Laputa: Castle In The Sky is Hayao Miyazaki’s third feature film. At the time, it was also his best received. It got wide recognition for it’s great storytelling, stunning animation, fantastic script, and (as with Nausicaa) a message that didn’t shove itself down people’s throats. I watched the film hoping for a masterpiece. Of course, hype can kill a film. I don’t know whether it was the acclaim or just my personal taste, but the film was a bit of a disappointment.
Laputa: Castle In The Sky is based around Sheeta (Keiko Yokozawa) after she falls from an airship filled with sinister looking agents. However, the town she falls into houses a little boy, Pazu (Mayumi Tanaka), who sees Sheeta falling from the sky in an angel-like fashion. He sees her wearing a strange glowing crystal that he thinks is what saved her. As Sheeta and Pazu try to evade capture from the Army and from a group of pirates (who are both after her crystal) while also trying to figure out what the crystal is and how it relates to the fabled Laputa, a rumoured castle said to be floating in the sky.
The is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the animation in Laputa: Castle In The Sky is spectacular. The use of colours, wind, and water effects make this a lesson in animation production if anything else. Similarly, the music (done by long-time Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi) is beautiful a suits the film perfectly. However, everything apart from the animation and music (which are both phenomenal) is, well, fairly average. It’s not really anything special. The story is far from original, the characters are flat and dull, and the dialogue can get pretty cheesy. The romantic sub-plot feels, again, average at best. It just didn’t need to be there. This kind of film is the most difficult to review, as there isn’t really that much to say about it, and if I say too much I could find myself offending a lot of people.
I know I have the unpopular opinion here, and I’m writing a review in a format I don’t normally write in, but it does come down to opinion. If you found something in Laputa: Castle In The Sky I didn’t, more power to you. I just found the film to be just slightly above average. However, it is worth watching for the animation alone. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the last half an hour of the film is feels enthralling in the typical Miyazaki way. This doesn’t make up for the first hour and a half, though, which seems to take a step back from Nausicaa, and towards The Castle of Cagliostro, but thankfully it is better than that.