Tales From Earthsea

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Review byMatthew Turner1/08/2007

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

The animation is as impressive as ever, but Tales From Earthsea is disappointingly dull throughout and lacks the charm of Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle.

What's it all about?
Based on the Earthsea fantasy novels by Ursula K. Le Guin and directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro, Tales From Earthsea centres on a mysterious young boy named Arren (voiced by Matt Levin) who has great darkness inside him. When Arren murders his father and nicks off with a magical sword, it isn't long before he encounters soft-spoken Archmage Sparrowhawk (Timothy Dalton), who rescues the boy from wolves and takes him under his wing.

In turn, Arren rescues a young girl (Blaire Restaneo) from a ruthless slave-trader (Cheech Marin), who works for the evil wizard, Cob (Willem Dafoe). Meanwhile, Sparrowhawk discovers that Cob is responsible for disturbing the balance of Earthsea and the stage is set for a climactic showdown.

The Good
Tales From Earthsea is a Studio Ghibli film (Spirited Away), so the animation is as good as you'd expect. However, the Earthsea universe isn't as interesting as the fantasy worlds in the previous films and apart from the odd dragon flying around, there isn't all that much to look at.

The Bad
Unfortunately, the story itself is very slow-moving and extremely dull for long stretches of the film. It's also frequently confusing, although fans of Le Guin's novels may get more out of it than the casual viewer. For example, people's true names are meant to be important but the reasons are never made clear.

At least with Studio Ghibli, you can rely on a decent dubbing job, with Willem Dafoe and Cheech Marin both giving good pantomime villain-style performances. Dalton is good too, but his character is rather too monotonous at times.

Worth seeing?
In short, Tales From Earthsea is something of a disappointment, given Studio Ghibli's track record, although Le Guin fans can probably go ahead and add an extra star.

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Content updated: 21/01/2019 00:34

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