Just forget the words and sing along

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Films of Hayao Miyazaki: Castle in the Sky

For those just joining us, I'm using my free time this August to sit down and watch every film from world renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki. The latest offering is the film that Toy Story director and current head of Walt Disney Animation John Lasseter has called his favourite film. Yup, today we're doing....

Castle in the Sky (1986)

Celebrity Voice Cast
For the Disney dub, Disney recruit Anna Paquin, James van der Beek, Cloris Leachman, Mandy Patinkin, Andy Dick, and ol' Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill.

As this decade began, Castle in the Sky held a bit of a mythical status. See, in the late 1990s, Disney signed their deal with Studio Ghibli to start releasing Studio Ghibli's films in North America. Castle in the Sky was dubbed and all set to be released on video for the holiday season of 1999. However, in 1999, was the theatrical release of Miyazaki's film Princess Mononoke. While it was the number one film of all time in Japan, it barely made a million dollars in North America. Because of this, Disney lost faith in Miyazaki's films, and they kept pushing back and pushing back the release of Castle in the Sky. People started wondering if it would ever be released. But then, in 2002 came the North American release of Miyazaki's masterpiece Spirited Away. Springboarding off of that, Disney finally released Castle in the Sky.

Castle in the Sky takes place in a world very much like the 1910s...only with gigantic flying machines. Pazu is a young man toiling in the mines, and dreaming of building his own flying machine. And then one day, a young girl named Sheeta falls out of the sky. It seems that Sheeta's crystal pendant holds the secret to finding Laputa...a mythical city that floats through the clouds. Sheeta is being pursued by two rival forces: the sky pirate Dola and her gang, who seek to loot Laputa, and the slimy government agent Muska, who wants to use Laputa's weaponry to conquer the world. So it's Pazu and Sheeta, on the run from these rival forces, and racing to be the first to find Laputa, the castle in the sky. Oh, and there are kick-ass giant robots.

What I Liked
Kick ass giant robots. Some fantastic flying sequences. A mythology that's rather easy to understand and get into. The vaguely European setting. Likable heroes, likable anti-heroes. And I'm sorry, but shooting off a little girl's pigtails is one of the coolest acts of menace I've ever seen on the screen.

What I Didn't Like
I know I shouldn't be picking on the dubbing job, but seriously, what is up with Anna Paquin as the voice of Sheeta? In some scenes, Paquin's got her native New Zealand accent, in others, she doesn't. She constantly wavers back and forth and it's annoying as hell.

Final Verdict
It's a rousing, if a tad formulaic, adventure film.

3.5 Nibs

Fun Trivia Fact
The original Japanese title is Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Miyazaki named Laputa after the flying city in Gulliver's Travels. What Miyazaki didn't know is that "Laputa" is Spanish for "Whore." As such, the international title is simply Castle in the Sky.

Next Time
Next on the Hayao Miyazaki filmography is a movie that film critic Roger Ebert put on his 10 best list for 1993...but it originally came out in Japan in 1988. Not only that, but it provided Studio Ghibli and a legion of otaku with a mascot. The next one on the list is My Neighbor Totoro.

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