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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25%
Average: 4.17%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 12 user ratings

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Castle in the Sky
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by Jay Seaver

"Never runs out of ways to amaze."
5 stars

"Castle in the Sky" is the sort of adventure movie that just keeps giving: It starts out with a great big action sequence that amazes with its creativity and execution, and then keeps adding one more cool thing and then another without ever going overboard. And then over two hours have passed and the audience feels like the characters, who also get a whole lot more than they expected.

That opening scene has a family of air pirates attacking a flying dreadnought, hoping to steal a stone possessed by Sheeta (voice of Keiko Yokozawa), who is guarded by Muska (voice of Minori Terada) and his bodyguards. The girl momentarily escapes, only to fall off the side of the airship. We're then introduced to Pazu (voice of Mayumi Tanaka), an orphan boy about the same age who lives next to a mine and serves as an apprentice to its mechanic; his late father, he claims, took the only picture of the mythical floating city "Laputa". That night, he sees Sheeta fall from the sky, only to slow down and land relatively gently in his arms. The stone, it seems, has some sort of strange power, and it's no surprise that both Muska and pirate matriarch Dola (voice of Kotoe Hatsui) will stop at nothing to possess it.

There is just so much fun stuff in this movie. It has grand action high in the air and deep underground, and at every altitude in between. It's got cars that chase trains, secret tunnels, good friends who stand up for kids and eventually pull the whole town into the melee, impossible airships that feel real by the sheer amount of care poured into each on-screen detail, and firefights where a massive army is stunned by just how much one extraordinary opponent can do. Among Hayao Miyazaki's movies, it is probably the most like the popular image of anime in the West at the time when it first arrived: Young protagonists, evil villains with the look of businessmen about them, big guns, and heroes who scream their defiance.

And yet, it is also clearly the work of Miyazaki. Both the love of flight and the environmental themes that run through his entire oeuvre are here, with the latter spelled out quite plainly toward the end (although he appears to have no particular quarrel with the mining town where much of the first act takes place). Perhaps most wonderful, though, are his kids. Pazu and Sheeta are wonderful characters, both orphans who still have a sense of indomitable optimism about them, who become fast friends and often seem to view things that would terrify sensible adults as great adventures. They face challenges with bravery and show pure, honest awe at each amazing new thing they see. And in a movie that is packed with amazing visuals, it's telling that perhaps the most memorable image is the two of them lying next to each other in the grass, a scene that shows their innocence and capability to be amazed intact even though they are bushed from the things they've gone through.

As the first official production of Miyazaki's and Isao Takahata's Studio Ghibli company, it has moments when the filmmakers still appear to be finding their distinctive voice, and the animation is at times a bit rougher than it would be later. Ghibli's rough is equivalent to everyone else's "impeccably planned and executed", though, and some of the designs and renderings here are amazing, from mechanical men with alien proportions that still look right to three-dimensional environments that might be smoother with today's computer assistance but whose ambition at the time must have been unparalleled. Miyazaki does an extraordinarily fine job of balancing the sort of action where huge structures collapse and explode but it's all fun because nobody really gets hurt with violence that makes a huge impression on the film's young characters (and potential audience) without seeming hypocritical or too much for the kids. And frequent collaborator Joe Hisashi turns in a score that is memorable for just how 1980s sci-fi it is, especially when flat synthesizer notes signal mechanical danger in contrast to the lively sounds of the kids.

It had been a while since I'd seen this movie, so all of Miyazaki's bits of inspired creativity, love of both the natural and mechanical, and revelations that keep making the story just a little more epic were able to surprise me again. Sure, I feel bad for only remember that this movie is a fantastic sci-fi delight rather than exactly how, but it's packed so full of good stuff - even at a long-for-animation two hours - that it's impossible to look away, with there always being more to discover.

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originally posted: 02/11/12 16:54:30
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User Comments

7/21/12 Sean Harrison One of Miyaezaki's better movies. 5 stars
5/08/09 Stephen Great movie, the english dubbing is abit annoying, but good overall! 5 stars
2/05/09 faye rubio loved it and own it 5 stars
4/20/08 Christine Utterly a masterpiece. 'Nuff said. 5 stars
5/28/06 Pokejedservo Surprisingly cute and overall great movie and dub. 5 stars
4/11/06 Alex q fino 5 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Whimsical and exciting! A true Animated classic! 5 stars
3/26/06 ale viva hayao 5 stars
11/08/05 Mr Jak It is the best anime movie ever 5 stars
11/08/05 Mr Jak It is the best anime ever 5 stars
10/12/05 merp It aint no Porco Rosso, but no bad 3 stars
7/03/05 Bulahaw outstanding!!! Hail to the god of anime!!!! 5 stars
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  01-Apr-1989 (PG)
  DVD: 02-Mar-2010



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