A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
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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?
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