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3.6 out of 5 stars110
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 27 April 2008
This is an incredibly well animated film, just what you'd expect from Ghibli, but it just did not hold the same magic that most Ghibli films has done. I felt it was quite western in its storyline which may have something to do with it. The first Ghibli I saw was Princess Monoke, shortly followed by Spirited Away, and I was enchanted from the very start. I've seen several more and loved them all, but I just wasn't taken with this one. 3 stars for the usual quality but I probably won't watch it again.
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on 2 February 2008
Having read, and loved, the books on which this film was based, I had very high hopes for it. Unfortunately, I left the cinema feeling a little disappointed.

Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea is a grand and deeply moving epic, and none of this really came across in the film. Parts of it were brilliant, but I agree with the reviewer who said the end of the film doesn't live up to the promise of the beginning, with major themes and ideas left unexplored and questions left unanswered. The potential in the source material was squandered leaving me with a feeling of 'what might have been'. I really think that if they'd followed the book more closely they'd have ended up with a better film.

On the whole, I think it was a fair first effort for Goro. For me, the film was better than some of Ghibli's other works, and overall I do like it. It's certainly worth buying for any Ghibli fan, and shouldn't disappoint too badly (even my non-Ghibli-fan friend loved it). For those who haven't already done so, do read the books, they're fantastic!
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"Tales from Earthsea" is a Miyazaki movie. Just not THE Miyazaki.

No, this extremely loose adaptation of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series is directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro Miyazaki. And it has the earmarks of a promising first effort -- the visuals are hauntingly lovely, the dialogue is sometimes beautiful, and there's raw passion in its making. But honestly, the story is often confusing, and fans of Le Guin's books will probably implode with rage over the story changes.

The archmage Sparrowhawk encounters a young boy named Prince Arren in the desert, and takes him under his wing. Arren is on the run from his own kingdom after committing a horrible crime, and Sparrowhawk is out to find out why magic seems to be draining out of the world, and darkness is creeping into people's hearts.

After some misadventures with slavers, they make their way to Sparrowhawk's friend/love interest Tenar, and her adopted daughter Therru. Unfortunately, the malevolent mage Cob has learned of Sparrowhawk's presence nearby, and plans to use Arren in his quest for eternal life and revenge againt Sparrowhawk... unless Therru can help her friend come to terms with his inner darkness.

Like most movies from Studio Ghibli, "Tales From Earthsea" is visually stunning almost beyond belief -- ivy-draped cities, azure seaports, dark looming castles against twilight skies, and long sweeping green fields dotted with trees in the morning sun. There's a genuine sense of magic and mystery to this world, and you can really feel the passion that Miyazaki had for his story and the way it's depicted.

However, the story itself is kind of mixed. The dialogue is strong and often hauntingly powerful ("But only to men is it given to know that we must die, and that is a precious gift"), and the story has some scenes that linger in the mind afterwards. But the narrative is often confusing -- the murky cosmology, undeveloped backstory (what are the tombs of Atuan?), and the whole subplot about Arren is just befuddling. His initial actions -- before we even get to know him -- are baffling.

Most of the story's character development centers on Arren. He seems like a nice polite young boy, but from his very first shocking scene we see that darkness and despair are slowly consuming him. Miyazaki crafts a solid father/son relationship between Arren and Sparrowhawk, and the archmage is also a powerful character -- understanding, forgiving, and universally kind.

Miyazaki also spins up a solid bond between Sparrowhawk and his old friend Tenar, who have the comfortable feel of an old married couple who know each other so well that they can practically finish each other's sentences. Therru is flawed, though -- she's not really fleshed out much, and she does something near the movie's end that left me scratching my head. It wasn't really foreshadowed or hinted at -- it just happens.

As for the villain Cob... uh, he seems like just a pallid effeminate villain at first, but he gets progressively creepier as we see more of him. Example: the scene where he slips Arren a roofie to get his true name. That was... disturbing.

Goro Miyazaki isn't the master that his father is, but there is still plenty of power, beauty and promise in his movie debut, "Tales From Earthsea." Beautifully rendered, but flawed.
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on 13 September 2007
Expectations are doubtless high for this - the first Studio Ghibli release since 2005's Howl's Moving Castle; it is also the debuting directorial effort of Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro - a decision which is known to have been the source of much tension between the pair during the film's production.

Tales from Earthsea concerns the plight of Prince Arren - a boy equipped with both shy humility and apoplectic rage as violent as it is ephemeral. Fleeing the palace after a brutal murder, the seemingly cursed Prince finds unlikely companionship in the wizard Sparrowhawk, whom he accompanies on his travels to discover the source of that which is unbalancing the world; disease, poverty and enslavement are proliferating at the hands of an esoteric force, which Sparrowhead will discover emanates from the pernicious machinations of one Lord Cob, who seeks immortality. The two male protagonists come to encounter and reacquaint themselves respectively with female companions, Therru and Tenar, who assist them in their ultimate battle against Lord Cob and his minions.

The film falls very much into the "epic" category of Ghibli's dichotomic catalogue, and allegedly forces the contents of at least three Earthsea books (which, regrettably, I have yet to read) into its duration - a decision which, I feel, results in disjointed pacing: the anti-climatic final battle yawns over a vast chasm of slight tedium, while the more intriguing opening scenes involving the King are danced over with quite unnecessary flourish. Unlike most Ghibli films, there is no fixed setting - the protagonists wander from one settlement to the next, lending a Tolkien-esque quality to proceedings, and allowing for some stunning and varied backdrops; but while the scenery is a sublime as ever, the animation, I feel, suffers from slight inconsistencies - especially noticeable in the final battle scenes (the climatic collapse of the Lord Cob's tower pales in comparison to the collapse of Howl's castle, for example).

Characterisation is the weakest aspect of this film; there are arguably three main characters, each as intriguing but ultimately undeveloped as each other. We learn little of the abused and scarred Therru, the insinuated erstwhile relationship between Sparrowhawk and Tenar is never fully revealed, and the demons that haunt Prince Arren are only explained to superficial levels. Goro Miyazaki has attempted admirably to infuse his film with a miasma of history and magical mysticism, but perhaps he should have derived less content from the books, or expanded one film to more, in preference of revealing more of the world and its inhabitants. Aspects such as the dragons, the concept of True Names, and the Land of the Dead are all referenced with frustrating brevity, while the admittedly interesting pontifications on life and death outstay their welcome; it is such inconsistent focus that mars the film as a whole.

The first half of this film is glorious: the music with its epic recurring theme in varied guises, the scenery, and the potential of the characters render it a pleasure to behold; however, the second half let me down by not fulfilling the promises established in the initial scenes, and what could have been a captivating and magical dive into the ocean of a highly-regarded literary creation feels like nothing more than a pleasurable but short-lived paddle. But it's still Ghibli, so you should still watch it and will still enjoy it.
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on 25 March 2008
hi, i love studio ghibli and the amazing films that Hayao Miyazaki has produced. Unfortunatly i found Tales from the Earthsea lacking in something, and it may be because his son Goro produced this film, and its his first big anime. I found it difficult to keep myself interested in the story line but the visual effects are excellent it has to be said. If you look at the other ghibli films the key people who carry the stories are women, spirited away, howls moving castle (sophie), kiki's delivery service, nausicca:valley of the wind etc these make the stories a breathe of fresh air from the usual male dominace you usually see in films, which is what you see in tales from the earthsea. Dont knock this film until you see it as this reveiw is a personal opinion. On a last note i believe this film is missing the magic and exitement that you get when watching the other ghibli films. Lets hope Goro does have another go at making anime's as he may produce something more special next time.
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The lone Studio Ghibli film that seemingly has no defenders and which famously caused a rift between Hayao Miyazaki, who originally planned to direct, and his son Goro Miyazaki, who eventually did, Tales From Earthsea is at least a step up from the dire Hallmark miniseries, but while it's not as much of a travesty of Ursula K. Le Guin's fantasy world it's not too difficult to share her disappointment with the end result. Rather than directly adapting any of her four novels, it loosely reworks the last two (The Farthest Shore and Tehanu) to create a newish story set in Earthsea using some of the same characters - most notably Sparrowhawk, Tenar and Tehanu - and touching very briefly on a few of the themes without ever knowing what to do with them. The initial animation is impressive enough to make you wonder why it has such a low reputation, but as ideas are raised and ignored and the film's scale constantly shrinks without gaining any real focus, it soon becomes apparent. The story is a weak shadow of even the weakest of Le Guin's novels and there's often little reason for the film to be animated as it determinedly ignores the more cinematic aspects of the stories and only sporadically offers any real animation setpieces. It doesn't even take advantage of the possibilities animation offers to render the color-blind world of the novels with its predominantly White Anglo Saxon screen characters. It's professionally made and crafted well enough to avoid being a disaster, but it is increasingly mediocre and loses what little grip it has long before the climax. Maybe it'll be third time lucky next time someone takes a cinematic trip to Earthsea, but this is a visit you don't really need to make.
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After killing his dad and running away, Arren joins a nomadic wizard and begins a near epic adventure...

..I say 'near' epic because the film looks epic - the visuals on the whole are very good, with towns and the final scene being particularly impressive - but the epic scale is never properly realised. I'm not familiar with the books on which this film is based on, and had I some background knowledge then I might have felt more relaxed with the film. But instead I was left to appreciate the visuals whilst the plot felt a bit thin and not satisfactorily explained.

This film didn't compare well to the previous Ghibli fantasy feature Howl's Moving Castle. 'Howl...' had characters with depth and they stayed with you after the film, whereas Tales From Earthsea failed to use the characters enough and develop them so that you cared for them. There were brief attempts to introduce a history but not enough to ensure they were well rounded.

Ghibli films tend to have a political message, normally anti-war or environmentalism related - here there are serious issues such as child abuse and slavery, yet after a quick mention the issues are abandoned and the impact lost.

This isn't a bad film, were it not a Ghibli film it would no doubt be celebrated as a great fantasy adventure - but it doesn't live up to the expectations built up during the first hour or so. Goro Miyazki stepped into some big shoes when he directed this, and comparisons were always going to be made with his father (who is undoubtedly one of the most creative film makers of the modern age), some of the criticisms of his ability on his debut directorial project seem a bit unfair as this might not be excellent, but it's still a worthy watch.

In a nutshell: Tales From Earthsea doesn't have the rewatch value of many other Studio Ghibli films. The lead character Arran is physically reminiscent of the Little Norse Prince - another animated feature which is a nice little fantasy adventure, but the weakness of this film is simply that doesn't utilise the Ghibli magic of establishing strong characters which draw you in and make you want to watch on. This is something that the studio has turned into an artform (quite literally!) over decades of film making. It does look fantastic however and although the characters haven't stayed with me, I can still picture some of the beautiful buildings and the collapsing brickwork of the tower at the end.
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on 7 October 2008
I haved loved both Ursula Le Guin's books and most of Studio Ghibli's films, and this film does justice to neither. I understand a film's need need to condense from the written word, and to find a visual way to tell a story, but there was no need to shift Jed's shadowy doppelganger onto another character altogether, completely distorting both of them. By using the title it has probably killed any chance of a good film - or three good films - being made from the material any time soon.
For those who don't know the books, but do appreciate the fresh and original storytelling of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, this feels more like a hackneyed Hollywood epic except for being a bit muddled. It has the fine design and animation we expect from Ghibli but falls short where it matters. I saw this at the cinema, and sadly it is the ONLY Ghibli film I will not add to my DVD collection.
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on 7 August 2013
Le Guin's cycle is hard to film: slow paces, little action and a lot of philosophical dialogues. If Jackson's "LotR" is what it is (and it's better not to talk about his "Hobbit(s)"), imagine what harm could Hollywood do to an author even more movie-unfriendly than Tolkien (see the awful "Legend of Earthsea" to get an idea). It's not perfect, but at least Miyazaki jr's script doesn't pretend to be faithful while rewriting the whole thing (I'm referring to Jackson's "Lotr" and "Harry Potter" 3-8). Surprisingly, it is quite faithful in his own way, using many elements throughout the whole cycle of novels; I would call it an Earthsea compendium (there are elements from at least: "a Wizard of Earthsea", "the Farthest Shore", "Tehanu", "Dragonfly", "On the High Marsh"). The animation is obviously wonderful, and the design both familiar and positively unusual for fantasy (see Arren's Byzantine array: Byzantine style usually is not seen in fantasy movies, where a more western european style is preferred). Miyazaki jr's director's abilities are not at the level of his father, but it's not that terrible (the dragon fight scene in the prologue is simply perfect). Good soundtrack, very inspired.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 September 2015
After being totally enthralled by Studio Ghibli’s version of the Borrowers, the marvellous Arrietty, I was slightly disappointed with this interpretation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘Earthsea’ series of fantasy books. The animation is unquestionably beautiful – the rural and coastal landscapes, the crumbling buildings and the fading architecture of ruined towns all contribute to a feeling of melancholy due to a vivid depiction of the inevitable transience of human life. However, the narrative felt disjointed and probably needed more than one film to fully achieve a coherent representation of the complexities of the author’s imagined world. It is not a film which I will watch again, but it is definitely not a film to avoid.
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