Castle in the Sky Review: One of the best on-screen adventures of all-time.
What a better way to end my time with Studio Ghibli Fest 2018 than with the first film ever made by Studio Ghibli, Castle in the Sky. In some ways the pieces to what makes all Studio Ghibli films great can be seen right in Castle in the Sky’s adventurous story and characters.
The film follows two children: Sheeta (Anna Paquin), a mysterious young girl who holds the power of a crystal that can protect her, and Pazu (James Van Der Beek), an adventurous young boy who desires to find an ancient city in the sky that his father supposedly found and protect Sheeta. Their journey to the supposed castle in the sky is made a little tougher, though, as both a slew of pirates led by the determined Dola (Cloris Leachman) and an army lead by the mysterious Muska (Mark Hamill). So with everyone hot after Sheeta, Pazu, and the crystal, it’s kind of a crazy race to see if they can both find the castle and seek the secrets it holds.
Right off the bat, the film displays a wonderful sense of adventure through Pazu’s incredible spirit and desire to explore. He’s easily become one of my favorite Ghibli characters as he always keeps an incredible positivity energy that drives the magical adventure on-screen. Van Der Beek’s voice also melds perfectly into the role and you wouldn’t even recognize him. Hamill, on the other hand, is easily recognizable as the dastardly Muska and I can only describe his performance in the same that Nostalgia Critic did when talking about this movie: “deliciously evil.”
Castle in the Sky also embodies the strong female characters that the studio would continue to create with the rest of their films. Paquin brings a strong sense of confidence to Seeta, even if the character’s accent isn’t always clear, and her desire to be at the front line shows how strong she truly is. Leachman also brings a humorous and fun attitude to the leader of a bunch of pirates.
The film’s greatest strengths, though, are with how it builds both the small mining community that Pazu lives and the great floating city of Laputa. The mining community is filled with hilariously great characters and design that is extremely reminiscent of cartoons, like Popeye, as seeing two guys have a flexing competition is absolutely hilarious and charming. Not to mention, the mining community also brings a train escape sequence that is easily one of the best action sequences Studio Ghibli has concocted.
Up in the sky, audiences are treated to even more action oriented moments, but that is not to say that the traditional Studio Ghibli slow-burn storytelling isn’t afloat. I found great appreciation for the slow approach, albeit maybe too slow at times, to find out about Laputa and the truth between why Seeta and Muska care so much about it. It perfectly added to the mystery of why it is so important and made me care more about it when we got there.
There’s also something about the way Studio Ghibli uses flying to create some incredibly animated mechanisms that are truly unique. Dola’s insect looking air-bikes are incredibly fascinating and have such great sound design. Not to mention, Muska’s gigantic blimp really shows him in such a daunting and powerful light.
As a whole, Castle in the Sky is a perfect example as to what makes Studio Ghibli so unique and one of the best animation studios of all time. It’s light-hearted, fun, and has a story that’s both memorable and heartwarming. After seeing it, both kids and adults alike will understand what an adventurous spirit truly is as it’s truly one of the best adventures on-screen of all time.