Castle in the Sky Reviews
For those unfamiliar with Castle in the Sky's story, it begins right at the start and doesn't stop for the next two hours. The storytelling is so flawless and masterfully crafted, you see Miyazaki's true vision. And believe me, it's one fantastic one. The film begins with Sheeta, a girl with one helluva past as she is being held captive by the government on an airship. Sheeta holds the key to Laputa, the castle in the sky and a long lost civilization. The key to Laputa is a sacred pendant she has which is sought by many, namely the government, the military and the air pirate group, the Dola gang (who Sheeta and Pazu later befriend). Soon, the pirates attack the ship and she escapes during the raid. She falls a few thousand feet, but the fall is soft and thanks to her pendant. As she floats down from the sky, Pazu, an orphan boy who survives by working in the mines, sees Sheeta and catches her. The two become fast friends, but thanks to her pendant, the two get caught up in one huge thrill ride as the Dola gang and government try to capture Sheeta. One action sequence after another, we learn all of the character's motives and identities as we build to the emotional and action packed climax which will surely please all with it's fantastic animation and wonderful dialogue. Plus somewhat twisty surprise. I think this film is simply remarkable and does hold for the two hour and four minute run time. The story is wonderful, as we peak into Hayao Miyazaki's animation which has no limits. The setting of the film is a combo of many time periods. It does seem to take place at the end of the 1800s, but it is some alternante universe which has advanced technology and weapons. Laputa is also surprisingly a funny film. The film has tons of hilarious moments, almost equal to the drama and action the film holds. I think the funniest part is a fight scene where Pazu's boss faces off against a pirate, and soon after a riot breaks out. It's funny as we see the men compare their strength and the music fits right in with it perfectly.
Now let's talk about how the dub rates. An excellent cast give some great performances to bring these characters to life. Teen heartthrob James Van Der Beek plays the hero Pazu, who has a much more mature voice then in the Japanese version, where in the original he sounded more childlike. Either way, I think his voice is a nice fit with Pazu. Anna Paquin, the young Oscar winner from "The Piano", plays Sheeta. This is also a nice performance, but the voice is a bit uneven, she doesn't stay true to one accent. At times she sounds as American as apple pie, but at other times she sounds like someone from New Zealand. The performance I most enjoyed however was of Coris Leachman, who played Mama Dola. Not only is this an excellent performance, but the voice and emotion she gives the character really brings it to life. If there was ever a live action Laputa movie (G-d forbid), she would be the one to play her, you can just imagine her in the role (well, somewhat). Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill is Muska, and this is another top rate Hamill performance. You may be familiar with Hamill from a long line of voice work after he did the original Star Wars movies, but he renders Muska to full evil. His voice sounds like his regular voice and mix of the Joker, who he played for many episodes on the animated Batman series. Rounding out the cast is voice character actor Jim Cummings, who does a great, gruff job as the general and Andy Dick and Mandy Patakin as members of the Dola gang.
Now let me talk about what really makes this dub special, Joe Hisaishi's newly arranged music! For those who have never heard of him, Mr. Hisaishi does the music and like all of Miyazaki's films, the music is very memorable. Each of his scores has it's own personas which fits the particular film perfectly. Now, these new arrangements he has done are more "American like", which I think was the goal of the new recordings. Don't worry, the classic tunes of the Japanese version are still here in great form. The score, to me, sounds to be arranged like this is a Hollywood blockbuster. It has more power, it has more emphasis, it's clearer and deeper. The film's prologue, the first seconds where we are introduced to the airships, has some new music (I am not sure, but I believe when we first saw the ships there was no music at all). But a majority of the music has new backdrops and more background music to enjoy. Things seem very enhanced. In a powerful scene, the music is more stronger then in the original versions. In a calm scene, it's more calmer. Overall, I think many of you will be pleased with the new arrangements an mixes, I highly did myself, and personally think it helps improve the film. I prefer the new score over the old one, and I hope Disney will release or license the music rights to a full blown soundtrack.
Another plus side to the dub is that the story remains faithful, and much of the original Japanese lines are intact. In Kiki, I'm sure a few lines where changed, and this is the same way, lines have been changed. But a majority are close or exactly the original lines and dialogue Miyazaki has written. I was afraid some excellent lines would be butchered, but they were there intact. Some new lines have been added as well which help out. But I am not sure whether to consider this a good thing or a bad thing, Disney DID NOT translate the ending song, it was in Japanese. I was mortified when they did completely new songs for the Kiki dub, but with this version it's the original song... in Japanese. So I guess it's good it's still the original, but bad since a majority of people seeing this dub speak English.
There is a big down side to this dub, and it deals with how the voices match the character's lips. Of course in any dub it won't be perfect, but I think in Kiki and Mononoke the dubbing of lines to match were much better executed (and Disney had a little bit more time with this one...). Some of the time everything matches perfect, some of the time it doesn't completley match, and in a rare case, someone says something and the lips don't move at all (there's a scene where Sheeta chuckles and her mouth doesn't move one bit).
As far as things about the film itself, these are my thoughts. I thought the most amazing part of Laputa was the animation. From the opening sequence to the ending, the animation is so lush and detailed, you just have to watch in awe. You see the true nature of each character, true detail to their face with extreme close ups and action. You have to give a ton of credit for the effort that these animators put into this film. Everything is so well done and beautifully hand drawn, it's like a moving piece of art. And to think, this was done in the mid 1980's. The animation is quite different from Disney, Ghibli has it's own distinctive flare which is very different, but very good. And after all these years, the colors look as vibrant as ever. Laputa also has tons of action sequences, lots of plane dogfights plus a few on ground. These sequences are so well done and so intriguing, it's scary that they are comparable to a big budget action film. And the finale is just something you MUST see. The sound effects are pure and classic and fit explosions, guns firing and everything else well. And like all Miyazaki films, each one focuses on a different theme (i.g. Kiki: Confidence). This one has a great a lesson on greed and power. People don't realize how greed can take over you, and how having too much power isn't good. People are obsessed with power, and are greedy, and the main villian, Muska, greatly shows this.
All in all, Laputa: Castle In The Sky was a great film to begin with, and is now improved for the most part. I am glad a more mainstream audience now have the chance to see this classic animated film in all it's glory. With a great voice cast who put a lot into the film with the excellent redone musical score from Joe Hisaishi, Disney has done a nice job on this dub and is quite worthy. Though I think the voices matched the mouths better in the Kiki and Princess Mononoke Disney dubs, Castle In The Sky is still a great dub and is worth the long delays because now more can expierence a fantastic film.
"BTW" Aything more to say???
There is plenty of adventure, but not blood and gore. The animation is smooth, detailed, and cinematic ally composed - not a lot of flat shots. The backgrounds are wonderful.
As it is one of Miyazaki's older works and mostly takes place in the everyday world, the film is not as visually spectacular or deep in its storyline as Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, or Princess Mononoke. All three of those films are, at some point or another, mystical to the point of being enigmatic, if not perplexing, especially for the younger viewers. Castle in the Sky, on the other hand, doesn't try so much to be an allegory of any kind, and it's not a growing-up story either; it is instead quite possibly one of the best depictions of the inside of a child's mind. Not only is the artwork beautiful, but the use of perspective from the kids eyes is just amazing; whether it's the panning up to see the enormous trees or clouds overhead, or the incredible sense of height from looking down at the ground or ocean while hundreds of feet in the air, it at times feels your on this crazy adventure.
It also helps that Castle has an amazing score. Composer Joe Hisaishi captures the wondrous beauty of this world, the dewy innocence, the exciting action, and the creepiness of the flying city and its bizarre robot guardians. The dubbing is not the best but still well done. While its simplicity is a strength it actually can be a weakness as well. This is not a dynamic film, except for the morally questionable air pirates, who function as the Han Solo of the film. All the rest of the characters don't experience considerable growth and so you never quite feel like you're watching something so much amazing as it is enjoyable. But enjoyable it certainley is.
In the end, Castle in the Sky may not be Miyazaki's most developed, spectacular, or meaningful work, but it's absolutely perfect for what it really was meant to be; a true vision of childhood fantasy, and a wonderful escape from reality for any adults who wish they could have the same wonderful sense of imagination they had when they were just carefree little kids
***1/2 out of 4 stars