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Hayao Miyazaki has no equal when it comes to using hand-drawn animation as a
form of storytelling, yet often he is being compared to Walt Disney. That
is just so unfair, because it becomes apparent by watching Miyazaki's films
that he is the superior artist. He really has a gift of thrilling both
grownups and children, and Laputa is indeed one awesome
But where can I begin to describe a movie so magical and breathtaking! Miyazaki's works have never cease to amaze me. Laputa is an adventure of a grand scale and I wonder how a film can be so packed with details and imagination. Ask yourself this question: if you are a kid dreaming of an adventure so grand in scope and so magical, what would it be like? The answer would be to strap yourself in some seat and watch Laputa, because it's truly a childhood fantasy come true. Every minute of the movie is rich and engrossing ... from the train chase to the amazing air-flying sequences... and to the wonderous sight of the floating castle itself. Not to mention the excellent score by Joe Hisaishi! Everything you ever possibly want from an adventure movie is here.
I have seen just about all of Miyazaki's films, and they are all
beautiful and captivating. But this one rises above the rest. This
movie totally impressed me!
I fell in love with Pazu and Sheeta, and their sweet, caring friendship. They were what made the movie for me. Of course, the animation is also superb and the music captures the feelings in the film perfectly. But the characters are the shining point in this movie: they are so well developed and full of personality.
Now, let me clarify: I'm really talking about the Japanese version of the movie (with English subs). While the English dub is good (mostly), it simply pales in comparison to the original language version. The voices are better, the dialogue, everything. So I suggest seeing (and hearing) the movie the way it originally was.
This is one of the best animated family films of all time. Moreover,
virtually all of the serious rivals for this title came from the same
creative mind of Hiyao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli. Specifically,
other great films include "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Kikki's Delivery
Service." Spirited Away is quite good, but a bit too creepy for typical
family fare - better for teenagers and adult. The one thing that sets
"Laputa: Castle in the Sky" apart from other films by Miyazaki is that
it is far more of a tension-filled adventure ride.
Why is this film so good? Because it's a complete package: the animation is very well done, and the story is truly engaging and compelling.
Most Japanese anime is imaginative, but decidedly dark or cynical or violent; and the animation itself is often jerky, stylized, and juvenile. None of these problems plague Castle in the Sky. It has imagination to burn, and the characters are well drawn, if slightly exaggerated versions of realistic people. (None of those trench-coat wearing posers) There is plenty of adventure, but not blood and gore. The animation is smooth, detailed, and cinematic ally composed - not a lot of flat shots. The backgrounds are wonderful.
The voice acting in the dubbed English version is first rate, particularly the two leads, Pazo (James Van der Beek) and Sheeta (Anna Paquin). The sound engineering is great, too. Use your studio sound, if you've got it.
One aspect that I particularly enjoyed is that much of the back story is left unexplained. Laputa was once inhabited, and is now abandoned. Why? We never know. We know as much as we need to know, and then we just have to accept the rest, which is easy to do because the invented world is so fully realized. Indeed, it is fair to say that the world is more fully realized than most of the minor characters, who are for the most part one-dimensional stock characters (e.g., gruff general, silly sidekick, kooky old miner, etc.) Highly recommended for people aged 6 to 60!
I first saw this film when I was about 8 years old on TV in the UK
(where it was called "Laupta: The Flying Island"). I absolutely loved
it, and was heartbroken when it was repeated a while later and I missed
it. I was enchanted by the story and characters, but most of all by the
haunting and beautiful music. It would have been the original English
dubbed version which I saw - sometimes erroneously referred to as the
"Streamline Dub" (the dub was actually by Ghibli themselves and only
distributed by Streamline) which is sadly unavailable except as part of
a ridiculously expensive laser disc box-set.
Unfortunately I feel that the release has been partly spoiled by Disney. The voice acting is OK but the dialogue doesn't have the same raw energy that the "streamline" dub or the original Japanese had, and I think James Van Der Beek sounds too old to play the lead. They have made some pointless alterations, such as changing the main character's name from "Pazu" to "Patzu", and added some dialogue. But worst of all I feel that they have ruined many scenes with intrusive music - the opening scene of the airships for example was originally silent but has been spoiled thanks to Disney's moronic requirement that there be music playing whenever anyone is not speaking, which I find annoying in many Disney films.
This film still blows away most recent animated films, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The plot is simple yet captivating and the film shows a flair which is sadly missing from most modern mass-market, homogenized animation.
This is one of my all time favorite movies, PERIOD. I can't think of another movie that combines so many nice movie qualities like this one does. This flick has it all: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Good vs. Bad and even some Romance (without even an innocent "peck" on the cheek between the Pazu and Sheeta). Maybe best of all, you don't have to be in Mensa to "get it" and enjoy the movie like you do with some of Miyazaki's other movies (I don't know about you, but I watch movies to take a break from thinking). This is just a flat-out enjoyable movie that everyone will like, so do yourself a favor and go buy it. The only sour note is the American Dubbing. I found Vander-Geek to be just plain annoying. But all is not lost, the original Japanese version is on the two-disc set and it rocks! Who cares if you can't understand spoken Japanese? If you can read at a second-grade level then watch the original Japanese recording with English subtitles. You won't regret it.
Have you ever wished that you could escape your dull and stressful life
at school or work and go on a magical adventure of your own, with one
of your closest friends at your side, facing all sorts of dangers and
villains, and unraveling the mystery of a lost civilization that's just
waiting for someone to discover all its secrets? Even if you're not
quite that much of a fantasy-lover, have you ever wished you could
simply experience what it's like to be a kid again, and not have a care
in the world, for just a couple of hours?
This is exactly what Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky" is all about. Pazu, a young but very brave and ambitious engineer, lives a rustic life in a mining town until one day, a girl named Sheeta falls down from the sky like an angel and takes him on a journey to a place far beyond the clouds, while all the while they have pirates and military units hot on their trail. Simply put, it is just the incredible adventure that every kid dreams of at one point or another, and I can't help but feel my worries melt away every time I see it.
As it is one of Miyazaki's older works and takes much place in the everyday world, the film is not as visually spectacular or deep in its storyline as Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, or even Princess Mononoke. Still, I find it difficult to say that any of these films are superior over the other, because all three of those films are, at some point or another, mystical to the point of being enigmatic, if not perplexing, especially for the youngest of viewers.
"Castle in the Sky", on the other hand, doesn't try so much to be an allegory of any kind, and it's not a coming-of-age story either; it is instead quite possibly one of the best depictions of the inside of a child's mind I've ever seen. Not only is the artwork beautiful, but the use of perspective from the kids' eyes is just amazing; whether it's the panning up of the "camera" to see the enormous trees or clouds overhead, or the incredible sense of height from looking down at the ground or ocean while hundreds of feet in the air, I just can't help but FEEL like I'm there with Pazu and Sheeta, just a kid in another world, far far away from reality.
Even the kids themselves don't have a complex relationship that suggests a need for hope like Ashitaka/San or Chihiro/Haku; Sheeta is Pazu's angel, having literally fallen into his life from the sky one day, the absolutely perfect person for him right from the very start. As the film progresses, more and more of their true adventurous childhood spirit comes out through their kind words and beautifully realistic facial expressions. Not only are they an adorable reminder of who I used to be, but their endearing friendship never lets up throughout the whole film, only growing stronger all the way to the last frame. For that reason, I've fallen in love with the two of them more than I have with any other Miyazaki couple.
At the same time, "Castle in the Sky" is such an easily accessible film because no matter what kind of casual moviegoer you may be, you'll be sure to find your fix here. Mystery, action, drama, comedy, suspense, sci-fi, romance, even some western...it's all here, just about everything people go to the movies for (except maybe horror). This why I can easily recommend it as a first Miyazaki film; it's perfect for those who have no expectations from having already seen the incredible otherworldliness of some of his more recent works.
Even the ending song of the film, when translated into English, conveys the sense of longing for the discovery of some kind of lost civilization, and some kind of soul-mate, that could not be found in our mundane lives. "The reason I long for the many lights is that you are there in one of them...The earth spins, carrying you, carrying us both who'll surely meet." Miyazaki has always provided poetic lyrics to make ending songs out of Joe Hiasashi's gorgeous scores, but this is the only one I've seen that's both a touching love song and an inspirational dream. I have found myself near tears just listening to it.
"Castle in the Sky" may not be Miyazaki's most developed, spectacular, or meaningful work, but it's absolutely perfect for what it really was meant to be: a true vision of childhood fantasy, and a wonderful escape from reality for any adults who wish they could have the same wonderful sense of imagination they had when they were just carefree little kids. Sit back, relax, and love it for what it is.
By now you've probably heard a bit about the new Disney dub of Miyazaki's
classic film, Laputa: Castle In The Sky. During late summer of 1998, Disney
released "Kiki's Delivery Service" on video which included a preview of the
Laputa dub saying it was due out in "1999". It's obviously way past that
year now, but the dub has been finally completed. And it's not "Laputa:
Castle In The Sky", just "Castle In The Sky" for the dub, since Laputa is
not such a nice word in Spanish (even though they use the word Laputa many
times throughout the dub). You've also probably heard that world renowned
composer, Joe Hisaishi, who scored the movie originally, went back to
rescore the excellent music with new arrangements. Laputa came out before
Neighbor Totoro and after Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which began
Studio Ghibli and it's long string of hits. And in my opinion, I think it's
one of Miyazaki's best films with a powerful lesson tuckered inside this
hour and four minute gem. Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a film for all ages
and I urge everyone to see it.
For those unfamiliar with Castle in the Sky's story, it begins right at the start and doesn't stop for the next two hours. The storytelling is so flawless and masterfully crafted, you see Miyazaki's true vision. And believe me, it's one fantastic one. The film begins with Sheeta, a girl with one helluva past as she is being held captive by the government on an airship. Sheeta holds the key to Laputa, the castle in the sky and a long lost civilization. The key to Laputa is a sacred pendant she has which is sought by many, namely the government, the military and the air pirate group, the Dola gang (who Sheeta and Pazu later befriend). Soon, the pirates attack the ship and she escapes during the raid. She falls a few thousand feet, but the fall is soft and thanks to her pendant. As she floats down from the sky, Pazu, an orphan boy who survives by working in the mines, sees Sheeta and catches her. The two become fast friends, but thanks to her pendant, the two get caught up in one huge thrill ride as the Dola gang and government try to capture Sheeta. One action sequence after another, we learn all of the character's motives and identities as we build to the emotional and action packed climax which will surely please all with it's fantastic animation and wonderful dialogue. Plus somewhat twisty surprise. I think this film is simply remarkable and does hold for the two hour and four minute run time. The story is wonderful, as we peak into Hayao Miyazaki's animation which has no limits. The setting of the film is a combo of many time periods. It does seem to take place at the end of the 1800s, but it is some alternante universe which has advanced technology and weapons. Laputa is also surprisingly a funny film. The film has tons of hilarious moments, almost equal to the drama and action the film holds. I think the funniest part is a fight scene where Pazu's boss faces off against a pirate, and soon after a riot breaks out. It's funny as we see the men compare their strength and the music fits right in with it perfectly.
Now let's talk about how the dub rates. An excellent cast give some great performances to bring these characters to life. Teen heartthrob James Van Der Beek plays the hero Pazu, who has a much more mature voice then in the Japanese version, where in the original he sounded more childlike. Either way, I think his voice is a nice fit with Pazu. Anna Paquin, the young Oscar winner from "The Piano", plays Sheeta. This is also a nice performance, but the voice is a bit uneven, she doesn't stay true to one accent. At times she sounds as American as apple pie, but at other times she sounds like someone from New Zealand. The performance I most enjoyed however was of Coris Leachman, who played Mama Dola. Not only is this an excellent performance, but the voice and emotion she gives the character really brings it to life. If there was ever a live action Laputa movie (G-d forbid), she would be the one to play her, you can just imagine her in the role (well, somewhat). Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill is Muska, and this is another top rate Hamill performance. You may be familiar with Hamill from a long line of voice work after he did the original Star Wars movies, but he renders Muska to full evil. His voice sounds like his regular voice and mix of the Joker, who he played for many episodes on the animated Batman series. Rounding out the cast is voice character actor Jim Cummings, who does a great, gruff job as the general and Andy Dick and Mandy Patakin as members of the Dola gang.
Now let me talk about what really makes this dub special, Joe Hisaishi's newly arranged music! For those who have never heard of him, Mr. Hisaishi does the music and like all of Miyazaki's films, the music is very memorable. Each of his scores has it's own personas which fits the particular film perfectly. Now, these new arrangements he has done are more "American like", which I think was the goal of the new recordings. Don't worry, the classic tunes of the Japanese version are still here in great form. The score, to me, sounds to be arranged like this is a Hollywood blockbuster. It has more power, it has more emphasis, it's clearer and deeper. The film's prologue, the first seconds where we are introduced to the airships, has some new music (I am not sure, but I believe when we first saw the ships there was no music at all). But a majority of the music has new backdrops and more background music to enjoy. Things seem very enhanced. In a powerful scene, the music is more stronger then in the original versions. In a calm scene, it's more calmer. Overall, I think many of you will be pleased with the new arrangements an mixes, I highly did myself, and personally think it helps improve the film. I prefer the new score over the old one, and I hope Disney will release or license the music rights to a full blown soundtrack.
Another plus side to the dub is that the story remains faithful, and much of the original Japanese lines are intact. In Kiki, I'm sure a few lines where changed, and this is the same way, lines have been changed. But a majority are close or exactly the original lines and dialogue Miyazaki has written. I was afraid some excellent lines would be butchered, but they were there intact. Some new lines have been added as well which help out. But I am not sure whether to consider this a good thing or a bad thing, Disney DID NOT translate the ending song, it was in Japanese. I was mortified when they did completely new songs for the Kiki dub, but with this version it's the original song... in Japanese. So I guess it's good it's still the original, but bad since a majority of people seeing this dub speak English.
There is a big down side to this dub, and it deals with how the voices match the character's lips. Of course in any dub it won't be perfect, but I think in Kiki and Mononoke the dubbing of lines to match were much better executed (and Disney had a little bit more time with this one...). Some of the time everything matches perfect, some of the time it doesn't completley match, and in a rare case, someone says something and the lips don't move at all (there's a scene where Sheeta chuckles and her mouth doesn't move one bit).
As far as things about the film itself, these are my thoughts. I thought the most amazing part of Laputa was the animation. From the opening sequence to the ending, the animation is so lush and detailed, you just have to watch in awe. You see the true nature of each character, true detail to their face with extreme close ups and action. You have to give a ton of credit for the effort that these animators put into this film. Everything is so well done and beautifully hand drawn, it's like a moving piece of art. And to think, this was done in the mid 1980's. The animation is quite different from Disney, Ghibli has it's own distinctive flare which is very different, but very good. And after all these years, the colors look as vibrant as ever. Laputa also has tons of action sequences, lots of plane dogfights plus a few on ground. These sequences are so well done and so intriguing, it's scary that they are comparable to a big budget action film. And the finale is just something you MUST see. The sound effects are pure and classic and fit explosions, guns firing and everything else well. And like all Miyazaki films, each one focuses on a different theme (i.g. Kiki: Confidence). This one has a great a lesson on greed and power. People don't realize how greed can take over you, and how having too much power isn't good. People are obsessed with power, and are greedy, and the main villian, Muska, greatly shows this.
All in all, Laputa: Castle In The Sky was a great film to begin with, and is now improved for the most part. I am glad a more mainstream audience now have the chance to see this classic animated film in all it's glory. With a great voice cast who put a lot into the film with the excellent redone musical score from Joe Hisaishi, Disney has done a nice job on this dub and is quite worthy. Though I think the voices matched the mouths better in the Kiki and Princess Mononoke Disney dubs, Castle In The Sky is still a great dub and is worth the long delays because now more can expierence a fantastic film.
I first saw this back in the early 90s on UK TV, i did like it then but
i missed the chance to tape it, many years passed but the film always
stuck with me and i lost hope of seeing it TV again, the main thing
that stuck with me was the end, the hole castle part really touched me,
its easy to watch, has a great story, great music, the list goes on and
on, its OK me saying how good it is but everyone will take there own
best bits away with them once they have seen it, yes the animation is
top notch and beautiful to watch, it does show its age in a very few
parts but that has now become part of it beauty, i am so glad it has
came out on DVD as it is one of my top 10 films of all time. Buy it or
rent it just see it, best viewing is at night alone with drink and food
in reach so you don't have to stop the film.
Laputa: castle in the sky is the bomb. The message is as strong as his newer works and more pure, fantastic and flying pirates how could it be any better! The art is totally amazing and the soundtrack, which is reused many times after this, (im not sure if this was the first time i heard it) and evokes in me the most emotional sentimental response of any movie soundtrack. Sheeta, the female lead in this movie is totally awesome and the boy, Pazu is also a great role-model--he lives on his own! The plot is classic Miyazaki. I won't give it away, but the end is really great. I rank this as one of Miyazaki's three best with Nausicaa and Spirited Away. Also you may want to check out Howl's Moving Castle when it comes out (sometime next year i hope) If you like Miyazaki check this one out as it readily available in the USA. Enjoy, Piper A
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's always difficult to put a stamp on any film as being 'the best,'
whether of all time, a certain genre, or what have you, but I believe a
strong argument could be made that in fact, Laputa is the greatest
animated film ever made. It is in my mind the masterwork of Hayao
Miyazaki, the most talented of Japan's animated directors, and it best
captures his strengths as a director, storyteller, and designer, as
well as encapsulating all of his favorite underlying themes. The
version I'm reviewing is the 2003 American dub (I know, sacrilege for a
hard-core anime fan to not watch it in its native language); there is
at least one other English language dub out there, I have it on VHS (I
have no idea from what source), and that version is the single best dub
I have ever encountered of any film. But I thought it better to
concentrate on the version people can actually find.
Laputa tells the story of a boy named Pazu (voiced by James Van Der Beek here), who's growing up in a mining town when one day a young girl named Sheeta (Anna Paquin) literally drops from the sky. It seems she is being pursued by a sinister government agent, Colonel Muska (Mark Hamill), who is more interested in the magical crystal that hangs around her neck. To keep things lively, there's also a wickedly funny pirate gang after the crystal, led by the aging but still boisterous Dola (Cloris Leachman). The plot revolves around the crystal's ability to reveal the location of the fabled flying city of Laputa, a potential treasure trove of scientific knowledge and hidden treasure. It's all very much in keeping with a fairy-tale setting, but Miyazaki knows exactly how far to take the story, and the plot is peppered with 'gosh-wow' moments and threaded with his customary morality and warnings about abusing the power of nature.
The design work on Laputa, nearly twenty years later, is still revolutionary. Flying machines of all sorts abound, utterly impossible but so meticulously designed that you instantly accept them without blinking. The world is set somewhere around the start of the twentieth century, with telegraphs and ancient motorcars alongside those wonderful impossible flying machines. But it is the city itself that is sheer brilliance in execution; Laputa is both the Garden of Eden and the Fire of Heaven itself, and in that juxtaposition lies its appeal, its power, and its danger.
Besides being a thoughtfully designed and beautifully rendered film, Laputa is blessed with a wonderful sense of cinematography. From sweeping flying shots to high speed chases on tiny one-man flyers to ships submerging into the clouds as if they were water, Laputa displays a scope that most films even with the magic of CGI can only daydream about. Though we only see a small fraction of this world, its simple elegance extends beyond the borders of the frame and we have no trouble believing in it. The film also contains one of my favorite, if not the most exciting, action sequences ever: a guardian robot that fell to Earth is accidentally reactivated and wreaks havoc on the fortress it is kept in, all the while trying to protect Sheeta (who was the one who woke it up). Meanwhile, Pazu and the pirates swoop in on their little flying machines to snatch her, literally, from the jaws of destruction. From the horrific sight of the robot incinerating the countryside to the exhilarating last-second rescue, the entire sequence is a masterpiece of timing and camera angles and knowing exactly how far to take the audience.
It helps that Laputa has an amazing score. Composer Joe Hisaishi captures the wondrous beauty of this world, the dewy innocence, the exciting action, and the creepy otherworldliness of the flying city and its bizarre robot guardians. Though he re-recorded it for this DVD release (which IMO is not an improvement over his original score), adding pieces here and there, the score matches the visuals perfectly, a rare total union of sound and vision.
This isn't a bad dub. I'm inordinately fond of the older English dub, and this one over-explains things just a tad in spots, but I was almost shocked how closely these voices matched those (and those matched the Japanese pretty well). Dola in particular is hard to get right, but Leachman is spot on as the fiery old pirate woman (her sons aren't quite as good as the original). Paquin does a good job as Sheeta, and Mark Hamill, while I knew it was him early, is more than talented enough to do Muska (I liked the other English dub of Muska a little more, but Hamill's good). Much of the film rests on Pazu's shoulders, and Van Der Beek is wonderful. Listening to him made me think this crew must have had access to the other English dub, because VDB matches up very closely with the original Pazu. Although again watching a dub is grounds for excommunication among the otaku faithful, as much as I love this film, I don't think you're sacrificing a great deal simply watching this particular Anglicized version. John Lassiter of Pixar introduces it up front, and my suspicion is that he, like so many others, simply love this film so much that they tried very hard to ensure its high quality.
Miyazaki has had success in America in recent years with Spirited Away and Mononoke (one of his few films I didn't care for), but to me Laputa is still his crowning achievement. Anyone familiar with his later work will almost certainly enjoy this earlier work, and again, this film is a master at the top of his form hitting on every cylinder. I'd pay big money to be able to see this on a large screen; while that will probably never happen, it's good to know that at least this classic has been preserved on DVD.
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