"Genghis Khan: to the Ends of the Earth and Sea": Spreading The Love Across An Empire
Genghis Khan is one of those historical figures that’s a household name, like Julius Caesar or Abraham Lincoln. He’s known for uniting the Mongol people in the early thirteenth century and creating one of the biggest empires in history. He’s been the subject of countless books and movies. This time it’s Funimation’s turn to bring us his story, with their US-side release of Genghis Khan: To The Ends of the Earth and Sea.
The movie doesn’t focus on the entire life story of Genghis Khan; rather, it’s about his rise to power. There are a couple quick episodes from his adolescence, where he makes a blood brother out of a man from another tribe named Jamuqa and meets his arranged wife, Börte. From a young age, he dreams of uniting the tribes of Mongolia. As an adult, he leads his men into battle, defeating tribe after tribe. Most of the movie takes place before he becomes Khan and takes the name Genghis, so throughout the film is he is referred to under his birth name, Temüjin.
As entertaining as it is to see nomadic tribes conquer the crap out of each other, the movie adds a few additional layers to Temüjin’s story. His uncertain parentage leads him to do not only what he thinks is right but what he thinks he’s destined for. He’s loyal to the people who raised him to the point where he kills for the greater good of the tribe. He comes to realize that the only way to accomplish his goal of uniting the Mongolians is basically to conquer all of them. Temüjin is a conflicted and sympathetic character who, in turn, is opposed by and contrasted with Jamuqa. There’s some great symmetry at work. Many of the characters have stories that parallel Temüjin’s in some way, as they face their individual goals and loyalties.
The movie knows how to make strong characters, and the portrayal of women in particular is a pleasant surprise. From Temujin’s mother, Hoelun, who was abducted into a tribe and forced to raise a baby she didn’t want, to Börte, Temüjin’s wife, to Kulan, a woman who only wishes to be treated as a warrior, there is a strong female presence throughout the film. The narration of the film is done by Hoelun, who helps guides Temüjin into a becoming a wise man. Börte and Kulan also play a tremendous role in making Temüjin a new kind of leader. Thanks to them, Temüjin becomes the Mongol ruler no one else could be.
The movie tells a powerful story where the action takes backseat to the characters. There are cool battles here and there, with armies riding horses and arrows being slung about, but for a Genghis Khan movie, there aren’t as many as you’d expect. The real fight is Temüjin’s struggle to keep his own sense of honor while those of others dissolve around him. The best scenes in the movie don’t show a single drawn sword.
Violence. Love. Betrayal. Faith. Destiny. Heritage. It’s all in Genghis Khan: To The Ends of the Earth and Sea. Genghis Khan lived over 800 years ago, so records of his actual life are vague and, at times, contradictory. It’s hard to know what kind of man he really was. Don’t watch this movie for historical accuracy; it takes some liberties for the sake of dramatic storytelling. Watch the movie for a fascinating portrayal of a historical figure. The man who becomes Genghis Khan in this movie is a powerful and sympathetic hero who struggles to do the honorable and just thing in uncivil and brutal times.