Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986)

Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986)

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Never accept gifts from strangers with long arms.
Never accept gifts from strangers with long arms.

Twitter Plot Summary: She was a girl. He was a boy. She had a magic crystal. Pirates were after them. They went looking for a floating city. They found it. The end.

Genre: Animation/Action/Adventure/Family/Fantasy/Romance

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Key Cast: English version – Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Mark Hamill, Cloris Leachman, Tress MacNeille.

Five Point Summary:

1. Flying blind on a rocket cycle?!
2. There she is! Let’s all pretend it’s Carlito’s Way.
3. A muscle-popping, shirt ripping contest? Okay, sure.
4. It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!!!
5. LAPUTAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

Within 15 seconds of the start of Laputa: Castle In The Sky we are immediately thrust into a steampunk world where massive flying airships and Flash Gordon-style rocket cycles are everyday occurrences, and massive floating cities once patrolled the skies. And thus, with the reality of the world established, we jump in as the airship is attacked by pirates and young girl Sheeta, voiced in the English language version by Anna Paquin, falls out of an airship and floats gently to the ground. There she’s rescued, kind of, by Pazu, a boy working in the mines beneath her point of descent.

Before you know it they’re off on an adventure which sees them trying to evade the pirates and the government agents on their tail, who both want the magic crystal and to find the floating city of Laputa. Laputa is a myth, the last of the floating cities now lost and, if you’re a Gulliver’s Travels fan, the name of the floating city in that story as well (that’s actually where Miyazaki gained inspiration for the story from). The plot is reasonably action packed, but isn’t afraid to take a bit of time out for quieter character moments. Miyazaki knows how to balance the two so you remain engaged with the story from start to finish. You have the main love story between Pazu and Sheetu, of course, and there’s additional humour to be had from all of Okami’s sons fawning over Sheetu. In any other film this might be a bit creepy, but here the tone is perfect.

"This is way better than those Star Wars pod racers."
“This is way better than those Star Wars pod racers.”

I’ve always been partial to the steampunk sub-genre. If it’s a film with zeppelin-esque flying boats with a 19th century look, then I’m sold. Castle In The Sky satisfies this requirement in gleeful abundance. The combination of nautical styling transposed to the air instead of the oceans works in a way that’s hard to describe. Throw in some gorgeous looking locations and you have the movie equivalent of an epic win, if you’re into that sort of thing of course.
The animation looks fantastic, more so when you take into account that this was actually made in 1986. It puts 1986 alumni An American Tail and Transformers The Movie to shame. It could have easily been animated this year (and for reference, I’m writing this in 2013, Future Simon!). A lot of the animation is stylised, halfway between semi-realism and amusing cartoon caricature. As is typical with all of Studio Ghibli’s films, there’s nary a bad frame of animation throughout. Western animation studios could learn a thing or two from Studio Ghibli, for their attention to detail and their ability to craft a story that engages both adult and younger viewers without talking down to either. By the time Pazu and Sheetu reach Laputa, closely followed by the government army, you care for what happens to them. And incidentally, the whole Laputa sequence is worth the 90-odd minutes of build-up, it’s breathtaking stuff.

So… a story told with heart and ideal for all audiences? Yep, Studio Ghibli – spot on as always.

Favourite scene: The robot, previously thought completely dead, is resurrected by Sheetu’s crystal and helps facilitate her escape.

Quote: “There’s nothing worse than having your pigtails shot off!”

Silly Moment:  The fight between Pazu’s boss and one of the pirate gang. Ripping your shirt using just your muscles is inherently daft.

Score: 4/5

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