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Castle in the Sky (1986)

Cast: James Van Der Beek, James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, more...
Director: Hayao Miyazaki, Hayao Miyazaki
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Walt Disney Video
Genre: Anime, Foreign, Anime Feature Films, Seafaring, Studios, Ghibli, Animation, Cel
Languages: English, French, Japanese
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

Hayao Miyazaki's fantasy adventure Castle in the Sky begins with a chase scene through a flying ship, where all the passengers are after the young girl, Sheeta (voice of Anna Paquin). Going overboard to avoid capture, Sheeta is rescued by her powerful crystal necklace which floats her down to safety. She's recovered by Pazu (voice of James Van Der Beek), a young resourceful boy who works in a small mining town. Sharing a common desire to see Laputa, the castle in the sky, Pazu and Sheeta team up to outrun the pirates and the military. Led by hard-bitten matriarch Dola (voice of Cloris Leachman), the pirates are a rowdy yet dimwitted group of brothers who are after Laputa's treasure. Led by the greedy yet civilized Muska (voice of Mark Hamill), the military is after Laputa's secret powers. Everyone races to get to the abandoned castle of Laputa, which has been overgrown with vines and plant life. Its only inhabitants are the animals and robots who protect a magical garden. As the different parties fight over who gets to control Laputa, it's up to Sheeta to use her ancient knowledge to save it from ultimate destruction. The English-language version also includes the voices of Mandy Patinkin and Andy Dick. ~ Andrea LeVasseur, All Movie Guide

This disc contains the feature film.

GreenCine Member Ratings

Castle in the Sky (1986)
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7.91 (797 votes)
Castle in the Sky (Bonus Disc) (1986)
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6.59 (71 votes)

GreenCine Member Reviews

A must-see for any young "Star Wars" fan by Lastcrackerjack April 6, 2006 - 7:06 PM PDT
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
If any film could eclipse the breadth of the science fiction/fantasy realm created by George Lucas for "Star Wars", it would be "Castle in the Sky". It is so much better than any of Lucas' subsequent prequels.

The animation does have one foot in early '80s Japanese TV fare like "Battle of the Planets" and another in Miyazaki's more assured, visually breathtaking epics like "Princess Mononoke" in the following decade.

Production value aside, the story borrows deftly from "Gulliver's Travels", "Treasure Island", J.R.R. Tolkien and Lucas while succeeding where the "Star Wars" prequels fail: wonder. Much like Luke Skywalker himself, Pazu has his eyes on the sky and dreams of finding his destiny in the clouds.

The story is action packed. Both the train pursuit and a sequence where an ancient Laputan robot comes to life and melts a fortress with its laser eye are thrilling. Miyazaki's vessels, houses and mills have an inventiveness that would make Rube Goldberg proud.

The English version has been criticized heavily not only for Anna Paquin and James Van Der Beek voicing characters who - judging by their height - were much younger in Miyazaki, but for the lackluster job they do in the process. The voicework is the weakest in any Miyazaki dub that I've seen, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly what would have made it better. Mark Hamill, a voiceover veteran who most notably voiced the Joker, is terrific as the villain.

The film also contains Miyazaki's reverence for nature with a beautiful scene in which the old miner blows out a candle and reveals that the rock formations around them are "alive" with chatter, if we would only listen to them.

Fantastic animated adventure from Miyazaki! by JTurner1 July 17, 2005 - 9:04 PM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Castle in the Sky is Hayao Miyazaki's third film, and it's one of his most beloved of all time. This is not to say, however, that it was one of his greatest hits. It was actually a box-office disappointment in its initial 1986 release, but has since been embraced by critics and audiences around the world.

Inspired by the works of Jules Verne and "Gulliver's Travels", the story centers on two young orphans -- young miner Pazu, and mysterious girl Sheeta (who wears a magic crystal around her neck) -- who team up to find the long-lost island of Laputa, which is rumored to have great riches and gems. They are aided by a band of bumbling yet sympathetic air pirates led by the feisty Dola (who at first chase them, yet turn out to be true allies) and pursued by the government headed by its villainous topmost-secret agent, Muska, who wants the power of Laputa for his own benefit.

Miyazaki didn't know it, but "Laputa" is an offensive term in Spanish, which is why the film was retitled (for its US release anyway) from Laputa: The Castle in the Sky to just Castle in the Sky. This does nothing to detract from the overall film itself, which is a marvelous animated achievement. The artwork, although not as spectacular as in some of Miyazaki's later movies, is fantastic and gorgeous enough to watch with imaginative characters and locations, incredibly exciting action scenes, and breathtaking flight sequences that will make one feel giddy. The characters may not be as interesting or well-polished as in Miyazaki's later movies, either, but all in all, this cast more than gets the job done for an action-adventure that, even running at two hours, never once gets dull.

On a side note, a 1989 Anime series called Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water bears many similarities to Castle in the Sky . Both films share similar ideas and, even more interestingly, were conceived by Miyazaki himself! Nadia originally started out as an idea for a TV series involving two orphans who meet Captain Nemo and the Nautilus while being chased by bad guys, but angst-ridden Hideaki Anno later tackled Miyazaki's idea. However, some elements of Miyazaki's original idea found its way into some of his later projects. Castle in the Sky was one of them. It is easy to compare this film to the popular TV show. Unlike Nadia, however, Castle in the Sky is shorter, its heroine (thankfully) is more sweet-tempered, and there are none of the stupid, extraneous sequences that almost sank the otherwise entertaining 39-part TV series.

Critics and Anime purists seem to be split about the Disney dub (originally planned for release in 1999, with a star-powered cast and rerecorded score by Joe Hisaishi performed by the SEATTLEMUSIC Orchestra, but mysteriously delayed until 2003). Although there are fans of the dub, others have attacked it on all sides, comparing unfavorably to both its original language track and an earlier English dub released by Streamline several years ago (which is now obscure). Despite this love-hate atmosphere, I am going to take a different stand and say that--stripped of unfavorable comparisons to the original Japanese and issues that have been continually brought up--Disney's dub is an excellent English track in its own right.

Yes, James Van Der Beek's Pazu sounds significantly more mature than his Japanese counterpart, and Anna Paquin as Sheeta speaks with a somewhat inconsistent Aussie/New Zealand accent (this "problem" actually works in favor of her character), but both do competent jobs overall in terms of chemistry and believability. Cloris Leachman sounds like she is having a great time as Dola and her three boys, played by burly Michael McShane, as well as Mandy Patinkin and Andy Dick, offer some of the best lines, even if they were ad-libbed ala Phil Hartman's Jiji. Tying with Leachman for the best performance in the dub is Mark Hamill as Muska; his performance gives the original Japanese actor a run for his money. I didn't recognize him one bit. He is superbly cultured, sounding suitably cold and manipulative when he is talking normally to either the General or Sheeta, and hysterically insane by the climactic scenes. And what a chilling laugh he has!

In addition, the rescored music is both gorgeous and breathtaking (even the scenes which were silent before sound more enhanced by the more fuller-sounding score), and the script, although loose at times--loaded with extra lines and/or commentary (used mainly to flesh out the characters and the story)--remains faithful in spirit to the original. Say what you will about "Disneyfied" this English version is, but the following facts remain: 1) this is a high-quality dub on its own terms, 2) nothing was done without Miyazaki's permission, and 3) not even one second from this film is cut. (It should also be known that the original Japanese track is on the DVD, complete with its original, unaltered score, so relax, purists.) On the whole, there is little point comparing the Disney version to the original language track; each puts their own stamp on this legendary masterpiece, and I like them both.

The DVD release is pretty good for the most part. The video quality is colorful and vibrant, although it does show its age at times. The audio on all three language tracks is brilliantly mixed, but the extras are a bit sparse -- all we have is an unnecessary but passable intro by John Lasseter, a behind-the-microphone featurette, and Japanese trailers and storyboards. Not bad, but something a little more meaty (a making-of documentary) would make this even better. The menus are kinda iffy as well, in that you have to do a lot of configuring to play the Japanese credits. Oh well, the real appeal is the movie, which earns my highest recommendation and more than makes up for an adequate, if not perfect, presentation on DVD.

Storyboards ONLY by LMcGuff March 27, 2004 - 1:01 AM PST
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
Note that this disc contains ONLY the storyboards. I didn't think it was worth renting.

The main disc, like almost all Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli work, is superb.

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