Tales from Earthsea

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Tales from Earthsea Movie Poster Image
Stylish animation isn't enough to save violent adaptation.
  • PG-13
  • 2010
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 9 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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.

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
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,... Continue reading
Adult Written byKieranRhino December 31, 2021

It is extremely underrated and judged way too harshly

It's not a great family movie, in fact it is much more powerful when watched alone. It is visually beautiful and atmospheric. This is not a film that will... Continue reading
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 seve... Continue reading
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.

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?

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

Talk to your kids 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

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