Studio Ghibli Retrospective Review: Laputa Castle in the Sky (1986,Hayao Miyazaki)

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The much acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki is known for being a co-founder of the much adored Studio Ghibli animation house and the magical feature films from which he has grown in status among animation specialists. In only his second animated feature film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Hayao Miyazaki showcases the immense talent he possesses in crafting fully realised and therefore engrossing world from which his meaningful narratives can develop. Like his previous film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa carries a cinematic landscape that consists of a fine balance between environment and character – which when fused together with care and attention (like what is found within many of the Japanese directors film) allows for a deep and meaningful understand of the messages relayed through the medium of animation.

When young miner Pazu (James Van Der Beek) catches a young girl falling from the sky, surrounded by a blue glow emitted from her magical necklace, he is quickly thrust into a hunt for the legendary city of Laputa. Hunted by a group of foreign agents and a family of sky pirates, Pazu and the mysterious Sheeta (Anna Paquin) begin a high octane adventure as they race to find the lost city before their pursuers can find it themselves. With each character holding a tie to the mysterious city in the clouds, the narrative carries a deep meaning in the pursuit of finding your own destiny against the adversity that life can bring.

Like his previous work, Miyazaki has managed to effectively build a world from which this fast paced narrative can develop. Each character is beautifully described within their actions, and this descriptive manner carries over with a highly engrossing fable that caters far beyond the typical animation demographic. With a careful control on how the cinematic landscape affects the characters of this film – and in turn how they themselves affect the landscape with their own actions – Laputa manages to script a consistently interesting narrative with a deep level of consequence given to every utterance and action that the film presents. It is in this depth that Laputa comes to the fore, with its production and screenplay quality outshining the majority of animated feature films that have ever been produced. With Studio Ghibli being notorious for this in their animated productions, it is not surprising to find such a level of craft within Laputa. Overall the film has aged very well (being first released in 1986), showing a testament to the care and attention that the production received by the talented filmmakers at Ghibli.

Another aspect of Ghibli that Laputa foreshadows in its production is that of blending magic and realism to formulate capitulating narrative arcs. With most of this films mystical aspects never fully described, Miyazaki allows his audience to perceive these aspects within their own ideology – thus making the film more approachable to different demographics and understandings. This is a contributing factor to the aforementioned engrossment that the film delivers, with the mysticism presenting as an addition to a working film environment – instead of simply placed as a means to enhance the film appeal.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky is one of the most intriguing and fun animated feature films to have ever been produced. With a high production quality, including the impeccable American dub, Miyazaki has crafted a film that holds engrossment through its 2 hour duration. With fast paced adventure at the root of its narrative, the film manages to consistently carry the director engrossing vision throughout, and such delivers a film that is enjoyable for both adult and child demographics. Simplified in how the story is delivered, but with no dent in the depth relayed through its many interesting characters, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is simply a film that destined to always carry high levels of consumer appeal. A masterpiece of cinematic animation this film will no doubt last the test of time, and remain as a classical production from a highly acclaimed filmmaker.  

Plot- 4  

Acting – 4

Direction -5

Retrospect -4

Overall – 4.5

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