Hayao Miyazaki. He’s come out with so many amazing movies over the past several decades that anyone who has watched his films know how fantastic they can be, and anyone who hasn’t watched his films really should give them a try.
This week, I’m taking a look at Castle in the Sky, released in 1986, which is one of Miyazaki’s earlier works – the third film he wrote and directed.
The short summary goes like this: A boy (or young man – not 100% sure – the main characters sound older than they look) named Pazu finds a girl named Sheeta falling gently from the sky near his workplace. She’s being targeted for a jewel that she possesses by both pirates and the government, and he tries to protect her. Their escapades finally lead them to journey to a castle in the sky, hidden within a cloudy hurricane – Laputa.
The story itself is one about love, nature, humanity, technology, and war. Interestingly, Miyazaki’s works tend to revolve around the concept of technology versus nature (something we can delve into another time), and this film is no different.
The film’s use of weapons and technology is in contrast to the nature-filled environments, which Miyazaki contrasts with the use of color – mostly green for the environment and black for technology. Through the characters, Miyazaki argues that even if one has the best technology (which, in terms of the setting, can be quite misused), we all return to our roots – to the earth. No matter how far you live, even in the clouds, you will return to earth. What is the point of using technology to rule when you only have so long to live? When you return to the soil from whence you came? I feel like this is one of the main points that Miyazaki tries to give his own perspective on, and it’s an interesting answer.
The characters are not 2D cutouts, fortunately (they rarely are in Miyazaki’s movies). Even someone who appears to be a villain at first ends up helping the heroes, which helps to show that things aren’t necessarily black and white. On the other hand, the antagonist goes full-baddie after a while, unfortunately. He’s very nuanced in the beginning, but in a way devolves, but still remains a strong villain given his previous actions. Sheeta and Pazu are different characters but are able to be mostly interesting. Sheeta is the one who bears the most plot relevance and Pazu tends to be along for the ride most of the time. Their romance is mostly compelling, but it has a big problem, at least in my eyes – they practically fall in love within 24 hours of meeting each other. It’s crazy, and a bit unrealistic, though it doesn’t hurt the movie too much. It just had me saying things like, “THEY MET 12 HOURS AGO!” and the like.
The ending is a bit weak, to be honest. While the conflict is resolved, there are a few loose ends left open and the ending itself is very sudden, since it’s RIGHT after the conflict is resolved. This leaves a bit to be desired, but it’s not a dealbreaker.
All in all, though, Castle in the Sky is a very enjoyable movie and holds up pretty well to this day. I’d definitely recommend you to watch it at least once. It’s mostly a fun time.
Fun fact: John Lasseter, one of the leading members of Pixar (and who I talked about here!: https://movieblogcmc.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/brought-to-life-a-look-at-pixar-part-2/), is a huge fan and friend of Miyazaki! He helped to localize Miyazaki’s movies (including this one) to the US!