A tepid helping of “Lord of the Rings” lite, Sci Fi’s latest miniseries is as muddled as its title, taking narrow aim at those who spend too much time playing “Dungeons & Dragons.” The slow-moving tale of yet another young wizard who has a date with destiny, the two-parter crumbles under leaden dialogue and a disjointed story. The Halmis certainly have a storied history with fantasy fare, but this mid-December arrival seems unlikely to work any major magic.
“Legend of Earthsea” is too derivative to reference all the springs from which it draws, from “Harry Potter” to “Dragonslayer,” plus the aforementioned “Rings” trilogy. In this case, the young wizard Ged (Shawn Ashmore, briefly featured in the “X-Men” films) must save a world being overrun by Kargide mercenaries, whose king Tygath (Sebastian Roche) wants to release an ancient evil and gain immortality.
The son of a blacksmith, Ged receives a few “Karate Kid”-type lessons from the wizard Ogion (Danny Glover), who should have skipped “Paint the fence” and gone directly to “Fix the script.” Ged must reunite pieces of the Amulet of Peace, which can apparently save the world. Of course, with the bad guys in pursuit and Ged seeing visions of a young priestess, Tenar (Kristin Kreuk), who figures in his future, you can’t assemble an amulet without breaking a few eggs.
Working from Ursula K. Le Guin’s novels, the dialogue (“Our world is darkening”) wouldn’t be quite so painful if the production was less talky and static between its fleeting action sequences.
Although there is a fair amount of visual splendor, relatively little happens, and the narrative structure — following the parallel exploits of Ged and Tenar, who don’t actually meet until well into the second night — works against the drama. In fact, other than being evil, it’s not entirely clear what Tygath’s quest to release the “nameless ones” will accomplish or what the rules are in thwarting him.
Isabella Rossellini plays a prominent role as Tenar’s mentor, while Glover pockets a check, essentially, for adding value to the marquee. Project was at least convenient for the Canadian-born Kreuk, who shoots “Smallville” in Vancouver as well.
Sci Fi has enjoyed some success with its original productions, but the best of the lot reach beyond hard-core geeks clamoring for “Farscape” to the more casually interested crowd that can be reeled in by the right fantasy premise. “Earthsea” might make a few waves among the former contingent, but to the wider world it appears destined to sail away without causing much as a ripple.