Dragons, but really, why are there dragons?
Screenplay By: Goro Miyazaki & Keiko Niwa
Directed By: Goro Miyazaki
The first miss from Studio Ghibli is also the first film from Goro Miyazaki. The last name should give it away, but if it didn’t, Miyazaki-san is the son of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. That connection can be seen in a lot of elements of Gedo Senki, but I do not wish to make this into a review comparing father to son. To keep said comparisons short, Goro Miyazaki is at his best in Gedo Senki when he is not trying to imp his father’s style. Sadly, Goro Miyazaki spends far too much time in Gedo Senki attempting to be Hayao Miyazaki, much to the detriment of the film.
The story that Goro Miyazaki has to work with in Gedo Senki is not all that special, and that is the biggest problem with the film. The animation is bland most of the time, and the story is deeply unfocused and lacks any sort of depth. I spent most of my time with Gedo Senki wondering why I was watching such an ordinary film from such an extraordinary animation company like Studio Ghibli. There are dragons in this film, but there’s no reason for them to be present, and the fact that the film never gives them a reason speaks to the ordinary nature of Gedo Senki
There are moments when the animation is well above average. When the film takes to the skies for bouts of flight the animation is exhilarating. There are also many moments when Miyazaki-san toys with depth of field in a way that is most enthralling. Those moments are sadly very fleeting and spread thinly throughout the film. Gedo Senki returns very quickly from its better moments to the ordinary blanket that wraps itself snugly around Miyazki-san’s first film.
I do believe that Goro Miyazaki shows promise in Gedo Senki. There is a sequence near the end of the film that lasts around ten to fifteen minutes that is quite thrilling. That sequence along with the flying and depth of field moments show that Miyazaki-san has the skillset to provide quality films in the future. The question that is in front of Miyazaki-san is whether or not he can take his considerable skillset and produce a quality whole. Maybe I’m being too harsh on Miyazaki-san, this is only his first film after all. But, when your dad is Hayao Miyazaki there are certain expectations to live up to, fairness be damned.
Gedo Senki is unfocused, and it is the first film from the consistently great Studio Ghibli that fails to live up to their reputation. This film is a disappointment, but it is not a terrible piece of filmmaking or anything like that. As Goro Miyazaki gets his feet under him and becomes his own director I expect much better things. Many years ago Hayao Miyazaki gave up trying to produce a film version of Gedo Senki. His son picked up the mantle, but the result speaks to a film that perhaps should have been left in the “better as an idea than an actual film” bin.