Beautiful animation but man that story was a mess! From what I can tell the film is based on a popular fantasy series by author Ursula K. Le Guin. I am not a fantasy reader, but according to Wikipedia this film is "a combination of plots and characters from the first four books"!!!!!! Four books compressed into a 115 minute movie?! Are you fucking kidding me? No wonder it felt all weird.
As best as I can tell: long ago in the land of Earthsea magic and dragons were more prevalent, but now those things are extremely rare. Bad omens have been seen all over the land and it's obvious that the Balance is out of wack. The king is murdered by his young son and the boy runs away. Out in the middle of the desert the boy is saved from a pack of wolves by a the only good wizard still around. The two team up and travel around. Eventually after a few minor events (including saving a young girl from slave traders) they end up at the farm of a female friend who just happens to be the caretaker of the girl the boy saved from the slave traders. Anyway, so there's this evil sorceress who hates the wizard and is looking for the secret to eternal life and in doing so she is the one cause the Balance to be out of wack. She kidnaps everybody and some how the boy's shadow is running around on his own or something and there's a magic sword and out of nowhere a dragon appears. I was so goddamn confused I turned to my cat for help but all he said was I should try scratching behind his ear for answers.
It's sad that the story ended up being such a jumbled up disaster because the animation was really nice. TFE could have easily been a classic, but I think the filmmakers bit off more than they could swallow. I hate to say it, but skip it.
Once again according to Wikipedia: for years Studio Ghibli had been asking Ursula K. Le Guin for the permission to make a film about her series, but she always said no. But then after seeing SPIRITED AWAY by Hayao Miyazaki she agreed. Problem was that Miyazaki was already busy making HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE so his son, Goro, was put in charge of TFE despite the fact he had never directed a movie before. In the end Le Guin told Goro "It is not my book. It is your movie."
Oh yea, that awesome looking dragon on the poster. It's only in the movie for like two minutes.