Movie Review: Earwig and the Witch
Finally, another film from the great creatives at Studio Ghibli. Responsible for some of the finest animation of the 20th and 21st centuries respectively, even their lowest ebbs of quality pool some form of strength. All good things must come to an end, though, and the sole task of Earwig and the Witch seems to be dismantling the dependability we have on these quality filmmaking experiences. Removing the stylish flair of hand-drawn animation, the film and its director, Goro Miyazaki, take a major risk that wasn’t worth the gamble. What payoff there was for making a computer-generated Studio Ghibli film is shrouded in mystery and poor decision making. Was it to just say they’d done it? That they had given it an honest try and would never do it again? Hopefully, that is the case.
Whatever story or style offered here would undoubtedly look better in the traditional Ghibli format. Perhaps the fear now is that audiences, including myself, will cling to the charming, hand-drawn efforts of Porco Rosso or the magical worldbuilding of Spirited Away. Instead, Miyazaki offers up a film that feels similar to Foodfight, the doomed Charlie Sheen project from some years ago. With the strong efforts Miyazaki promised in From Up on Poppy Hill, it is clear from his latest efforts that his talents have diminished. They have slipped away from his grasp, and have taken the unique charms of Ghibli with it.
No longer do their films stand out from an artistic point, they clamour for some semblance of modern animation, to beat out their Pixar and Dreamworks counterparts, when, in reality, their best asset was their removal from such competition. Within Earwig and the Witch, there is nothing but uninspired horrors, where characters utilise the power of music and magic to stave off the villainous forces that linger in the dark. It is neither interesting nor rewarding. There is nothing within that suggests great detail or commitment to the titular character or group she follows. These are issues that go far beyond that of animated woes, these are simple, amateurish mistakes student filmmakers or budding animators would make on their first project.
Should audiences cling to their memories? Change is sometimes a good, necessary part of moving on and growing old, but for Studio Ghibli, it tears the heart out of a consistent system of animation that has been dependable and engaging for decades. Earwig and the Witch hits the reset button on such a reliable style, shattering the trust that so few have built over generations of fans. Infuriatingly enough, the end credits show the hand-drawn animation, the few stills that mock angered audiences look far better than anything Miyazaki can offer with his computer-generated, crass comedown. Inevitably poor quality, devoid of the imagination, style and devoted craftsmanship that has steadied the ship of even the weakest Ghibli products, Earwig and the Witch is an unforgivable nightmare.