#1  
Old 04-20-2003, 07:18 PM
Castle in the Sky

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Year of Release: 1986

In the opening minutes of this film, pirates have commandeered a floating ship in the sky. What are they after? Apparently, Sheeta (voiced by Anna Paquin), a young girl being held on the vessel, is the holder of an important amulet, something of great interest to the pirates, led by Dola (voiced by Cloris Leachman). A struggle ensues, and in the chaos, Sheeta falls from the ship and into the arms of one Pazu (voiced by James Van Der Beek), a young worker boy. A new adventure begins for the duo, as they try to uncover exactly why the amulet is so vital and why Sheeta ended up wearing it.

An impressive ode to such action epics as Raiders of the Lost Ark, the film is crafted in such a breakneck style that most uninformed viewers will be breathless. It's not completely action, though; there's time for character development, and that's what I believe separates Miyazaki-san from all other animators. In Spirited Away, he took time to pay attention to little details, subtle things that would be brushed away in a regular Disney-fied movie. His characters in that film were memorable, and so are Sheeta and Pazu, who the audience will learn to care for as the film progresses.

The animation is slightly less polished than that of Spirited Away. There's a flat quality to the look that makes you think you're watching a Speed Racer cartoon.

But, still, what a visionary Miyazaki is! Such extraordinary depth to detail; I loved the design of Laputa, the fantastical castle of the title, with its narrow platforms and plush gardens. Or the spectacular chase scene on the elevated train tracks. Or the giant robot whose relationship with Sheeta reminded me of King Kong.

It's a fun movie, most of all, and I believe the average viewer will get their money's worth if they buy the DVD, now out to coincide with the advent of Spirited Away. An entertaining work that loses none of the beauty and wonder of nature and life.

Grade: **** out of ****
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