Tales from Earthsea (2006) Poster

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7/10
A wonderful vision, if not a faithful adaptation
dancegethsemane30 November 2006
I am a great fan of the LeGuin books, and when I learned that Studio Ghibli was going to be involved in making of the film I eagerly looked forward to its release. I hoped it would make up for the awful SciFi Channel-aired film. The good news in this outing is, there is genuine respect for the source material, even if it is not done genuine honor.

The plot of the film is an amalgamation of elements of several of the Earthsea books, creating a new villain and having characters interact that indeed barely met in the books. While I could not help but feel disappointed by these changes, the film is still visually enjoyable to behold. It does not compare as favorably to Howl's Moving Castle, a story drastically altered from its own source material that still manages to stand on its own as a story.

I could not help but think, as I watched the character Arren develop, why? Why, when there is such wonderful source material, that his introduction came across so muddled and poorly reasoned. I viewed the film with someone who had never read the books, and she really enjoyed it. Despite the film's shortcomings, you generally care for the cast by the end.
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6/10
Suffocated by its source material
j30bell3 August 2007
Films experiencing production hell are rarely as good as they might have been, no matter how good the director is (c.f. Gangs of New York and AI) and this one is no exception.

Taken on its own terms, Tales of Earthsea is a competent, if not breathtaking, start for Miyazaki junior, and bears comparison to the lesser Gibli canon without scaling the heights of its major work. It is unfair to compare it to My Cousin Totoro, Spirited Away or Graveyard of the Fireflies; but it is also a shame for the fans of Earthsea. They didn't get a top director at the top of his game.

The principal problem with the film is that it doesn't seem to know what to do with the books it is based on. Are they source material to be pillaged? Are they stories to be adapted? Are they concepts to be explored? In the end Miyazaki opts for a mix: the narrative structure is broadly based on the third novel (The Farthest Shore), with a significant sub-plots from both the first (The Wizard of Earthsea) and the fourth (Tehanu). Into the mix he throws some recognisable manga/anime formulae (the arch-enemy; the ronin henchmen; the violence) which cut across the major themes explored by the novels and alluded to by the film.

If this all sounds like a disaster, it isn't exactly. The plot functions: evil wizard, through pride, upsets the balance of Earthsea forcing archmage, Sparrowhawk, in the company of a young prince, to do battle to restore the balance, destroy the evil and face down their own demons. Had Miyazaki been more ruthless all would probably have been well – for anime fans anyway. But there are too many blind alleys, lose ends and needless distractions – all nods to the books - which make the first half of the film in particular feel like a second rate brass band meandering painfully around a Brassed Off version of Adagio for Strings. The narcotic Hazia, for example, which dominates the beginning of the third story, is introduced early in the film and then simply abandoned. Later, Tenar's back-story fades into nothingness leaving the audience with a forcible impression of a producer impatiently looking at his watch. The whole effect is not homage, but distraction – and a film that it is at least 40minutes longer than it needed to be.

Ursula LeGuin, who wrote the Earthsea novels, had suggested to (Hayao) Miyazaki that he create new story for Ged, uncluttered by her previous stories, set in the many years between the first two books. This would have made for a less ponderous film.

Regarding the technical side of animation; it appears the younger Miyazaki was aiming for the dreamlike quality of animation so characteristic of his father's work. Again, he has some partial success in this regard, although it is undeniably more clunky than other Gibli titles. But a lot can be forgiven for his reliance on hand-drawn animation, and there are some moments of real beauty – windblown grasses, rocks on the seashore and chill sunsets. This, along with some strong characters and a much tighter second half, make Tales from Earthsea watchable film, if a slightly underwhelming one. But better than Disney. 6/10
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7/10
Like all Ghibli films, something worth watching
kichiverde1 August 2006
After watching this film I was pleased with the overall feel and look the production. Most notably I was impressed with the studio's visual creation of Earthsea. While the artistry and animation quality does not entirely measure up to other recent Ghibli studio films, I felt it did create a rich and colorful setting in which the story unfolds. A solid score also helps to shape the vibrant world that the movie conveys. However, I wouldn't consider all this to be a faithful representation of Ursula k. Le Guin's literary Earthsea, but rather something unique on to itself. One thing in particular that I think separates the film setting from that of the books' is the absence of the sea. I'm not saying its not there, just that it seems to mostly be in the background.

As for the story I don't think it stands out as anything great. It was limited from the start. The movie like the book is a single episode in a much larger tale. In no way could it possibly encompass the magnitude of the Earthsea series, let alone the main events in The Farthest Shore. It would simply be too much to present in a canvass of its length. As a result It lacks the epic feel of Princess Mononoke or the closure that comes at the end of Spirited Away. In other respects though, the film borrows heavily from Ghibli's previous works, mainly with the characters. They are shadows of former Ghibli creations, but due to their interaction and set of circumstances they retain some originality. I might also add that they come off as serious, and are far removed from the playful personalities that give other Ghibli films their charm. This said they still manage to play out their given roles and drive the story forward. From beginning to end the film holds up in large part because the setting never loses its feel.

I enjoyed this picture in spite of its flaws, again because of it's look and feel. For once I could see winged dragons clash and wizards face off in a Ghibli film. In my opinion Goro Miyazaki did a decent job bringing it all to life. At the same time, I hope he will learn from this experience and strive to do better next time. After my seeing Gedo Senki he has my support.
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3/10
4books crammed into 1 movie with no explanation or char. development
trpnallday6 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It was a horrible idea to do an adaptation of a series of books few are familiar with and to try to cram 4 books into one movie while giving no background and not explaining anything so that viewers have absolutely NO IDEA what is going on.

The beginning sequence makes no sense and its connection to the rest of the movie is NEVER explained. The whole middle of the movie is strange and does not engage the viewer as none of the action or characters or their motives are ever explained. Why does the main character randomly go crazy? Why does he seem to have a weird doppleganger following him around? Who is the crazy sorceress screwing everything up and how is she related to the other characters? From what several of the characters say, they all seem to know each other but their relations are never explained. Who is Ged? Why is he the super-badass sorcerer? ~~and if he is so badass, why does the little boy have to handle everything in the end?

--spoiler alert-- Speaking of the end... -WHAT IS GOING ON??!?! why does the girl turn into a dragon??? and if she was a dragon all along, why didn't she DO something while everyone around her was getting their ass kicked?
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8/10
A very solid debut from a man standing in a gigantic fatherly shadow.
esquared-122 May 2007
Better than I expected, a fantastic debut from Goro Miyazaki (son of Hayao Miyazaki) and a worthy addition to Ghibli's consistently brilliant catalog. It follows the prince Arren, as he runs from his kingdom and encounters a wizard named Ged. From here, he is drawn into a classic good versus evil battle. Goro Miyazaki's film bares a lot of similarities to his father's films, but lacks some of the whimsical nature that makes Hayao's movies so distinct. Tales from Earthsea is a more subdued film than films such as Spirited Away and Porco Rosso, and doesn't really hit the emotional or imaginative heights that Hayao Miyazaki's films do. But this isn't always a bad thing - It's simply Goro's style, and this element makes his film a more traditional, perhaps more sensible narrative. Goro has taken a somewhat conservative route with this film - visually and audibly it's classic Ghibli, full of lush environments and excellent animation. In terms of narrative, it carries classic Ghibli (particularly Miyazaki) hallmarks - epic battles of good and evil, cathartic journeys, and the hospitality and grace of ordinary people - but it also has more of a traditional narrative. Good and evil are, unlike many his father's films, clearly defined, and the events of the film lack the extravagance (and imagination) of Hayao's films. It's a wise move - rather than try to re-invent the wheel, Goro has made a wonderfully solid and cohesive film.

To simply compare Goro Miyazaki (and his film) to his father is unfair and sells a great movie short - he has obviously inherited a tremendous flair for storytelling, and with Ghibli's animation team behind him, has created a fantastic debut film. There's another Miyazaki in town - and i can't wait to see where he goes next.
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4/10
Ghibli Fantasy Lacks the Magic Touch
Mabkid31 July 2007
Although I am a fan of most Ghibli productions and Ursula Le Guinn's fantasy series, I could not help but feel disappointed at Ghibli's latest production.

Ghibli Studios has long been hailed as the Disney of the East, led by Miyazaki Hayao's leadership and captivating masterpieces (Totoro, Laputa, Nasuica, etc.). Even the more serious works by Takahata Isao had strong messages underlying every story (Pon Poko, Omoide Poro Poro, etc.). Miyazaki Goro's debut is a novice's work-in-progress and an apprentice's workshop exercise, at best.

The rearranging of Earthsea's storyline was interesting to figure out, but filled with flaws. The theme of Book 1 "A Wizard of Earthsea" was applied to a different character (Arren), whose prior mistake in life was not clarified well in terms of motive. Reference was made to Book 2 "The Tombs of Atuan" but without any hints that lend itself to proper character development (Tenar). Book 3 "The Farthest Shore" served as the drive for the main story but some major themes and fascinating western lands of the dragons were left out. Book 4 "Tehanu" serves a different purpose in the Earthsea series, especially for Ged, and so that theme was also not properly presented. In addition, the depiction and explanation of one of the main Book 4 characters, Therru, was lacking and so most audiences might be confused by the eventual ending of the Ghibli adaptation. However, Miyazaki Goro should be applauded at least for trying to adapt this legendary work into such a compact amalgamation.

Comparisons to the books aside, as an animated movie, the real problem with this production is that it fails to really capture the audience. Miyazaki Hayao had a sense of touch when it came to building mystery and creating curiosity among the audience regarding the storyline, while offering good pacing with action and character/story development. Even Takahata Isao's slower more serious stories had deep nostalgia built into his moralistic messages. Gedo Senki failed to capture the audience by building enough mystery, hence interest in the development of the story, or offering purposeful action scenes, or enriching the dialogue well enough to deliver a deep philosophical message behind the now already unoriginal existential questions for living. But, simply as a stand alone story, it falls flat. If these were done well, the story rearrangement from the original would add on to make Miyazaki Goro a genius.

Still, there is some value to this film. The music and song lyrics (Japanese version, at least) captured the essence of the original themes best. Fans of Earthsea and Ghibli, however, may get a kick from either trying to figure out the storyline rearrangement or identifying Ghibli icons that have shown up in past works. Other than that, it would seem like just a sub-par animated movie for TV.
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4/10
Confusing and doesn't make sense if you haven't read the books.
Marclev4 August 2007
I've just come back from seeing this movie in the cinema. Being a devoted Studio Ghibli fan, going to see one of their movies on the big screen was an exciting event for which I had high expectations (I avoided reading any reviews). I am sorry to say that these were not met.

Having never read any of the books this film is based on, a lot of it didn't make any sense. Most of the concepts and character motivations are not given adequate exposition and a lot of things that you think will be resolved and explained as the movie goes on are never expanded upon (or indeed, resolved). Without giving anything away, the main character commits an outrageous action (especially for Ghibli heroes) at the start of the film, but the motivation for said action is not adequately expanded upon and he never really redeems himself (which makes it very difficult to engage with him for the rest of the film). It nearly felt like I was being punished for not being familiar with the source material.

The middle section is very slow moving, in fact nearly all of the action is to be seen at the beginning and towards the finale. Coupled with the lack of exposition on what's actually going on, it seemed like the film was just treading water, waiting for something interesting to happen (and in a 130 minute film, that's a bad thing!).

The ending, while being emotionally rousing and a spectacular set-piece, doesn't really make a lot of sense, as nearly all of the film focuses on a different protagonist than the one that eventually ends up saving the day.

Technically this film is not a patch on Spirited away, Howl's moving castle or Princess Mononoke, in fact the animation is more reminiscent of earlier Studio Ghibli films, such as Nausicaa (however these had wonderful stories to make them instant classics). The only thing that distinguishes it are the lighting effects, which are often superlative.

The music is great and very atmospheric.

Overall I'd have to say that it's worth watching when it comes out on TV, but not good enough to warrant making a trip to one of few cinemas showing it in the UK, or buying it full price on DVD, and this is something that I never thought I'd hear myself say as a die-hard (and now very disappointed) Studio Ghibli fan.

One final thing, this film has no sense of humour. The movie takes itself overwhelmingly serious with none of the "larger than life" magic that people have come to associate with Studio Ghibli.
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6/10
Though No Classic, A Solid Start For Miyazaki's Son
benjamin_lappin6 August 2007
Tales From Earthsea does not warrant the overly critical criticism thrust at it by film critics, which lambaste this production as a cinematic experience which sacrifices substance for style. Tales definitely must be praised for its artistry and you can clearly see where Goro has picked up tips and learnt from his father. The set pieces are just incredible detailed and for want of a better word phenomenal. They are mind blowing in their detail, and successfully capture the spirit and feel of a world, which helps in the audience immersion. Accompanying this is a sensational swirling score, which really is nothing short of moving, and I would be incredibly surprised if anyone watching some of the epic grandeur of the scenery did not have their eye quiver even slightly. Style this film has in abundance, but what about substance?

Well, this is possibly and most probably the films undoing. Critics lambaste the film for having too many "convenient" moments, i.e. characters 'conveniently' turning up in certain places as a means of plot furtherment, with no real contextualisation. That's fair to a degree, but let's tackles the why nots before the why. The viewer must remember that this tale is the third installment from a book of four, that Goro Miyazaki (with the backing of Ursula Le Guin I might mention) has had to attempt in bringing this third installment to life in its own unique way while at the same time trying to make it stand out singularly, so that the other segments become superfluous. Obviously to the Le Guin fan this is impossible (as I have been told), but you have to try and give the director credit for this as he is somewhat successful. Yes there are many moments where you sit and think "what on middle-earth are they talking about?", but if the director were to reveal all it would take much longer than he 115 minutes than it does. Also, I was unfortunate enough to see the English dubbing in cinemas, although in my defence short of getting an illegal copy which really isn't my want, Tales From Earthsea is only being shown in about three cinemas UK-wide, so I had to travel an hour to Birmingham, so I'll take what I was given. But having said that, the voice-actors used for the parts did their jobs exemplary, and you never felt that they were out of place or wrong for their characters. However this it is from here the holes begin to emerge.

The script used in the English dub is severely ham and cheese. There are moments, which is seemingly typical in Japanese to English dubs that the English writers feel the must explain everything as opposed to let emotions speak for themselves so moments are hammed up, and there unnecessarily cheesy lines which are somewhat cringe worthy. But I feel where most people will feel let down is the character development. Most of these characters, yes whilst having been first created in the source novel, on screen appear as mere shadows of their former selves, as they have all been borrowed from previous Ghibli films. Eran comes across more as a fusion of Chihiro and Ashitaka than an individual character and a lot of the time we are expected to go along with plot moments without truly understanding the reasons as to why, or the reasons as to why the character has chosen this specific path. It's deeply infuriating, because the film is rather charming for all its flaws, but you cannot escape from the fact that the characters do not have moments to develop and those that do follow a very clichéd path. Various other plot moments go AWOL during the re dub and I wonder whether the English subtitled version will reveal much more. Perhaps it will push the film a star higher to seven, but I doubt much more than that.

Tales From Earthsea is by no means a write off, it is a thoroughly enjoyable film if you take it out of context. Its artistic flair is there in abundance and is as gorgeous a film as Hero or Spirited Away, coupled with the score it provides plenty of moments for jaws to be dropped. However, placing it into context what many critics, and I suppose myself to an extent, cannot forgive is that this film came from the hallowed Studio Ghibli, and while yes this is the legendary Miyazaki's sons first outing, and while certainly not a bad one, it just does not stand to be compared with the many greats Nausicaa, Laputa, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Grave Of The Fireflies. It certainly is a film you would be happy adding to the collection because it is inoffensive and if you store your critical instincts to one side for the two hour duration, you will really enjoy it as an engaging and enjoyable picture, but you will never be able to enjoy from a cinematic standpoint. It is a shame seeing as there is much going for it, and much indeed going for Goro, who as I previously stated has a keen eye for scene-scapes and detail in the animation. Tales scrambles up to be a solid three star film, but I do hope that at the Studio they do decline the option to do anymore of the source materials, at least for the moment, or at least until they script it perfectly. If Howls Moving Castle and Tales From Earthsea have told us anything, it's that source material is best left where it is, and that the imagination of Miyazaki (we've yet to see if the son matches the fathers talent) creates a far superior enjoyment factor, and a far superior film. We await in hope.
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4/10
Disappointing schematic jumble
symbolt24 October 2010
I am a fan of both Ursula K. Le Guin's books, and Studio Ghibli's animation. I've read all of the Earthsea books, and I've seen most of Miyazaki's work, some of the movies dozens of times. I was putting off watching this adaptation, having read Le Guin's review of it, but I finally saw it and I am sorely disappointed. First of all, why are all the characters white? In the books, the peoples of most of the islands are dark-skinned (light brown to pretty dark), with the exception of the inhabitants of the Kargad lands, who are white. Notably, Tenar comes from Kargad and her white skin is the main reason why she is distrusted by the people in the village she lives in - in this adaptation, everybody is white, and so the women's dislike of Tenar was completely unmotivated, so they made her into a witch. The adaptation mixes together three different books, and rewrites all of the characters so that they are not complete and are unmotivated. If this was an adaptation of Lord of the Rings, it would be about the journey of a village of Hobbit-Elves in a fleet of ships to fight Sauron and his army of intelligent spiders. It is impossible for me to realize how anyone would be able to follow this movie without having read the books, and I myself was only able to figure out what I am supposed to think about why the characters in the movie did what they did because I recalled the original character and mentally "added" the aspects that the creators of the adaptation simplified, changed and botched. The characters are unrealistic and announce their lines with little motivation (as in you don't know why they're saying something and what it's supposed to mean), and not only they, but most of the elements of the plot and the world are unmotivated, like the people who made the movie introduced them but then forgot that they were supposed to make sense. One example is the very first scene of the movie, with two dragons fighting. Why are all those people so surprised when they see the dragons and when they fight? The books weave the world of Earthsea into one internally coherent and motivated whole, but in this movie all we get are like section titles on the index page. The main plot theme of the movie, of the wizards losing their powers, as well as the other main themes of dragons, the Equilibrium, the abuse and disregard of women from certain characters, Jungian shadows, and the story of Therru, are completely unexplained and just presented in a way that makes them pretty pictures but not a masterful story like in the Earthsea books. Even the typically gorgeous animation and artistic quality are in my view one of the worst in Ghibli's roster (apart from the beautiful backgrounds). The only thing that stands out is the Japanese voice-acting, which is top-notch, with Yuuko Tanaka's Cob the most masterful performance (although I had to get used to a female voice on that character), and Aoi Teshima's Therru also standing out. The score is also pleasant to the ear, as always in a Ghibli production. All in all, it's a hunge, washed-down, simplistic disappointment. Please do not ever watch it if you have not read the first four Earthsea books, even if you're not planning to read them - you may wind up with the whole set after a plane crash on a desert island one day, and then what you see in your mind will be sullied by having watched this adaptation.
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9/10
Surprisingly Good Film!
dballred31 July 2006
This is a surprisingly good film--and I'm not making the expected follow-on disclaimer, "...for a beginning director." This was a good film by anybody's standard.

Gedo Senki, or Tales from Earthsea, seems to be one episode of a series of tales where Ged (Gedo) is the central character. This 'episode,' then, would be about his encounters with a seventeen-year old prince, named Arren, and a mysterious young girl, named Therru. It's based on Ursula K LeGuin's Earthsea series which I must admit I have not read. I hope the film kept to the spirit of the original story and the author is pleased with the Ghibli presentation.

As the story breaks out, there are strange things happening. People seem to be lost in their purpose and dragon sightings are being reported. After a meeting between the King and his ministers on the topic, Arren, the King's son, assassinates his father and steals his sword. The first thing that hit my mind when watching the opening sequence was the somewhat low resolution background--most uncharacteristic for Ghibli films, which tend to be spectacular in color and detail. The color was there, but the detail looked like a watercolor in some images and paint by numbers in others. The foreground characters were slightly less detailed than what Hayao Miyazaki might have done, but they were not as distracting as the background.

At this point, Ged, who travels under the name Haitaka (the Japanese spelling of the name) encounters Arren in a battle with wolves. Arren seems possessed, and it takes a little time for Ged to calm him down. The voice actor for Ged is Bunta Sugawara, the gravelly-sounding voice of Kamajii in Spirited Away. The voice gives him the air of experience, age, and wisdom. While acted well, Bunta's voice seems a little on the old side for the character on the screen, who appears to be around forty.

The pair goes to a city where Arren chances across Therru as she is trying to escape some nasty soldiers. Therru is a completely fascinating character--and easily the best in the story. She is gentle, but very strong willed. When Arren saves her, she turns on him. They meet later coincidentally and she resumes her hostility toward him. It takes a while for her to warm up to him. When she finally does so, she becomes fiercely loyal to him.

The story develops nicely from there, though I can see it might not be fast enough for those who like lots of action all the time. Tales from Earthsea has some irretrievably evil characters, so the director's father, the great Hayao Miyazaki, would have rewritten the story and likely would have faced the ire of the original author.

Take a bow, Goro; you did good. I give this a nine out of ten rating.
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5/10
A tale of disappointment.
lewiskendell10 March 2011
Eh, let's just call Tales from Earthsea a case of growing pains for Goro Miyazaki. 

It's not a bad movie. It's just unremarkable in every way. It doesn't have the creativity, emotional depth, or beauty of Spirited Away, the visual wonder of Howl's Moving Castle, the scope of adventure of Castle in the Sky, the lovable characters of Kiki's Delivery Service, or the sheer delight and fun of Ponyo. 

If I had to choose a defining feature for Earthsea, I honestly don't know what it would be. The music is fine, but nothing extraordinary. The character designs and artwork are dangerously close to generic, the story lacks tension and feels almost inconsequential, and the writing is bland. Where's the heart? Where's the humor, the passion, or something that would draw me into the narrative?

I found myself not caring much about what was happening, and more concerned with how much time was left until the movie was over, than anything else. My  expectations for Studio Ghibli are far too high to embrace a movie like this that barely scrapes above mediocrity, and from what I've heard from fans of the Earthsea literature, this isn't the adaptation they were hoping for, either. 
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8/10
Oh, come on, it wasn't THAT bad
Rectangular_businessman24 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Before watching "Tales from Earthsea"(The debut film from Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki, the same director of great anime films such as "My Neighbor Totoro", "Porco Rosso" and "Spirited Away") I heard many bad things about it: That it was the worst film from the Studio Ghibli, that it had bad animation and a corny story(It even was awarded at the was awarded as the "Worst Movie" in the Bunshun Raspberry Awards, from the year 2006) but honestly, I don't think this film wasn't that bad.

It is true that "Tales from Earthsea" isn't at the same level of the masterpieces from the Studio Ghibli (And the plot is completely different to the source material in which it was inspired) but that doesn't make it bad film: In fact, I found to be a very enjoyable adventure, with good animation, and interesting (Though somewhat clichéd) characters.

However, considering the high standard of quality that most of the Ghibli films have, I could understand why so many people were disappointed: Some of the scenes from this movie lack of the same feeling and powerful emotion from the best films from filmmakers such as Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata; there are also many, many parts of the story, that despite being done well, could have much more better developed. I mean, this could have a great, epic animated film, at the same level of "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" or Princess Mononoke, but instead of that is "only" a good adventure/fantasy film, that sadly doesn't add anything new to the genre and doesn't exploit all the potential it could have…

While this is hardly a perfect film; it still does not deserve the mixed reception from the Japanese and American public. Goro is not trying to be a copycat of his father, and this allows him to be free to create his own unique styles and themes. I'm sure that the next films from Goro Miyazaki will show his potential as director. I'm convinced that his new movie, "From Up on Poppy Hill" will be very good.

7.5/10
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4/10
Not Compelling
psamathos12 February 2010
Having never read the Earthsea books, I can only offer an opinion on the movie on its own, and I regret to say that it's a dud. Previous Ghibli movies that I have seen and loved have been incredible and original fantasies that capture the imagination. The story, characters, and animation work together to evoke a sense of fascinated wonder at this window into a bizarre and fascinating world. But, nothing like that happened while viewing this film. Instead, I saw a few generic high fantasy characters stumbling through a generic fantasy land in a seemingly disconnected series of fights. I'm sorry, but using exotic names for a setting does not excuse the script writers of actually writing a story. The wandering wizard, the corrupted sorcerer, and the fallen prince are all classic archetypes which are simply not used effectively at all. I cannot comment on the quality of the novels from which this movie is derived, but I can only say that the script utterly fails at delivering the intended sense of the epic. I don't care whose son directed this film: it's simply not compelling. The animation is of good quality, of course, but the bland script and uninspired philosophy simply make this dull to watch. I cannot recommend this film.
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Studio Ghibli's Phantom Menace
PlugInYourBrain10 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This film is the directorial debut of Goro Miyazaki, son of the famed Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. Often children of a gifted parent mentored from an early age can develop their own immense talent. That doesn't always happen and here's a classic case of it not: Goro Miyazaki wasn't interested in following in his father's footsteps. He was first a construction worker and later curator for his father's museum. He only stepped into the directorial shoes at the urging of Ghibli Producer Suzuki who claims he sensed Goro's genius and thrust him into the role of director. Sadly, Suzuki got it very wrong.

Supposedly Hayao Miyazaki had nothing to do with the making of this movie, protesting to Suzuki that that his son wasn't ready and boycotting the project. This is contradicted by Ursula Le Guin who wrote the books on which this movie is loosely (very loosely) based. She said she met with Hayao Miyazaki who told her he was retiring and so his son would direct it albeit under his supervision. Le Guin said she is disappointed that Miyazaki Sr. broke his word, and that her novels suffered at the hands of a clearly inexperienced director.

"Tales of Earthsea" is OK; it's watchable, but not great. The pace is a bit slow and plodding for children. It lacks humor. For adults, the characterizations weak and plot thin.

Goro Miyazaki imitates his father's style, and indeed this whole movie feels like a remake of "Princess Mononoke". Some of the characters and situations are ripped right out of his father's movies, but this imitation is superficial at best.

For example, a common meme in Ghibli movies is an unarmed plucky hero standing up to a band of thugs. Goro uses that in this movie, but overlooks something his father knew: The hero must be backed in a corner or at least familiar enough to know the thugs won't kill him. Here, when unarmed Tenar stands up to armed horsemen she's never met before, it looks plain stupid. Then amazingly, the horsemen turn around and ride off, having only trampled a few seedings. Instead of grabbing her belongings and running for the hills or at least looking for a weapon or help, she merely replants the seedlings and then it's back to normal. Don't waste time worrying about these characters, because clearly nothing will happen to them.

The characterizations are lacking. Wizard Sparrowhawk is supposed to be good and wise, but flawless characters are boring and for someone supposedly wise he has exceptionally poor judgment. He takes Arren to a strange city filled by charlatans and slave traders. After naive Arren nearly falls victim to a drug pusher, Sparrowhawk declares "Well see you back at the hotel" and leaves him. Arren then takes a nap in a public place, only to be captured by slave traders. Didn't see that coming? When Sparrowhawk finds Arren, he leaves the other slaves behind. Later he tells Arren "I magically unbound their shackles (though you didn't see it and no one moved or said anything) so up to them now." Hardly the stuff of legend. I would have preferred a thundering "Tonight you are Free Men!"

We're supposed to be rooting for the young prince Arren, but we're never given a coherent explanation as to why he murders his father at the start of the film. In fact we're not given any explanation until halfway through. Root for the father killer? No, Thanks. There is more to the girl Theru thankfully, although she turns into a dragon and back at the end of the film without any explanation. The villain Cob is a one-dimensional cardboard cutout. We're also introduced to other characters like the Wizard Root who exist for a scene and are never seen again.

The movie is supposed to be about an unknown pestilence spreading across the land. We know this because Sparrowhawk tells us; Goro too often falls back on telling us in dialog instead of showing us on the screen. Here he contradicts what he tells us anyway: We're told magic doesn't work, but Sparrowhawk has no problems using it. We only see one farm in ruins, but Fenna's farm is lush and productive and people everywhere are well fed and healthy.

The plot is poorly strung together. Stumbling on Arren for the first time without so much as a question Sparrowhawk suggests "If you've got nothing else to do you might as well come with me" A lame pitch, but Arren goes with him anyway. The plot ambles along in this manner as if the actions of the characters don't matter. When Theru is supposedly tied to a farm fencepost with a message for Sparrowhawk, she finally frees herself and runs to meet him just as he arrives at the farm gate.

Despite its faults this movie did nevertheless do very well in Japan where Miyazaki Sr. is deservedly considered a living national treasure. But before Producer Suzuki gets carried away by his newfound success, he should consider that often when the public see a lackluster movie they remember it and stay away from the next one.

I can't blame Suzuki or Goro for trying, but their experiment is a failure. It's a fair bet there are more talented individuals under the Studio Ghibli roof who could have better directed this movie. By a combination of ill-conceived nepotism and attempt to cash in on the Miyazaki name, Suzuki may have set the rot that will eventually bring down Studio Ghibli. While Goro may, if given enough chances, eventually come to terms with the art of film making, equally he may not. Hardly good for the morale of his more gifted coworkers.

These days there are more powerful stories and better animation to be found on Japanese TV. If you want to watch this movie and really enjoy it, see "Princess Mononoke" instead.
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3/10
Magic?
loganx-216 June 2008
A definite letdown considering the names Miyazaki and Ursula K. Lu Glien came together in the same sentence. I liked the books and love Miyazaki(senior), but unfortunately his son has not quite come of age in the directors chair yet. Earthsea were always more thoughtful tales than traditional fantasy, but they were never before plodding as here. Also what makes the books interesting are a lot of the details which get left out of this movie, things referred to by characters but never extrapolated on, like the wizard school at Roke, the rules of magic, the history of Earthsea, the dragons, etc.

There are some parts which may remind you of previous better studio Ghibli films, but they will not come together by the end. Nice landscape animation, but on the whole it's just a poorly told version of a very literate and unique fantasy series.
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3/10
Sometimes son's way is not like his father's
sava_chankov26 November 2007
Everything from a great Studio Ghibli film is here - a female antagonist with moronic assistant, witch that can turn itself into lava-like substance, wizard that fights to keep the world in balance, a young female protagonist that is different than others girls, great sceneries. Yet a key ingredient to bind them all together in a coherent way is missing. The characters are hollow and not true to life. The fights are quite predictable and there were some people in the cinema that could barely held their snigger near the end.

The border that distinguishes the creative borrower from a mere plagiarizer is crossed - during almost all the time it feels like the director has drawn out the scissors and cut liberally footage from his father's masterpieces. One especially annoying example is antagonist's male assistant copied 1:1 from Nausicaa from the Valley.

So if you don't want to spoil your good memories from Miyazaki-father's chef-d'oeuvres, better skip this one.
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5/10
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
mememeh12 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
First: sorry for my bad English. I didn't expect an one-to-one accordance with the novel(s) or the short stories because that's in any event impossible, and basically I loved the idea of creating a new story loosely based on characters and different scenes in the novels. But I have to say, that I was disappointed during the whole movie. Neither the animations were outstanding nor did the story work well. The characters were poorly developed and their motivations were unclear. Unfinished plot lines, useless information and many scenes that appeared like stopgaps. The total lack of ambient atmosphere couldn't be atoned by the well placed light effects. I can't recommend this movie, neither the Ghibli-lovers nor the Earthsea-fans among you would get your money worth.
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10/10
Ghibli's beauty will continue.
filmfreako-213 September 2008
Perhaps it's because I haven't read the source material, but I cannot quite understand this film's detractors.

With Yoshifumi Kondo's untimely death, I used to fear that there would be no able successor to continue the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Takahata. That fear is now most definitely alleviated. In this film, I see hope for the future.

Goro's style differs slightly from Hayao's, but is every bit as beautiful. Even more so, it could be argued. The themes of longing for life and fear of death are well carried, though admittedly some elements of the plot, such as the dragon storyline seem somewhat forced in.

This makes very little difference in the long run of the movie, however. Goro has proved he is just as able as his father is to make viewers laugh, cry, sigh with relief, and gasp in awe.

Ghibli is in safe hands. The magic will continue.
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7/10
My least favourite Ghibli film, but it is worth a look
TheLittleSongbird23 November 2010
As many have guessed I am very fond of Studio Ghibli and their films. While I did like it in general, Tales from Earthsea lacked that extra something that made me love Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies, Whisper of the Heart and Castle in the Sky as much as I did. The storytelling is rather clumsy and hackneyed in places, and some of the dialogue is rather hit and miss, and I also thought there was some lethargic pacing in the middle. However, the animation is absolutely gorgeous and the music is beautiful too. The characters are decent and likable enough, and the voice work from the likes of Timothy Dalton and Willem Dafoe is fine. Overall, decent but not great. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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2/10
It's terrible.
vhawk4 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Sorry for my bad English. I think this movie is very bad. There are three reasons, 1. as a movie, it's boring, 2. the quality of animation is the worst in all Ghibli movies, and 3. the story and characters of the movie is very differ from the original novels. I can't understand why Goro Miyazaki was selected for the director. He is not a professional, actually he was construction consultant and then become a curator of Ghibuli museum. He had no experience of making movies. So the story lines are bankruptcy and many things are unexplained or unsolved. In the original novel the world is very large, but almost every scenes in the movie are located in very small area (may be less than 20 km). Instead of actions of characters, things are explained in dialogue and it makes characters empty persons. The quality of animation is not good. Usually movements and facial expressions of characters in Ghibli's movies are excellent, but in 'Ged Senki' the quality is like in cheap TV series animation. Of course there are some good scenes, but if you are a fan of Ghibli's movies, you will notice many of them remind you scenes from other Ghibli's movies. I did not blame that he adopted many scenes from other movies, but blame him that the quality is lower than original ones. I will say only two example of the difference between the movie and the original novels, and you may have an idea. 1. In the start of this movie, Arren escaped from Enlad because of he killed his father and never lament him in the whole movie. 2. Ged is called "Archmage", but he uses only few small magics and many audiences think he is worthless. If you don't believe my comment, please go to yahoo.jp. The average vote is 2.3/5 and if you restrict to top 100 useful votes, almost all are 1/5. I love former Ghibli's animations very much, I hope Hayao Miyazaki will return and make new movie.
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3/10
Terrible Adaption of the Books....
hanley_chris26 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Having read the Earthsea series of books and looking forward to seeing the movie after watching the trailer, BOY its really disappointing !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is Studio Ghibli's first failure and its just a mess....its a mixture of books 3,4 and 5. With Arren/teru being the heroes of the Story.

First off, the animation for a Japanese movie is substandard - its worse than some TV shows. My Girlfriend said that the secondly characters really didn't move or offer anything to the movie.

Secondly, At the start, Ged talks about the world being unbalanced but it doesn't get resolved so the audience is left to wonder How and Why.

Thirdly, the title is Gedo senki or in English, Ged's war Chronicle but in the movie, there is NO war....Ged doesn't do anything - there is NO hole to seal and he doesn't use his magic.

I could go on and on and on but yahoo.co.jp gave it 2.3 out of 5 (4522 people rated it) and after seeing it tonight, I should have taken their advice and stayed away. Very Very disappointed
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9/10
Goru Miyazaki makes a fine directorial debut with Studio Ghibli
shirotsku7 August 2007
Tales From Earthsea is the latest offering from the acclaimed Studio Ghibli. It is somewhat loosely based on Ursula K. Le Guin's collection of short stories of the same name. Tales From Earthsea follows the excellent Howl's Moving Castle and is the directorial debut of Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goru.

Tales From Earthsea is immediately very different from previous Ghibli films, crucially lacking a fun and magical air of enchantment. Earthsea is a much more serious film, the plot has an apt sadness at its core that justifies the step away from the more fun elements of previous offerings from the studio.

Arren, taken over temporarily by his evil side has murdered his father, the King and run away with his magic sword. He bumps in to Sparrowhawk, the Archmage and most powerful sorcerer in the land. With the help of Tenar and her adopted daughter Therru, they must face the evil Lord Cob, who is bent on discovering the secret to eternal life.

The story is beautifully paced and wonderfully told, leaving plenty of room for firm relationships to develop between the characters. This richness in characterisation is a fine substitute for the richness of wonder most often seen in Miyazaki Snr's work.

As we've come to expect from Studio Ghibli, the animation is top rate and on more than one occasion, literally breathtaking. It's this animation that helps the plot to conclude with a true sense of hope and a reminder that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Tales From Earthsea is currently experiencing complications in regards to its US release. Sci-Fi currently owns the rights to the property and its possible that the film won't be released until these rights expire in 2009. I saw the subtitled version, but Timothy Dalton, Willem Dafoe and Mariska Hargitay will provide voice talent for the English dub.

Tales From Earthsea has a lot to offer, just don't go in to the theatre expecting more of the same. This is a patiently paced, serious affair, but one that has real rewards for those that can stick with it.
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5/10
not Ghibli's best effort
wayne-feeney231 July 2006
I have been a fan of Ghibli for some years now, but despite this I approached Gedo Senki warily. I have read the first Earthsea novel (and wasn't particularly impressed), yet I resolved not to let my lack of enthusiasm for the book soil what enjoyment I might glean from the movie. Despite this, I have to say that I was disappointed with Ghibli's latest effort. As I said, I have not read the novel upon which it is based, but I found the pace to be too slow in some parts, and far too expositionary in others. The voice acting is good all round, (and the theme song Teru no Uta, sung by Teshima Aoi, is beautiful), however, I found the animation to be of rather low quality. Character designs are extremely simple, so one would imagine that more time could then be spent on the animation itself. I understand that it was made in half the time of Howl's Moving Castle, and it shows.

Without giving any spoilers, I did enjoy the end of the movie which incorporates some good set-pieces. It's just a pity that most of what leads up to this is so average.
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8/10
Very unusual, rather frightening...
Mightyzebra10 December 2007
... but beautiful and worth watching all the same, this film possesses good qualities and characters. These qualities are good storyline, good animation, excitement and fear which isn't entirely unnecessary. This film may be gory, but it is simply beautiful at the same time. The characters (as said before) are incredibly good as well, as follows...

Arren: An unusual character, Arren is good and bad inside, showing it in different ways. He is very brave, daring dangerous castle walls and fighting slave traders (who capture just about anyone they can find). Therru(pronounced Teru): A mysterious and very brave and strong girl, Therru is a good character, despite being very cross and wary towards Arren at first. Sparrowhawk: A kind and wise magician, Sparrowhawk may be one of the most powerful wizards in the whole of Earthsea, but he is not as strong as he could be... Tenar: A kind young woman (once saved by Sparrowhawk) Tenar may not be the most important character, but she incredibly kind and gentle, especially to Sparrowhawk and Arren and she fosters Therru as her parents abused her.

What happens is that at sea, two dragons are glimpsed by sea-goers, something that has just about never happened before. One dragon kills the other and some know that this is a sign for worse to come. Meanwhile, Prince Arren kills his father and runs away with his sword, on an enormous journey...

Recommended mainly to people aged 9 and over, enjoy "Tales Of Earthsea"!
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1/10
unworthy of the Earthsea name
FHain10 January 2012
*angry book lover material ahead! turn back now!*

what possesses one to take the most movie-ready classic of the past 50 years smash it into misshapen hunks and jumble it into this clunky and leaden bore? unlike the idiotic and clumsily racist Sci-Fi channel obscenity this movie at least tries to contain something of the source material, which frankly is a big part of the problem. listen to me Goro Miyazaki: your writing is inferior to Le Guin in every way. instead of drawing interest by dishonestly evoking the rich mythology of the Earthsea saga write your own arc and spare the good name of Sparrowhawk this humiliation.

it seems insane to me in a world where the Rings and Potter series make billions worldwide that a fantastic tale such as Earthsea goes unadapted year after year and big budget remakes of terrible movies and even worse TV shows continue to issue from the major studios like a ruptured sewage pipe.
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