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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Retro Review: Castle In The Sky (1986)

Castle In The Sky
Genre: Animated Adventure
Japanese Box Office Gross: 1.16 billion Yen

Plot: A young boy and a girl with a magic crystal must race against pirates & foreign agents in a search for a legendary floating castle 

'Sheer Magnificent Steampunk-Like Adventure'

I haven't seen every Studio Ghibli film; in fact, I just got into the craze this year and so far, I've loved My Neighbour Totoro and enjoyed Kiki's Delivery Service, whilst I haven't really warmed up to Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. My Neighbour Totoro is and has been my favourite of the bunch, despite its simplicity and pleasantness. But after watching Castle In The Sky, aka Laputa: Castle In The Sky, this film has now unseated My Neighbour Totoro as my #1 Ghibli animated effort. It's that good - no scratch that, I absolutely loved it to bits. With the existence of violent anime in Akira, Ghost In The Shell, Fist of the North Star & Legend Of The Overfiend, Miyazaki-san sought to change the public's image and perception of Anime and Japanese animation and whereby Ghibli's films exist as an alternative to Manga's adult-oriented fare. Ghibli films characters also tend to come across as more earnest, human and tangible, for me personally. The third feature film from Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's answer to Walt Disney and founder of Studio Ghibli, Castle In The Sky became an instant smash in the land of the rising sun - yet in its original U.S release, it didn't make waves until 2003 when it came out on DVD for the first time. It is also a Ghibli effort that is overlooked, as well as underestimated in favour of established heavyweights, Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbour Totoro & Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

On a steampunk - based alternate Earth, a young girl in Sheeta is kidnapped by a government agent, Colonel Muska and is transported on an airship when it comes under attack by sky pirates led by Captain Dola, who are after a crystal pendant that Sheeta wears around her neck. The pendant also grants her the ability to float and hover when she is floating. After losing the pendant, Sheeta is rescued by a boy in the brave Pazu, who takes her to his home. On the run from the pirates and government, the two seek refuge in a mine as they try to evade their capture. Interestingly, whilst he was researching his script for this film in Britain, Miyazaki initially was going to set Castle In The Sky in post-industrial England. 

One of Ghibli's budding efforts, Castle In The Sky doesn't have the massive fanfare or popularity of My Neighbour Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, but what it does have is bucket-loads of action, amazing visual and special effects, great characters, engrossing and enchanting story. It has it all. & more than 3 decades later, it still holds up. It's more action-orientated in contrast to many other Ghibli films such as Princess Mononoke & Howl's Moving Castle, which some consider being a bit too plain and safe, but instead of the action being gratuitously violent and despite the use of guns, it makes the film all the more exhilarating, exciting and engaging to get into. Films shouldn't be boring, but also visually through the effects and action-packed scenes, it gives the audience something to lavish on. The world-building in this film is done in such an unforced manner & one I could easily assimilate into with the fantasy and sci-fi elements with the Iron Giant-like robots & floating Sheeta, which are ever so Steven Spielberg-esque - like. The way Castle In The Sky tells the narrative and how everything unfolds is just exquisite, but also bold & buoyant - yet so human and almost genuine in its intentions and emotions. Everything about this movie just hits the spot, and this is as good as any other great or good action-adventure animated movie hailed by Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks

Story-wise, it doesn't let up and Miyazaki keeps it going and flowing and as mentioned in my other review for My Neighbour Totoro, Castle In The Sky never talks down to audiences, both younger and older as it approaches the adventure story theme with creativity & honesty, without dumbing things down for the sake of it & still retaining Ghibli's groundedness and magic. The so-called love story & bond between the two young orphans, Sheeta and Vizu is both compelling & handled tastefully, graciously and with such sweetness and charm, without being heavy-handed and sexual. & whilst some may argue the villains aren't as strong & charming enough, I digress. Visually, the trademark 2D animation looks terrific, and 2D animation style is still my favourite over the 3D computer style. There is something that I adore about the hand-drawn technique that speaks to me; perhaps it's due to that being a traditional art form, it feels raw, authentic and that I love seeing the lines of the drawn characters. 

Castle In The Sky is a grand and enchanting 2+ hour ride full of adventure & fantasy that doesn't feel bogged down and rushed with wonderfully charming characters, both protagonists and antagonists-wise, and for then- newly- formed Studio Ghibli's first film and the company's third overall, it showed what they could ultimately achieve if they put their minds to it and create an adventure-based animated movie that can rival anything that the likes of Disney put out. 

Final Verdict:

Along with being swept up by the film's momentum, the story manages to captivate and maintain my enthusiasm and interest in this movie from start to finish, Castle In The Sky is an animated adventure film done right, and it's done so well, thus firing from all cylinders. Studio Ghibli has delivered a movie of theirs that, quite honestly, is one that I simply adore and love. After thinking My Neighbour Totoro was great what with its simplicity, I have changed my mind because this film does and nails everything right down to a tee and every aspect and amount of attention paid to it, has truly paid dividends. 

Suspense, drama, intrigue, great characters, wonderful art style, engrossing story that everyone of all ages can lap up and enjoy. Castle In The Sky remains as one of Studio Ghibli's and Miyazaki's absolute finest and is top grade and highly enjoyable stuff. 


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