on December 21, 2003
This movie is better than the vast majority of anime films made, but by Miyazaki's brilliant standard it's one of his lesser works. Science fiction either is science or fantasy. To do both simultaniously leads to a weak logical framework filled with details that don't really work.
Basically this is a story about an (sky) aircraft carrier floating aimlessly in a 19th century (sky) sailing-ship world. Well, that doesn't correspond to either the past or the future.. It's an impossible mix of old and new.. I know I'm nitpicking, but there are a dozen similar flaws.
Other plot points and themes, - evil villain - beautiful nature etc. were done already by Miyazaki elsewhere. The boy is a minor peasant-nuisance that overcomes his snooty adversary - see Castle of Caliostro..
The work feels tired here under the shadow of his other masterworks. This is not to say I disliked the film. All the characters are warm and very likeable - you have to love Miyazaki for that. He's probably the greatest master of his chosen artform in history, but some of his other works come together better. This one feels like a tweener to keep the studio running between great ideas.
on November 20, 2003
Injections of new ideas and thoughts are typically a good thing. In the case of "Castle in the Sky," the 1986 Hiyao Miyazaki film, the approach to animation is a great thing. The world created by Miyazaki is surrealistic and futuristic. The landscapes are immense and provide an other world feel though the flora and fauna are that of Earth. While the central characters are very young, the theme and story rival some of the best science fiction and fantasy live action movies produced in The United States. Animation provides a media that allows limitless creation bounded only by the imagination of the artist.
Sheeta, voiced by Anna Paquin, is being chased by a variety of people, including what appear to be government types, the military, and pirates. At first it's difficult to understand who is a good guy and who is a bad guy, which mirrors Sheeta's own confusion in separating the two. Sheeta soon meets up with Pazu (voiced by James Van Der Beek) who dreams of visiting far off lands. When Pazu discovers that Sheeta has a connection to the mythical floating castle Laputa Pazu resolves to help Sheeta, though he has yet to discover where assisting Sheeta might take him.
Sheeta finds herself continually chased throughout the film by various persons with different agendas. Most are after the treasure of Laputa, but some are after power. Sheeta herself is just the girl next door who also happens to be a princess and whose only goal is to grow up without people chasing her around. Along the way she demonstrates her love for nature and the desire to protect beautiful things.
What is amazing in this film is the technology. There are a host of flying machines that reminded me of Jules Verne's "Master of the World." The castle itself is a technological marvel of an advanced civilization with its own set of interesting features. Military armament is sophisticated and powerful, and yet can appear graceful. Contrasting with the advanced technology is the wide-spread use of steam power and the relatively lower technology evident for civilians.
The characters are often over the top, and include Cloris Leachman, Mandy Patinkin and Mark Hamill. While they are often caricatures, the combination of humor and seriousness tends to be a trait of Japanese animation.
This movie is generally suitable for most of the family, but the violence at some points may be unsuitable for the pre-school members of the family. If you enjoy creativity in your animation, and enjoy a story with a bit of science fiction and fantasy, kick back with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy this one.
on November 9, 2003
Castle in the Sky was conceived, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese anime genius responsible for Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and NausicaÃ€ of the Valley of the Wind, among others. It tells the story of Sheeta, an orphan whose grandmother has gifted her with a pendant that is a relic of the legendary floating city of Laputa (the Castle in the Sky of the title). Sheeta is kidnapped by evil government agents who want to use her and the pendant to find Laputa and loot its technological secrets.
When the Dora Pirate Gang, consisting of the matriarchal Dora and her band of daring but not terribly bright sons, raid the military transport carrying Sheeta and her captors because they want the pendant for themselves, Sheeta falls off the transport, from immense height....and right into the arms of Pazu, a resourceful boy of her own age. Pazu lives in a mining town, as assistant to an engineer. He spends his days working to keep the machinery of the mine running. After many adventures and near escapes, from both the government/military and the pirates, Sheeta and Pazu decide to join the Dora Pirate Gang (who are really not such bad folks after all).
There are so many things to like about this movie. Sheeta and Pazu are both plucky and determined, a true young heroine and hero. They're living examples of the old saying, "If you're handed lemons, make lemonade." They take turns of fate that would have most people fuming and whining in stride and, through their innate decency, somehow magically turn them around into positive experiences. As just one example, when they join the pirates, Pazu is put to work maintaining their flying ship's engine room; Sheeta is shown a filthy, degenerate kitchen and told this is now her domain, it's up to her to produce five meals a day for the pirates. These both hardly sound like appealing fates. But Pazu thinks the engine room is really cool, he loves machinery, and immediately pitches in with such real enthusiasm and skill he soon earns the respect and liking of the ship's irascible chief engineer. Sheeta so charms the male pirates with her beauty, grace and sweet personality that these rough hewn, dangerous men fall all over themselves to help her, and soon her kitchen is full of pirates peeling potatos, cleaning pots, etc. Not only does this make her job much easier, but everyone's having a great time.
The artwork and animation throughout this movie are both uniformly excellent. The best of many thrilling scenes, in my opinion, occurs when Pazu, who makes Young Indiana Jones look like a wimp, along with Sheeta as passenger, pilots a kite through an electrically charged hurricane. The sight of Pazu's face, wearing flying goggles almost bigger than he is, features illuminated by lightning bolts, his expression of mingled determination and wonder, is one of the most arresting images I've even seen in any medium.
I would describe this movie as "a great viewing experience for the entire family" were it not for the fact there's stuff in here that might be a bit rough for some younger children. There are several scenes of Sheeta and Pazu being hit by much larger adults, so hard it results in unconsciousness at times. And although we never see anyone die on-screen, there are many instances of people caught in explosions, or falling from such a height it's obvious, whether we actually see it or not, people really are dying here, violently.
For all that, Castle in the Sky is a great viewing experience, not just one of the best pieces of animation you could ever see, but one of the best movies, period. I give this film my highest recommendation. If you watch it, you will love it.
on October 23, 2003
Hayao Miyazaki's second feature film, and his first one to be widely acclaimed both commercially and critically (though his debut - Nausicaa AKA Warriors of the Wind is considered by many fans his best), 'Tenku no Shiro Rapyuta' AKA 'Castle in the Sky' may seem childish and simplistic when compared to his more recent masterpieces like 'Kiki's Delivery Service', 'Mononoke-hime' and 'Spirited Away', but in 1986 it was years ahead of its time and it was one of the milestones of modern anime. It's important to remember that 'Castle in the Sky' was made two years before the revolutionary 'Akira', and while it's not provocative and controversial like the aforementioned masterpiece, the lead characters are all mainly basic manga hero / heroine / villain type characters, and the story is quite predictable and obvious (at least in today's standards), Miyazaki's designs and animation work are of standards never seen before. While the story and humor are a bit silly and outdated at times, the movie is still very entertaining and very enjoyable - if not as breathtaking as 'Spirited Away'. And if you'll allow yourself to see the beauty of the frames themselves and ignore the low-budget coloring and animation and the identical twin faces - at this point Miyazaki is still faithful to his roots and to the agreed standards of Japanese cartooning - you'll see Miyazaki's genius shine through as well as it does on 'Spirited Away' and Mononoke. While 'Castle in the Sky', being a sci-fi adventure and very suitable for children, fits in more neatly with classic anime than anything else he had done since, his motifs and principles still show and play an important part. To say much more would be to ruin the movie, so I'll kindly shut up. Suffice to say that I'm giving it only four stars because if I gave it five I couldn't go any higher for 'Spirited Away' and 'Princess Mononoke'. And that would be a crime.
As in most anime movies, I recommend watching the Japanese version with the English subtitles, even if you don't speak a word of Japanese - the English overdubs just don't tend to be very good, and in this case it's just horrendous. You might want to watch it in the English version once, though, just for the laughs, and for the star-filled cast (the English dub was only recorded following the success of 'Spirited Away', as it was for 'Kiki's Delivery Service') - Anna Paquin and James Van Der Beek (Yeah, the Dawson guy!) fill the lead roles, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from 'Star Wars', in case you don't know!) plays the villain, and other roles are filled by Andy Dick, Tres MacNeille (The Simpsons, Rugrats, Animaniacs...), Michael McShane (Friar Tuck from Kevin Costner's Robin Hood travesty) and Mandy Patinkin (Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya...) Good for a laugh, or a few laughs really. But watch the Japanese one first.
on October 6, 2003
CitS was the first Miyazaki movie I ever saw in the late 80's when I was a kid. It had such an effect on me at the time (those robots scared me half to death) that when I saw this remastered edition sitting next to Kiki and Spirited Away I had to have it (i snapped up SA as well ;p).
There are A LOT of opinions i've read about this release on Amazon, and would like to put forward my own summary of the good/bad points:
1. First and formost, the original track (both language and soundtrack) is available on the disc, with subtitles. Thus you can watch it over again as the artist originally intended, or as the updated, redubbed version.
2. James Van Der Beek is annoying, yes, but only if you let it get to you. Personally, I found his voice a little softer than the screechy Japanese guy on the original and thus at times (Note: AT TIMES) was preferable. Anna Paquin, Cloris Leachman, Mandy Patinkin and (especially) Mark Hamill are all good, solid dubs.
3. The decision about rescoring the music was a good one, (excellent track) though the American Suits clearly pressured Hisaishi into writing new stuff for virtually every part of the film. Some places which were perhaps a bit quiet before benefit (e.g. at the start with the solitary pirate ship), and others (such as the train chase) really sound exciting with the meatier score, but there are scenes (such as the Dragons Nest run) which should have been left alone. There were good reasons to keep the silence there.
4. The issue of the extra/changed wording: Some of it plain does not work, such as Sheetas new pirate impression, which just sounds like a Suit walked in mid-dub and said 'hey! I know what you could put in that 3 second non-speaking section..!'. Some of it however is great and adds humour/information where previously it was missing. Pazu talks more about his fathers death, the pirate gang bickers more with the locals in the fight scene, and Dolas talk with Pazu in his house to name but a few. However, 'All good pirates listen to their moms' sounds too self-help for my taste..
To sum up, everyone who appreciates a good movie without having hangups about it being 'a cartoon' should get this. Its one of those family movies with the full range of emotion, written by good, talented people who dont pander to the kids or alienate the grown-ups. Theyre trying to entertain you with a story, and they manage that with style.
on August 15, 2003
Since CASTLE IN THE SKY hit DVD retailers for the first time on April 15th, 2003, a lot of purists have written extremely negative, hostile reaction to the English dub. Even more infuriating, they seem to have posted their comments everywhere on the net in an attempt to discourage people from watching the dub, and instead adopt the "pure, Japanese bliss" of the original.
BUT... these two facts remain regarding all four of the dubs Disney made for Miyazaki's films. 1) NOTHING THEY DID TO THE FILMS WERE DONE WITHOUT MIYAZAKI'S PERMISSION, and 2) NOT EVEN ONE SECOND FROM THESE MOVIES ARE CUT. Yet it seems as though CASTLE has taken the most hits from naysayers... probably because it's a much loved film in its original language and/or the older dub released by Streamline in the early 1980's. But whether you love it or hate it, this new Disney dub has already won over a lot of new fans.
I am one such fan, as well as someone who HAS seen this movie one time in its initial language. I almost find it almost sad that purists will NOT give this dub a chance because of voice actor choices, the rescoring of the movie, adding in and/or altering lines, etc., etc., when in fact Miyazaki enthusiastically approved them. (Don't believe me? A lot of trustworthy sites say that his company has complete control over how far Disney can overstep their boundaries.)
Yes, the CASTLE IN THE SKY dub is chattier than the initial language track and has a new music score). Does this make it inferior to the Japanese? Not at all. However, it probably isn't superior to it either. But guess what folks? It's still an excellent dub in its own right.
I think a lot of the hatred for this dub stems from Disney bashing, purist views, and unfavorable comparisons to the other dubs Disney did. Yet I find that the best way to evaluate this dub is to judge it on ots own merits.
First off, the new score. Granted, Disney DID request Studio Ghibli to update and expand the music (in other words, bring it up to about two hours long and have a full symphony orchestra play but it was done by the same guy who wrote it, Joe Hisaishi, and the man is a genius when it comes to writing music. Yes, it's longer and some critically quiet scenes (passing through the storm cloud) have more music, but it's powerful enough to hold its own ground. (The original score IS on the Japanese language track, purists.)
Secondly, the voice acting. I don't see why a lot of purists have qualms with the actors chosen to play the characters; I think they gave lively performances (Sheeta is the only character whose performance -- by Anna Paquin -- could be considered "dull", but that's in line with her personality) and fit the characters well. Paquin and James Van Der Beek may have been questionable choices on Disney's part to play the protagonists, Sheeta and Pazu, but while they DO sound somewhat teenagish (unlike the Japanese originals), I did not find their performances lacking in any way. Beek does a good job displaying boyish enthusiasm and determination, while adding an occasional comic riff to his character. Paquin's accent wavers, yes, but whether you find this a distraction totally depends whether it gets to you. Personally, I think it adds to her character. She IS, after all, from far, far away, and one can assume she didn't have time to adopt to a custom. However, most would agree that Cloris Leachman is impeccably cast as Dola and Mark Hamill's deliciously sly, demonic performance as the evil Muska is a treat.
Thirdly, the script. "Inferior to the original"? Ha. What a laugh. The subtitle script on the DVD is sparsely translated and lacking. I don't know how accurate it is to the original, but what's more important--an accurate, clunky translation, or an excellent translation? Personally, the latter is my choice. True, the dub does throw in a few more lines and alter a couple, but I found that them to be faithful in spirit to Miyazaki's original screenplay and only extra icing on the cake. Probably the most glaring criticism is that the Dola Boys (played by the likes of Mandy Patinkin, Michael McShane, and Andy Dick) have one too many extraneous lines, but the same could be said about Phil Hartman as Jiji, too. If Hartman added to Jiji, then why can't these three comedians do the same to the pirate brothers? It's perfectly in nature with their personalities, and most non-complainers would find these lines to be some of the best the dub has to offer. I also like the way the script expands the characters' interactions. The chemistry between Pazu and Sheeta is mostly pure love (mushy to you gripers), but some occasionally funny added-in lines make them slightly more interesting. And I just LOVE the pirates begging Sheeta for food, offering to help, and even Sheeta acting like a pirate. OK, so they may have been throwaway lines, but when one is so involved, it's difficult to complain.
Fortunately, I have found a lot of folks elsewhere from the Anime community who love every minute of this dub and consider it yet another high-quality, top-notch English track from the Mouse House. True, Disney has made a lot of mistakes lately, but one can suspend issues with the executives and instead find much to appreciate in SOME of their products.
But seriously, to bash English dubs before you even see them is just sad. Sometimes it's just as pointless to compare them to the Japanese as well. After all, English and Japanese are different languages and shouldn't be held up to the same expectations. Fortunately, you don't have to pay attention to these naysayers. You're entitled to your tastes just as much as they're entitled to theirs.
on August 10, 2003
I saw this movie in Japanese when it first came out, and have absolutely loved it ever since. So I was overjoyed when I found out that it was to be released in the U.S. in DVD. Also, you can just imagine how utterly disappointed I was in viewing the dubbed version.
For some unknown reason, they decided to use completely new musical scores, which does not go quite right with the movie. They have also decided to completely ruin a very dramatic scene in the movie by adding voice and music where there were none originally(in the original Japanese version, the scene was completely silent. You just "see" Pazu utter a word.) If this weren't enough, they added tons of unneeded and redundant dialogues where there weren't any. One such example is when Pazu and Sheeta are walking through the garden in Laputa. In the origianl version, the two characters are walking through the stunningly beautiful, lush garden in silent awe, backed up by a quiet, serene music. But in this Disney version, Pazu says in a surprised voice, "Look, Sheeta, the trees grow bigger and bigger as we go deeper into the garden!" (Any viewer could get that information, thank you very much, Pazu, by simply looking.) Thus, by that added redundant and explanatory garble (which, sadly enough, occurs frequently throughout the Disney version,) the perfect scene with all its magnitude and mystical awe is destroyed. Of course, I need not mention the horrible translation. All the dialogues are so overly explanatory--to such an extent that I could only take them as insults to the intellectual levels of the viewers. Not only that, but they even change Sheeta's personality from the original film--to go with all that "girl power" thing, I guess. On top of that, the voice actors (except for a very select few, such as the dazzling Louie [at least I think that's how you spell his name]) are just plain horrible, especially Pazu, who sound goofy all throughout the film. But on other hand, while it seems like they like all the redundant sounds, they actually take away some vital sound effects, which is very uncomfortable.
But the DVD still features the original track (hurrah!) and a very interesting feature which allows you to view the film in Miyazaki's original storyboard, which I just loved. If it weren't for the terrible dubbed version, I would have given this DVD five stars.
on July 24, 2003
This movie is one among many of Miyazaki's motion picture masterpieces. The storyline follows a young girl named Sheeta who is the descendant of an old royal family that once ruled an empire of flying palaces. Among the flying palaces, legends say that the largest and most technologically advanced one, called Laputa, still exists within the eye of an impenetrable storm. She is befriended by many people, including a young boy named Pazu that joins her in her adventure. However, air pirates that seek Laputa's legendary treasures and government officials that seek Laputa's advanced military technology pursue Sheeta throughout the movie. The story's characters are complex and well-developed, and the dark themes about war and peace are presented in ways that both children and adults can appreciate. The artwork is among Miyazaki's best, as the movie features many of the creative flying machines that Miyazaki's movies are famous for. The only problem I have is that the English translation (or at least the subtitling) obvoiusly changes some minor portions of the dialogue. This is most apparent when subtitles are displayed during brief junctures where no dialogue is heard from the Japanese soundtrack. However, the plot remains unaltered. This should definitely be watched by both children and adults.
on June 20, 2003
Although I had no major problems with Disney's music treatment and dubbing job (Cloris Leachman as Dola is fine), I do prefer the Japanese language track (even without the Dolby 5.1 surround sound). The film itself lacks the power of Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, but it is plenty good--good enough for Disney to seemingly "borrow" lots of ideas from it for its Atlantis!
Miyazaki's 1986 film has gorgeous artwork, an adventurous plot, dramatic action sequences, comedic relief, and touching scenes of devotion and friendship. The floating castle of Laputa (the "castle in the sky") is magnificently depicted by the animators, with incredible gardens, buildings, and twisting roots overgrowing ruins. The story of how Pazu and Sheeta work together, with some humorous pirates, to combat the "Colonel" is a good one. The film is a bit long, but my interest was maintained by the characters' desire to figure out how to get to Laputa and by my fascination with the various imaginative flying contraptions that Miyazaki has drawn.
The DVD "extras" are nothing special: John Lasseter's Introduction says little; Behind the Microphone is the usual Disney "behind the scenes" glimpse that doesn't add much to our knowledge; the storyboards (which take up an entire disc!) get boring fast.
One word of caution: younger viewers and their parents might be horrified by the death and destruction shown in this film. While not gory, a lot of people meet their demise!
on May 25, 2003
Hayao Miyazaki's CASTLE IN THE SKY was apparently his third
full-length feature and the item that put him on the map, and
it's easy to see why.
The story takes place in what appears to be the early 20th
century in an alternate universe, where the skies are full of
giant airships, ranging from luxury liners to flying
battleships. In the beginning of the film, a mysterious girl,
whose name is later revealed as "Sheeta", falls from the
sky from an airship, only to be rescued by the strange jewel
she wears around her neck. She floats down, unconscious, into
the arms of a lad named Pazu who works at a mine.
From this start the two end up in a search for the long-lost
flying city of Laputa, pursued by an evil government agent
but aided by a gang of sky pirates who aren't as unpleasant
as they first seem, leading up to an apocalytic finale.
Along the way the Sheeta and Pazu have many adventures and
encounter many marvelous machines and places.
While I have little familiarity with the Belgian cartoonist
Herve and his famous TINTIN series, from what little I saw
of it when I was a youngster it seems that Miyazaki took
Herve as a strong influence. In any case, CASTLE IN THE
SKY shows a strong European flavor in its design, and also
has a certain old-fashioned storyline for kids, with Sheeta
and Pazu jumping from one peril to the next.
The story line, if not generally all that plausible, lends a
great deal of charm to this story, and Miyazaki's emphasis
on clever machines and inventions makes the whole mix very
engaging. (The opening credits are a particular exercise in
invention.) The artwork is very good and impressive, though
it might be argued that by modern standards it fails to
quite reach consistent perfection -- then again, it is
probably not fair to compare it in this regard to later works
like Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY.
In any case, the end result is a fine work of craftsmanship,
though it is relatively lacking in the gentle parables that
characterize Miyazaki's more modern works.
The only warning I can give, at the risk of sounding politically
correct, is that the end is violent by modern standards, with
the bad guys biting the dust in big numbers. This sort of
thing was admittedly more common in the past, but I have to
agree that it was good for it to go out of style -- this is
a gentle movie targeted for kids (that can be thoroughly
enjoyed by adults) where the violence is jarring. As the
story is a charming fantasy, there is no particular use or
purpose for brutal realism.
That being said, I have to go back to the bottom line: this
is an excellent movie and highly recommended.