Thursday, May 31, 2012

Castle in the Sky

Original Title Tenkū no Shiro Rapyut:  (Laputa: Castle in the Sky)

Starring the voice talents of James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Mark Hamill, Cloris Leachman, Jim Cummings, and Mandy Patinkin

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Release Date(s):

Japan.....August 2nd, 1986
US.......... 1998 (Disney)

One day, a young man named Pazu sees a young girl fall out of the sky. Soon, he gets to know Sheeta, and the two of them discover they are connected to a legendary kingdom known as Laputa, a grand location many doubt truly exists. Pazu and Sheeta find that they are not the only ones looking for Laputa; others such as Captain Dola and her unruly songs, ruthless government agent Colonel Muska and the army are after the secrets hidden in the sky. What awaits our young heroes: fame, glory, or danger?

If you are a fan of animation, the names of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki should be very familiar to you. If this is your first exposure to those names, you may have picked one of the best films in Ghibli's libraries for new audiences. Castle in the Sky is a rousing action adventure film that has likable protagonists, sweeping visuals, and a fairly standard plot. You may be asking yourself: "Why would an average plot be a good thing?" Well, because normally Studio Ghibli films have plots that, while adhering to traditional storytelling devices, don't normally have such solid stances on where each characters' loyalties lie. Sure, Dola starts out as an antagonist chasing after Pazu and Sheeta in act one, but you never truly doubt that she's a crusty motherly figure with a good heart, or that Muska is a deceitful bad guy who's after more than he says. Still, this allows for the audiences to root for the good guys and not worry about more than "we're after a floating castle" in terms of the plot.

That said, there are a lot of great pros for the film, such as the great action sequences, the goofy humor, and the English voice cast. First, I have to say that many of the action set pieces in the film are fluid, fun and very memorable. As the majority of the film takes place in the air (Miyazaki is a huge fan of aviation), there are a couple of great moments with flight such as the DOLA gang fighting the military in insect-like air-bikes or Sheeta and Pazu in a struggling whirlwind in tiny glider. Next, the humor is great for children and adults; for instance, there's a memorable sequence shared between Pazu's boss and one of Dola's sons on who is manlier which involves exploding their shirts by FLEXING THEIR MUSCLES. Last, the Disney English dub is pretty good, with a few exceptions. I liked James Van Der Beek as Pazu (he gives the character a likability while also expressing a need to prove himself), Mark Hamill as Colonel Muska (come on, it's Mark Hamill as a villian....he's just awesome) and Cloris Leachman as Dola (she's cranky,  feisty, but can also be fierce, confident, and a dependable person). The only voice actors that don't work for me are Anna Paquin as Sheeta and Andy Dick as Henri, another of Dola's sons. Paquin is fine for the most part, but she keeps slipping between using an normal speaking voice and a strange European accent at times; it's just off-putting and does take you out of  the movie at times. Andy Dick.....he's just dull. He's playing himself and doesn't really do anything to make the character his own.

Final Thoughts: A great animated film by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. FULL RECOMMENDATION.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 

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