Sunday, January 31, 2021

Earwig and the Witch Review: Studio Ghibli Rocks Out In 3D

Earwig and the Witch Movie Poster

Release date: February 3, 2021
Running time: 82 minutes
Stars: JB Blanc, Thomas Bromhead, Alex Cartañá 
Director: Goro Miyazaki
Writers: Diana Wynne Jones, Keiko Niwa

Growing up in an orphanage in the British countryside, Earwig has no idea that her mother had magical powers. Her life changes dramatically when a strange couple takes her in, and she is forced to live with a selfish witch. As the headstrong young girl sets out to uncover the secrets of her new guardians, she discovers a world of spells and potions, and a mysterious song that may be the key to finding the family she has always wanted. 

Directed by  Gorô Miyazaki	Writing Credits   Diana Wynne Jones	...	(novel) (as Daiana Win Jônzu)   Keiko Niwa	...	(screenplay) and Emi Gunji	...	(screenplay)   Hayao Miyazaki	...	(developed by)     Produced by  Kôji Hoshino	...	chief executive producer: Studio Ghibli Kentaro Morishita	...	animation producer (as Kentarô Morishita) Kiyofumi Nakajima	...	executive producer Toshio Suzuki	...	producer Keisuke Tsuchihashi	...	chief executive producer: NHK Enterprises Isao Yoshikuni	...	chief executive producer: NHK
Earwig and the Witch is from Studio Ghibli, a studio that could be characterized as the Disney of Japan due to its wonderful animation and propensity for creating classics.  And like Disney, who has been transitioning away from hand drawn animation into more of a CG look, Earwig and the Witch is definitely a CG film.  The movie has the same Ghibli style and characters, but they are fully rendered in 3D with some computer generated and hand drawn elements in the background.  It is an interesting trick and a bold choice to try and recreate the same style that the studio is known for, and the animators did a good job doing it.  The same characteristic anime expressions, craziness, and exaggerated features are all present in this CG representation.

However, the switch to CG is going to be hit or miss for a lot of people.  I appreciated the effort but thought that the characters did not move as fluidly as their hand drawn counterparts and also some of the effects had a plastic look.  I applaud the effort and was intrigued by the style but it just didn't hit for me.  It actually more looked like a video game representation of a Studio Ghibli film, rather than a full on original effort.  Additionally, the film has a slow pace and almost feels like it should have had additional episodes.  Not a lot happens and despite the poster showing a rocking young girl, most of the film involves her cleaning a house and learning potions.  It does have the characteristic Ghibli style in the characters, but unfortunately just does not feel like much of an adventure happens.  For a film about a rocking witch there is not enough magic and not enough rock.  If there are more movies in this series, I would love to see where they go as they established a solid base.  But it feels like this needed some more time to really explore and to have the story be the fantastical type that Ghibli is known for.

And the film definitely feels setup for additional films.  The opening has a dire circumstance hinting at a backstory that was not fully explored in the film.  Additionally, the film ends on a sort of cliffhanger, with a a reveal that could go multiple directions.  And one thing that I haven't mentioned yet, but absolutely loved, is the soundtrack.  Although there is not a lot of rock by the characters, the film has a wonderful soundtrack that has elements of rock, jazz, and punk thrown in.  I would listen to the soundtrack by itself, it was just that good.  The film is being released with both the original Japanese audio and an English Dub.  I watched half the movie in English and half the movie in Japanese, and I am happy to report that either version will provide a good experience.  The English Dub is nice as they used British actors (or at least had them do British accents) to match the setting in the film.  And it had a fluid style that fit the characters and their expressions.  

Earwig and the Witch shows a vision of where Studio Ghibli might go, with more of a CG focus, the same trademark style, and a rocking soundtrack. 

Rent it.

Anime Animation Studio Ghibli Miazaki Spirited Away Totoro Japanese Japan Manga
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Earwig and the Witch opens in select theaters starting February 3, 2021.  It will debut on HBO Max on February 5, 2021.

For showtimes, click here.

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