Tales from Earthsea



Stylish animation isn't enough to save violent adaptation.
  • Review Date: August 11, 2010
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 115 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie's ultimate message is that the world needs to be in balance in order to sustain life. Good triumphs over evil, and the cycle of life is necessary for survival.

Positive role models

The heroic wizard who leads the forces of good is loyal, brave, honest, and loving. He's guardian to a teen who has both a good side (with all the attributes above) and a dark side, capable of pure evil, which at intervals "steals his body." The females are mostly seen cooking, cleaning, tending to the sick, and getting captured, though one young girl shows some courage in defending herself and others.


Lots of action sequences, beginning with a bloody battle between two dragons that's quickly followed by a young boy stabbing his father to death. Major characters are in jeopardy many times, including scenes in which wolves with teeth bared chase a teen, structures collapse with heroes inside, evil henchmen capture citizens and imprison them as slaves, sword fighting to the death (in one shocking swordfight scene, a severed hand flies into the air and bleeds copiously), a nightmarish sequence in which a wizard is shown drowning in black oil, and a ghostly monster capturing a young girl.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

In one scene, as a dealer tries to entice the film's hero with an addictive recreational drug, a group of young people can be seen under its influence, barely conscious.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this animated movie -- based on the classic fantasy novels of Ursula K. Le Guin -- is rated PG-13 for a reason: It has many violent/scary scenes, including two dragons in a bloody aerial battle, a teenager stabbing his father to death, a character being chased by wolves, slave traders capturing innocents and holding them in chains, lots of sword and knife fighting (with lots of damage and blood), and a wizard morphing into a series of monsters, beasts, and skeletons. The movie deals with complicated mythic concepts and mature ideas such as "to deny death is to deny life" that aren't fully explained and could be hard for younger kids to grasp. Female characters mostly fill traditional roles, and there's one mention of child abuse, with the resulting facial scarring visible on a young girl.

What's the story?

Strange occurrences threaten the balance of life in Earthsea, a kingdom of magic, wizards, and dragons. Hoping to find the cause of the imbalance and save his world, Sparrowhawk (voiced by Timothy Dalton) -- along with Prince Arren, the boy he's rescued -- sets out on a journey fraught with danger and terrifying villains. Helping him along the way -- and getting into danger themselves -- are loyal farmer Tenar (Mariska Hargitay) and her ward, Therru, a young, seemingly fragile girl. The evil Cob (Willem Dafoe), obsessed with living forever, uses his magic rule to wrest control of all Earthsea and vows revenge on Sparrowhawk. Complicating the quest are the personal demons that can be found just beneath the surface of the younger hero's heart.

Is it any good?


Using the classic Earthsea novels by Ursula K. Le Guin as inspiration, director Goro Miyazaki (son of acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki) has created a beautiful mythic kingdom and brought it to life with a good versus evil theme, lots of stunning derring-do, and striking imagery. Sadly, visuals aren't enough. There are many ideas searching for expression here -- far too many to execute successfully. Complex notions are given very short shrift, and several story lines are never resolved; some are even contradictory. Characters' motivations are loud, but not logical.

Given the violent nature of the imagery and the incomprehensibility of the plot and messages, there's little to appreciate in this effort.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the fact that, in the kingdom of Earthsea, "balance" is seen a necessity of life. What does this mean to you? How can you relate this to life in our own world?

  • How does the violence in this movie compare to what you've seen in live-action fantasy movies? Which has more impact?

  • Prince Arren must face two sides of himself. How did the filmmakers try to show those two sides? Do you think they were successful in showing how Arren dealt with both sides?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 13, 2010
DVD release date:March 8, 2011
Cast:Mariska Hargitay, Timothy Dalton, Willem Dafoe
Director:Goro Miyazaki
Studio:Buena Vista
Run time:115 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some violent images

This review of Tales from Earthsea was written by

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Learning ratings

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 16 years old Written bychinchillaboy26 June 19, 2012

As a Studio Ghibli film, it disappoints; but as an anime, it's enjoyable

I personally thought that this film was okay. The visuals and animation are worth a viewing alone. The story doesn't make sense and changes directions several times, to the point where I'm not even sure the producers knew what was going on. If you are expecting the quality and magic of other Ghibli films, don't watch this movie because it is easily the weakest of the lot. However, if you can distance yourself from the Ghibli labeling and simply view it objectively as an anime, you'll probably find it entertaining. It may not be a good film, but it isn't boring, either. As far as issues kids may have--I'm sure you've read by now that a man has his forearm graphically cut off, but that isn't the only disturbing thing. There's a dream sequence where Arren is being chased by a shadowy figure into a slimy swamp and it's quite freaky. In addition, Cobb is very creepy and when he's whispering to Arren he seems almost like some sort of pedophile. His feminine figure may confuse some viewers too (upon first seeing him, I definitely thought he was female). Also, his arm grows to disturbing lengths in order to strangle a young girl. Finally, a group of drug-addicted commoners is slightly disturbing.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bynduns August 4, 2012

Ya know...

I wanted to be one of the few people who could enjoy this film. Going into it, I kept thinking it can't possibly be as bad as everyone says and good lord, it's so boring and predictable! Technically speaking, Pom Poko by a story standpoint is bad, but it's enjoyable with the way its executed. The same cannot be said for Earthsea. The story does have a good concept but it's poorly handled and the characters are bland and boring as can be. Aside from the animations, there's just nothing here. Not to mention some plot points really don't make sense, like... why is the girl classified as ugly? Because she has a burn mark? If anything, the scar makes her look more attractive, so that could have been more of a fault on the animators' part. The main character isn't likable in the slightest. You understand his depression, but his personality never really goes beyond that. The script is also terrible. I'm sure if Hayao Miyazaki had done this instead of his son, it would have been much better. Heck, an interesting thing to note is that Hayao actually scolded his son for how bad this film is. If you want to see a Ghibli film, skip this one.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old August 3, 2011


It's not that great a film but i think it's fine for kids 10+ and some younger kids might be able to watch it too. It's more for boys than girls.


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