Earwig and the Witch | Review
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.
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.
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.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem | Teaser Trailer – Paramount Pictures
The Turtle brothers as they work to earn the love of New York City while facing down an army of mutants.
Animation, Action, Adventure
August 4, 2023
Jeff Rowe, Kyler Spears
Paul Rudd, Giancarlo Esposito, Rose Byrne
The Turtle brothers as they work to earn the love of New York City while facing down an army of mutants.
Netflix to Team with Legendary Entertainment for Live-Action Feature of ‘My Hero Academia’
Netflix seems to be in on almost everything anime or manga-related including live-action iterations for some of the more popular franchises. First, having made a Death Note film back in 2017, followed by a live-action Cowboy Bebop series before pivoting to focus on the One Piece and Avatar the Last Airbender series, it seems that they are taking another swing on a big anime property for their streaming service.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix will team with Legendary Entertainment, best known for their monsterverse films centering on Godzilla and King Kong on a live-action feature film based on the popular manga, My Hero Academia. Joby Harold (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Army of the Dead) will write the script as Shinsuke Sato (Alice in Borderland, I Am a Hero) will make his English-language debut as director for the film. My Hero Academia debuted in 2014 and has quickly ascended into one of the more popular manga titles before gaining attention and turning to anime where its currently in its fifth season.
Legendary boarded the property all the way back in 2018 aiming to create a live-action movie and will aim to generate a wide-scale audience by teaming with Netflix. My Hero Academia revolves around a world in which 80 percent of people have a power called “quirks.” Lead character, Izuku Midoriya, or Deku, is a superhero fanboy who happens to be a part of that unfortunate 20 percent without powers and is discouraged. However, after meeting the legendary hero, All Might, he sets on a path to become the ultimate hero himself.
DC and Warner Bros. Discovery on Cusp of Animation Deal with Amazon
There has been much anticipation in waiting to see the unveiling of the structure of James Gunn and Peter Safran as the new heads of DC for Warner Bros. News came just this week from Gunn that the comic book flagship money maker for Warner Bros. that he and Safran are aiming to make everything cohesive within their vision connecting movies, television, video games and animation throughout the universe. However, a new report from Deadline sees that they may be looking at a new (or additional) streaming home for animated content surrounding their heroes and villains.
In an article originally reported from Deadline, Channing Dungey, the Chairwoman of Warner Bros. Television, has alluded to “closing a big deal” with Amazon featuring DC branded content in animation on their streaming platform, Amazon Prime Video. Though she also explained that HBO Max will be the “first stop” for all things DC, it’s interesting to note a deal such as this potentially going through with a company and competitor as big as Amazon, no less.
While it’s hard to imagine any major DC characters synonymous with the brand such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern getting animated foray onto Prime Video, it begs the question, could we see Amazon as a pipeline to popularity for some lesser-known characters getting introduced to a larger audience? There is so much potential and richness of characters within the DC landscape that have yet to be introduced through live-action or animation so this seems like a risk that might be worth taking, especially considering the financial troubles that Warner Bros. Discovery has been reported to have.
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