Made in 1986, Castle in the Sky was the first Hayao Miyazaki film released under the Studo Ghibli label. It contains his signature style and themes including man’s relationship to technology and nature, and the bond of childhood. Fathom Events in conjunction with GKids presented the film in theaters across the nation on August 27 and is replaying it on August 28 & 30.
Unlike a lot of his later films, Castle in the Sky starts off with a big action sequence. Muska (Mark Hamill), a government agent, has abducted Sheeta (Anna Paquin) in order to steal a magic crystal. As the film begins, pirates led by Captain Dola (Cloris Leachman) are attacking the government airship in order to steal the crystal themselves. In her escape from both factions, Sheeta slips and falls off the ship, but the crystal magically floats her down to a mining community. There she meets Pazu (James Van Der Beek)
When Sheeta notices a strange photograph in Pazu’s room, he tells her the story of a mysterious floating island called Laputa. No one believes it exists, not even after Pazu’s father photographed it. When Pazu’s father dies, he makes it his mission to seek out Laputa and prove once and for all that it does exist. Sheeta agrees to help.
Before they can even start, both the pirates and Muska (along with many soldiers) come after them. Many excellent chase sequences ensue. Along the way, they learn the crystal holds many more powers than just letting the wearer float to safety and that Sheeta may be more connected to Laputa than she could ever imagine.
The first two acts are full of action and humor. It is a lot more goofy - zany even - than your typical Ghibli film. The action is more cartoonish, the humor more silly. Cloris Leachman is a hoot. The last act gets a bit more serious and just a tad too preachy over its themes of man’s treatment of nature (when Muska proclaims he’s going to burn all the roots that are encroaching into a special chamber in the castle, you know it is not going to end well for him). At 2 hours and 20 minutes its just a wee bit long (this old man who never gets up in the middle of a movie had to run to the restroom - the bladder just isn’t what she used to be). But these are all minor complaints. Overall, it is a delightful film.
Set in what one might call Miyazaki’s typical alternate reality, the film takes place sometime in the late 1800s with characters vaguely resembling Europeans who use beautifully rendered steampunk weaponry and vehicles. The animation is a mix of the realistic and fantastic in a style familiar to anyone who seen just about any film from Ghibli.
It is always a treat to watch any Miyazaki film and seeing it on the big screen is a marvelous pleasure. It is being shown both in its original subtitled format (Aug. 28) and dubbed (Aug. 30), which is what I watched. Check the Fathom website for details and to get your tickets.