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Castle in the Sky (1986)

Legends say there was once a human civilization that had the technology to build gigantic cities that could float among the clouds. Centuries later, all but one of those cities have either disappeared or destroyed. This last city, only known as Laputa, has become the object of fascination for Pazu an orphan boy in a small mining town. Much like his father, it is his dream to discover that this mysterious city is still floating somewhere in the sky. The proof he's been looking for finally lands in his arms when he finds a young girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky. Does she hold the key to finding the lost city? And why are both a band of pirates and government agents intent on capturing her? Pazu will have to brave a whole hoard of dangers and mysteries if he is going to protect his new friend and make the discovery of a lifetime.

Castle in the Sky also known as Laputa: Castle in the Sky for the UK and Australian release, is a Japanese animated feature length film that was released in 1986, and was one of many of director Hayao Miyazaki's signature films. One of its' major achievements, aside from winning a dozen Japanese animation awards (such as the Ofuji Noburo Award and the Mainichi Film Award), was that it was the breakout film for the recently formed Studio Ghibli.

Despite being one of Miyazaki's lesser known films (at least compared to Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke) Castle in the Sky was a very special film in how it not only helped pave the way for Studio Ghibli's future success but also captured the thrill and fun of a classic adventure story. All the quintessential elements are here: boy meets girl, boy finds out girl is the key to a long lost treasure/power, with pirates and even an entire army looking to capture them, the list goes on. Yet despite having seeing these elements in other films, Castle in the Sky does not feel like a rehash of a better story, but a new telling that has enough creativity to keep both kids and adults entertained.

It always boggles my mind whenever I re-watch Castle in the Sky, how one movie can have so much going on (namely aforementioned pirate chases, robots, military conspiracies, and air ship battles) yet it never feels like it's too much. Mainly thanks to the film's excellent pacing and knowing just how to balance out the quieter scenes with its action sequences.

But the true heart of the story is the bond that develops between Pazu and Sheeta, and the extent both are willing to go to keep each other safe despite everything that happens around them. Even after multiple viewings and hearing the film in both languages, Castle in the Sky's climax always has me at the edge of my seat. You could argue that compared to film's like Mononoke are a bit more sophisticated in its storytelling, which is probably true. But for me, sometimes a simple story, or simple characters can be just if not equally compelling if you demonstrate how far a character is willing to go for what they want. Which is something Castle in the Sky pulls off with flying colours.

When it comes to the dub however, this film can be hit or miss with some viewers. In my opinion, Disney's job with re-dubbing the film was not great but passable. Mark Hamil plays does a great job as the villain and Cloris Leachman delivered a terrific performance as the pirate mother Dola. However, what I find splits most viewers on the Disney dub is some of changes made with the dialogue and how Pazu and Sheeta (James Van Der Beek and Ana Paquin respectively) sounded like they were in their mid-teens instead of their preteens. This did strike me as a little odd but it didn't detract from the movie as much as it did for some. It really comes down to personal preference but no matter the language, Castle in the Sky is a classic adventure film that shouldn't be overlooked.

Castle in the Sky is available on DVD and Blu Ray disc on Amazon.com  and Amazon UK