Tales from Earthsea
DVD + Blu-ray
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From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, and director Goro Miyazaki (From Up on Poppy Hill ), comes an animated fantasy epic based on the classic book series by Ursula K. Le Guin.
As crops dwindle and dragons reappear, mankind stands on the verge of total chaos. Lord Archmage Sparrowhawk, a powerful wizard, and Arren, a troubled young prince, search for the force behind this mysterious imbalance that threatens to destroy the land of Earthsea. This tale of redemption and self-discovery that will take your breath away features the voices of Timothy Dalton, Cheech Marin, Willem Dafoe, and Mariska Hargitay
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I did not like the main bad guy, though that is a matter of taste; I grow weary of seeing effeminate male villains in animated film. This is the only Ghibli movie I've seen with one so far, so it isn't the fault of the Studio. Perhaps it is the manga, though I haven't read it yet.
Ultimately I found this pretty disappointing.
This isn't to say it's not enjoyable--I loved some of the characters and the world that they reside in, but there's just very little story and a whole lot of nothing going on. There's not much action, although Arren does get into a fight once or twice (he doesn't unsheathe his sword until the end, though). Furthermore, most of the scenes have this dreamlike quality to them where everyone speaks in gentle or solemn tones with little emotion (at least in the English dub); it's great voice acting, but it makes for some pretty monotonous dialogue.
The plot is okay, I suppose, but it lacks soul and flavor and by the end I found myself questioning what exactly was going on. The main character kills his father in the first few minutes, but for the rest of the film he doesn't do much but mope (and they never really explain why he did it). The villain is a weird androgynous man in a dark tower who is clearly evil because he tortures people and trades slaves, but is so dispassionate that I find it hard to dislike him--he has no character. The character I really liked was Ged the wizard. He was very wise and fatherly, but as I said before his voice got to be monotonous from time to time.
While Tales From Earthsea isn't a bad movie by any means, I'd have trouble recommending it to anyone--it's just too boring and the plot is too weak. Also, while the animation is good, it lacks the spectacular "wow!" scenes that we've come to expect from a Studio Ghibli film. The dragons are barely even in the movie, too. From what I understand, it doesn't follow any of the Earthsea books either, although the names of some of the characters are present. It did, however, get me interested in reading them and I just ordered the first book. I also watched the SyFy minisieries of Earthsea and boy was that fun!
So the final verdict is that you probably shouldn't buy it unless you're really trying to complete your Studio Ghibli collection. Try renting it first, I guess, but rent another movie at the same time so you won't end up wasting your whole evening. I mean, I'm actually considering selling my copy of this movie soon.
I don't understand why they decided to make the movie in the middle of the book series. Its like starting to watch Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings without seeing the first two movies. And there is not much background information given. If you read the books, you will understand some things, but if you didn't, it can be very confusing. For example, what is the deal with the "true names"? What's up with Arren's shadow? Why did the wizard in the beginning forget his spell?
Still, even after reading the books, this movie has some minor plot holes in it. But I think it all stems from where in the story they decided to make the movie at. Perhaps if that horrible Sci-Fi miniseries didn't exist, we would be talking about an epic movie here.
For all its flaws, the movie remains enjoyable. The art is fantastic, the pace flows nicely, and there is plenty of action and drama. Disney also did a good job with the voice acting.
I would give it 3 and a half stars.