CASTLE IN THE SKY|
Written by Jason Flick
March 11, 2010
The world of animation received one Miyazaki masterpiece this past week in the form of Ponyo which I highly enjoyed. The only thing that made my week better was the release of three of Miyazaki’s earlier works in 2-Disc Special Edition DVD sets alongside his new masterpiece. The earliest of the three films, Castle in the Sky, is without a doubt one of my favorite Miyazaki films which is a hard to say since all of his films are special and worthy of several viewings.
Castle in the Sky tells the story of a young girl named Sheeta, an orphan, who is found by the sort of young hero Pazu as she floats down from the sky, no thanks to a bunch of pirates who attack the airship she’s on. Castle in the Sky is an adventure full of mystery and excitement that take its viewers deep underground and high up into the sky. As the two start out on their quest they find themselves looking for Laputa, the floating castle, which can hopefully solve both their troubles.
It is clear that Hayao Miyazaki has an interest in flying or rather flying machines as they play a big part in this film. The thought of finding a floating city in the sky to be quite honest is absolutely enticing even though that I know that it probably will never happen in my lifetime or any lifetime for that matter. One of the biggest appeals that this film has is that while it is a fantasy film it has several real world traits, which is a trademark of Miyazaki.
If you watch the features on the second disc or pay close enough attention you will notice a reference to the mechanical monsters of the Fleischer Superman cartoons back in the golden days of cartoons. Miyazaki’s use of British and German design when it comes to the weapons and vehicles is also apparent. Weapons like the famous “Potato Masher” of WWII and various tanks are modeled after German tanks. The soldiers and Muska and his men’s weapons are modeled after different British films. Miyazaki has a knack for taking several different era’s or locations such as a real mining town in Wales to base his films upon and he does so brilliantly. The floating castle of Laputa however is inspired by Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” in which there is a similar floating island.
As I mentioned in a previous film review, Miyazaki films are usually easily to recognize due to his unique character designs. This is one of many trademarks that Miyazaki puts in his films. Castle in the Sky is a bright and cheerful film, but it also has its darker moments like when Pazu and Sheeta are braving a lightning storm. The way that Miyazaki fashioned the lightning into dangerous serpents was really cool and added another one of his classic touches to his stories.
Castle in the Sky has a cast of voice actors that most people recognize today. What you might not know is that Castle in the Sky possibly started the careers of two young actors. The first is Anna Paquin (of True Blood fame) and the second is James Van Der Beek (Dawson Creek). This film marks the first time Cloris Leachman has starred in a Miyazaki film that’s also in Ponyo. But perhaps my favorite voice actor for this film is Mark Hamill, more commonly known for as the voice of Joker in the animated Batman series. His character Muska gave off that same vibe, though without all the craziness.