I recently purchased the dvd Tales from Earthsea, which was done by Studio Ghibli, the fine folks that brought us such films as Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle. The movie was adapted from the Earthsea books by Ursula K. LeGuin, one of the best fantasy/scifi writers ever. I have been a huge fan of Ms. LeGuin’s work ever since my mother first recommended I get A Wizard of Earthsea from a book sale at the library when I was in 5th grade. I have used many facets of the Earthsea world as a backdrop for my Dungeons and Dragons campaign, particularly place names and the notion of wizards being trained on the Isle of Roke. If you would like to check out the site page for my campaign (and the tons of stuff I’ve written) please follow the link.
The movie is beautiful as every Ghibli film is. The animation reminds me of the the animated Lord of the Rings, or The Last Unicorn, but with a slight anime twist. Storywise, the movie is a mash-up of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Earthsea books, wherein the bulk of the story is from the 3rd book (The Farthest Shore), but elements and subplots from the others are inserted into the story. Even though they took some liberties, the movie does work, especially the villain character Cob who is voiced by Willem Dafoe doing his best Jeremy Irons impersonation, and looks creepy as only the Japanese could do it.
The one drawback I had with the film was unfortunately with the voice acting, or at least how it was edited together. Timothy Dalton did the voice of Archmage Sparrowhawk, and I thought he was an excellent choice, but he was very soft spoken, and could have been louder compared to the rest of the audio. Another of the main characters was voiced by Mariska Hargitay, and she did a fine job, but whenever I hear her voice, I think of her character from Law and Order SVU, Olivia Benson. That distracted from the film at times, but that is just an indicator that I watch too much Law and Order. I liked the film, I recommend it, but I more recommend reading the books; they are great reads, fairly short if you are concerned about that kind of thing, and they have quite possibly the best developed world of any series short of Tolkien.