Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Tales From Earthsea is a film that is loosely based on a combination of plots and characters from the first four books in Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series. The film was directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki. Tales From Earthsea was released to Japanese theaters on July 29, 2006. After Disney produced an English dub of the film, it received a small theatrical release on August 13, 2010.
At the beginning of the film, a war galley is caught at sea. The weatherworker on the ship discovers he can no longer control the wind and the waves; in addition, he sees two dragons fighting overhead, and one of the dragons is killed in the fight.
This is followed by the King in a meeting, where he is learning about drought and pestilence in his kingdom, and he also learns that his son, Arren, has disappeared. The king's wizard tells him about dragons and men being one until men chose possessions while the dragons chose freedom. The wizard is afraid that the issues in the land are due to the "balance" weakening. Later, when the king is alone, he is murdered by a young man. It turns out the young man is his missing son, Arren, and the prince takes his father's sword.
Arren flees to the desert, where he is saved from being killed by wolves by a man calling himself Sparrowhawk. It turns out Sparrowhawk is the Archmage of the wizards, and Arren accompanies him. While they are in the city of Hortown, Arren ends up in the town alone; he becomes scared, and is convinced someone is following him. As he runs away from what he thinks is following him, he comes across a young girl named Therru, who is fleeing from a slave hunter. Arren saves her. This event ends up setting the rest of the story in motion.
Tales From Earthsea tried to take elements from four different books and put them together into one film. I have not read this series myself yet, but from what I've heard, it's been said that the plot was a major departure from the story in the books. When watching the film, I could definitely sense that the narrative felt a little choppy. Since I have not read the books, I don't know if the narrative would have been stronger if the film had more closely followed the books.
Tales From Earthsea was released as a single DVD in the United States. On the main menu, there are options for play all, scene selection, audio, previews, and bonus features. For the film you can either watch the whole film, or you can select which scene or scenes you want to see. In the set up menu, you can choose your language, choose your subtitles, and you can register the DVD. For languages, there is English and Japanese. For subtitles, there is English for the hearing impaired, English, and French. The sneak peeks are for trailers for various properties being promoted by Disney.
The special features are split into two sections: "Behind the Studio" and "Enter the Lands." For "Behind the Studio," there is only a four minute documentary titled, "Origins of Earthsea." Most of this feature is in Japanese with English subtitles, since the bulk of this piece is producer Toshio Suzuki talking about the project. The only English dialogue comes from the scenes from the film (since they come from the English dub), and one interview piece with an animation historian.
In "Enter the Lands," there is a menu that features elements from all of Studio Ghibli's films. However, only the elements from Tales From Earthsea, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Castle in the Sky can be selected. For Tales From Earthsea, there is a Studio Ghibli trivia challenge. For the remaining areas, you see a short promo, followed by a menu with clickable elements (characters give you character bios, and other items react when chosen). Ponyo has one page, while the others have 3-4 menu pages.
Admittedly, Tales From Earthsea is not one of Studio Ghibli's better films. I think I was able to better enjoy this than I might have, since I have no familiarity with the source material. However, if you're a fan of the Earthsea books, my suspicion is that you probably wouldn't enjoy the film very much. I would only recommend purchasing this DVD if you're a fan of Studio Ghilbli and you want to own every film released by the studio.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that I checked out through the King County Library System.