Meanwhile, I have not been idle. My wife and I have been working through some of the Tolkien Professor's lectures with all the accompanying reading that entails. We've also started re-reading the Harry Potter books. In addition to that, we've been making use of our Netflix account. With that, we come to the real purpose of today's post. This week, we've had the fun of watching two recent visually rich films; real treats for the eye. The are studio Ghibli's "Tales From Earthsea" and Christopher Nolan's "Inception."
"Tales From Earthsea" is actually the directorial debut of Hayao Miyazaki's son Goro. In that respect, the film is just a fun chance to see the next generation of studio Ghibli directors strut his stuff. I also happen to love Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea books. Put those together, and how could this not be a movie to watch the instant I became aware of it? So, watch it we did.
Now, what do I think? This is an adaptation of several Earthsea stories, so don't expect to see "The Wizard of Earthsea." However, the screen play is done by Hayao himself and shows all the marks of his own peculiar genius for adaptation. If you like the work Hayao Miyazaki has done with other adaptations like "Howl's Moving Castle," the adaptation itself should be right up your ally. If you're an Earthsea purist, don't waste your time. Questions of adaptation aside, Studio Ghibli does a wonderful job of bringing the world of Earthsea to life visually. Every panel has that wonderfully rich touch we've come to expect. The overall effect of the movie is somewhere on par with "Castle in the Sky" or "Naussicaa of the Valley of the Winds." If you go in expecting to see "Spirited Away," or "Princess Mononoke" you'll be disappointed. Of course, this only makes sense if you remember that those two movies are products of the elder Miyazaki at the height of his career. This is still definitely a "first movie." That said, Goro seems to have some real talent, and it will be worth watching his own style evolve over the years to come.
Moving on, we just finished watching "Inception" last night. I have to say that it was worth watching this one at home if only so my wife and I could keep stopping the movie and dialog about what was going on and how we guessed it would turn out; sort of like reading a mystery novel together. Nolan has a passion for playing around with cognition and it was nice to see him return again to his first love. It was also enjoyable to watch Nolan take his talent for coming at a genre "sideways" and totally reinvigorate the "heist" movie. The overall effect of the movie is so masterful that I'm sure this will be the new "Matrix" on college campuses for the next few years.
This, of course, brings us to the question of whether "Inception" is really just an action flick with fancy window dressing. I'm not sure what I think about that question. Christopher Nolan isn't Terrance Malik, nor does he claim to be. However, his ideas seem to have more urgency and coherence than those of the Wichowski brothers. If there is something that Nolan is toying with throughout the movie, I'm going to guess that it's the idea of "the thought that stops all thought," ala G.K. Chesterton's "Orthodoxy." There's also the obvious idea that art can plant memes in people's minds, but I think this Chestertonian angle is actually the deeper thread. I think that's all I'll weigh in with for now. We'll see what I think after more time and reading a few reviews.