Sanrock Reviews

looking at things from a literary viewpoint

Earthsea (2004) Review

This movie sucks. This term gets thrown around a lot nowadays to the point where it’s an understatement. SciFi Channel’s (now SyFy) Earthsea is an abomination unto good cinema and good fantasy books everywhere. Everything that can go with a fantasy adaptation goes wrong here.

 Sometime in 2004 SyFy announced they would be making a TV mini series based on Ursula K. Leguin’s first two Earthsea books A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan. Earthsea fans, myself included, rejoiced at this. As can be expected excitement built while more news came out.

 Then we got our first screenshots. The movie looked like any generic fantasy movie that SyFy makes and, what fans consider an insult to the source material, everyone but one character was white.

 Let’s step back a few paces a talk about what these books are about. A Wizard of Earthsea is about Ged, a boy from the island of Gont goes to the Wizarding School in Roke to study magic. As an FYI, this book came out in 1968. Harry Potter came out in1998. One day Ged accidentally summons a shadow and his magic becomes less powerful. He then goes after the shadow in order make things right.

 In The Tombs of Atuan Arha becomes “the eaten one,” a sort of high priestess on the island of Atuan. Her life is basically routine until Ged enters the fray. He’s there looking for the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, a talisman that will bring peace to Earthsea.

 So, not very typical fantasy fare, huh? In fact, these books are some of the best written and original fantasy books ever (remember, these books CREATED a lot of clichés. There was nothing like them before.) How can SyFy mess this up?

 As mentioned above, make the entire cast white. Leguin even wrote an essay called A Whitewashed Earthsea on her website detailing this. As anyone who read the books would know Earthsea’s inhabitants have copper-red skin, brown skin or black. The only white people are the Kargs (Arha.)

 Second, create a villain. Yes, make a movie based on two books with no villain because there’s no need and create one.  A cliché evil king bent world domination at that. The only time anyone would know his name is if you look at the IMDB page because he has that much of an impact on the story.

 On top of that, switch Ged’s true name and common name. HOW THE HELL DID THEY MESS THAT UP? Also, the Atuan priestesses WORSHIP those shadows behind the door, not protect the world from them. Oh right, they needed clear good guys and bad guys.

 They also call it the AMULET of Erreth-Akbe instead of ring. Why the change? There is no reason to change something like that.

 Also, Roke getting sacked would never happen in the books. The winds around the island would never allow it.

 If those major changes weren’t bad enough the movie is filled with typical SyFy original movie staples. There’s terrible acting, terrible editing (in one scene on Gont we see Ged’s dad talking to Ged and it’s mid-afternoon. The camera cuts and we see the evil king’s goons marching and it’s nighttime. It cuts back to Ged’s dad and it’s mid-afternoon again,) goofy, poorly choreographed fights and some very basic fantasy sets.

 So, if you want to get into Earthsea, go ahead read the books. Just remember the first three (Wizard of Earthsea, Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore) are excellent while the second two (Tehanu and The Other Wind) and short story collection (Tales from Earthsea) are hit or miss depending of the individual. This movie should be thrown into the deepest, darkest pits of hell. If you want a decent Earthsea movie, watch Studio Ghibli’s Tales from Earthsea. It may not be up to par with other Ghibli films but at least it’s miles better than the crap SyFy made.

Categories: Movies

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