Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Castle in the Sky: DVD Review

Castle in the Sky (1986) is an early animated film from Hayao Miyazaki, who later went on to create the films that made more of a mark in the international market, including Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle and, of course, Spirited Away.

Castle in the Sky shares some the of the features of those films: incredible animation; inventive storyline; detailed, invented worlds; an environmental theme; and a more complicated conception of good and evil than is usually seen in most animated kid's films.

The film tells the story Sheeta, a girl who mysteriously falls from the sky, into the arms of Pazu, a young apprentice at a mine. She's lost a great deal of her memory, but she knows she has to find the legendary floating kingdom of Laputa--an idea which also obsessed Pazu's father--and that it's somehow related to the powerfully magic pendant she wears around her neck. Pazu helps Sheeta to escape from a gang of pirates and the military, who are also after the pendant as a way to get to Laputa.

The animation and artistic conceptions--some of the flying machines and the castle in the sky itself--are very impressive, but Japanese anime, and cartoons in general, have a sort of sameness about them. The main characters are always drawn in the same style and the color is filled in in the exact same way, just as most American animated films are done in the Disney style. You'd never see an animated feature film in which the characters resemble Aubrey Beardsley pen-and-ink drawings, for instance, or Matisse paper cutouts or anything substantially different from what's been put forward as the Japanese and American styles. I'm not sure whay that is: maybe it has to do with the way the films are put together. Perhaps variations in style are difficult.

I thought the film was a little too violent. I was watching with very young kids: they didn't mind, of course, but to my tastes, there seemed to be a few too many explosions and fist-fights for a family film.

But the film's inventiveness and energy are almost endless. There are enough new and thought-provoking and interesting (and cool) ideas to keep kids (and adults, too!) thoroughly entertained.

FilmStocker Rating: B

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