witch looks cheaply constructed and devoid of any movement, charm, and personality. The animation is placated on the screen without any proper direction or visual creativity. The sequences that could make the *best* use of 3D animation, particularly when Earwig enters The Mandrake (Etsushi Tokoyama)’s lair, are mediocre-at-best-, and the mostly boring, repetitive sequences of Earwig being constantly berated by Bella Yaga have no soul. Imagine that: a Studio Ghibli without any soul. How is that possible? Simple. Use 3D animation because it’s the only type that’s lost its value as more and more audiences become accustomed to the prospect of more realistic-looking characters (and worlds) inside computer-generated imageries.

Earwig and the Witch review: Ghibli's first 3D movie is better than it  looks - Polygon

It also doesn’t help that the film’s plot is extremely unengaging. We observe Earwig being constantly berated by Bella Yaga for most of the runtime, without any character progression from both protagonists. At some point, you may wonder in what direction the film is going–and you’ll quickly realize that the entire film only serves as a pretext for a sequel. Everything you’re watching is tediously written exposition, which acts as chapter 1 out of 152 of a story that’ll likely never get completed. It wouldn’t have been a problem if we didn’t spend so much time with the character doing the same chores, without an ounce of development or…direction, where the audience would see a clear path to a satisfying ending, but that never happens. At least the voice cast seems to bring a quasi-form of life to the picture–with Kokoro Hirasawa delivering a charming performance as the titular character, bringing lots of energy and heart to an inexpensively crafted character. The same can be said for her sidekick, Thomas, who shares the entire movie’s funniest lines, most notably in a hilarious scene where he has to confront his worst fear: worms. The comedic timing is spot-on and is the only time where the animation somewhat works within the context of the physical humor presented on-screen.

By Studio Ghibli’s standards, Earwig and the Witch is a terrible film, stripping away the one thing that made the studio stand out above every type of corporate made animation by major motion picture studios, while also turning the soulful imagination of hand-drawn paintings with lifeless, vapid and unresponsive 3D video-game cutscenes. To have a Ghibli film in 3D is showing to the audience small signs that the studio might become creatively bankrupt if they continue in that direction. Thankfully, Hayao Miyazaki has a new movie coming soon; crafted the way it should be done. Let’s just hope Goro won’t continue down the path of lifeless 3D and direct his next film the same way his father is doing it.

 

Earwig and the Witch is now available to rent or buy on video-on-demand and on Blu-Ray and DVD.

FILM RATING

Animation

Chip n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers | Disney +

Thirty years after their popular television show ended, chipmunks Chip and Dale live very different lives. When a cast member from the original series mysteriously disappears, the pair must reunite to save their friend.

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Genre:

Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Release Date:

May 20, 2022

Director:

Akiva Schaffer

Cast:

J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett

Plot Summary:

Thirty years after their popular television show ended, chipmunks Chip and Dale live very different lives. When a cast member from the original series mysteriously disappears, the pair must reunite to save their friend.

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Animation

Lightyear | Official Trailer 2 | Pixar

The story of Buzz Lightyear and his adventures to infinity and beyond.

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Genre:

Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Release Date:

June 17, 2022

Director:

Angus McLane

Cast:

Chris Evans (Voice)

Plot Summary:

The story of Buzz Lightyear and his adventures to infinity and beyond.

FILM RATING
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Animation

Minions: The Rise of Gru | Official Trailer

In the 1970s, young Gru tries to join a group of supervillains called the Vicious 6 after they oust their leader — the legendary fighter Wild Knuckles. When the interview turns disastrous, Gru and his Minions go on the run with the Vicious 6 hot on their tails. Luckily, he finds an unlikely source for guidance — Wild Knuckles himself — and soon discovers that even bad guys need a little help from their friends.

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on

Genre:

Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Release Date:

July 1, 2022

Director:

Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Va

Cast:

Steve Carell, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Taraji P. Henson, Russell Brand, Michelle Yeoh

Plot Summary:

In the 1970s, young Gru tries to join a group of supervillains called the Vicious 6 after they oust their leader — the legendary fighter Wild Knuckles. When the interview turns disastrous, Gru and his Minions go on the run with the Vicious 6 hot on their tails. Luckily, he finds an unlikely source for guidance — Wild Knuckles himself — and soon discovers that even bad guys need a little help from their friends.

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