Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Hayao Miyazaki is well known internationally for his films, which are really some of the best animated shows worldwide. Laputa is not one of his first films--it was released in 1986 in Japan--but it came before My Neighbor Totoro, which really got notice both in Japan and in the US. As Disney has bought the rights to most all of Miyazaki's work, we should expect to see an English version of this soon, hopefully in theaters. According to various sources, Jo Hisaishi has redone the score to add more music and to "pump up" the score...and I don't believe that Disney would take all the effort unless they were planning a full release. But why would they be doing so much for a film that's thirteen years old? Probably because Laputa is the film that would really bring Miyazaki his due in the United States. It is, quite honestly, the perfect movie for the typical American audience.

Laputa starts with a fantastic midair action sequence, and it very rarely lets up. As the movie starts, air pirates attack a flying ship straight out of Jules Verne. As a result, a young girl who appears to be the center of attention is sent plummeting, but manages to survive the cataclysmic fall. Pazu, a young boy about the same age, rescues her when she falls to earth, and they become fast friends. Sheeta, as it turns out, has an heirloom that allows her to levitate, and everyone else in the movie is out to get it! But the heirloom not only has amazing properties, it can unlock the secret to a legendary floating city filled with treasures unimaginable. Of course, Dora, the mama and leader of the pirate gang, wants to get there herself, but she might have to work with the two friends if they are going to survive the attacks of the army that wants to claim Laputa for their own.

Laputa is an action film in the vein of the Indiana Jones films, and though it exists in a late 1900s "alternate world," it is something that the viewer can really get into. After watching movies like Kiki's Delivery Service or Totoro, this is a 180 in terms of excitement! It really is a great film, and its only faults are from the genre itself. The characters don't get too much depth in comparison to other Miyazaki works, but are far less static than those in other action films. There are also a few nagging background questions that never get resolved, but they aren't serious. This film succeeds in virtually every other way: the animation is Miyazaki perfect, the humor is crisp, and the music and dialogue are wonderful. This is a completely enjoyable action picture that steps up a notch due to its lineage. It's also pretty incredible in that it runs over 2 hours, yet passes very quickly. It's really a must-see, and hopefully Disney will do a good job with making it available in the States soon.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky -- violence -- A