“Castle in the Sky” stars Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Kotoe Hatsui, and Minori Terada. Released on August 2, 1986, the film has a boy and a girl traveling to find a floating castle and protect it from a group of military agents.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. After reviewing the first two Miyazaki films throughout the last two months, I decided to keep the trend going with a film that marked the grand debut of Studio Ghibli. Like Totoro and Kiki, I also have an experience watching this film during my middle school days, so it would be interesting to see how my opinion stands after seeing it on the big screen. The only version of “Castle in the Sky” that I’m mostly familiar with was…you guessed it, the Disney English dub, because I love Disney. The Disney English dub of the film was released in 2003 and features the voice talents of James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Cloris Leachman, and Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. Funny enough, Hamill was also part of the Disney dub cast for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, but that’s for another time. For this review, I will be doing something completely different compared to my last two Studio Ghibli reviews…by looking at the English dub version instead of the original Japanese dub. So much for trying to be consistent with my anime reviews…
This is one of those films from Studio Ghibli that still retains the gorgeous fantasy elements that they’re known for while also providing a few intense moments here and there. I wouldn’t say that it’s too violent for a younger audience, but it does have plenty of perilous scenes that may frighten some four-year-olds. While the English dub offers a few changes, the overall story is still the same. The film offers its usual adventurous tropes that are almost in the same veins as an Indiana Jones film…if Indiana Jones were to fly across the sky to search for a floating castle. Ooo, that would’ve been a great plot for the upcoming Indiana Jones movie. The way Miyazaki provides this type of story is simple and really compelling, but it’s also a lot of fun despite being over two hours long. You know, come to think it, this film may have been Japan’s answer to our Indiana Jones films. Just think about that for a minute…. The English cast consists of a few familiar celebrities providing the voices of some well-developed characters, such as True Blood star Anna Paquin as the voice of Sheeta. While it’s hard for me to compare the English cast to the Japanese cast, I can at least say that they chose the right actors for these characters, especially Leachman and Hamill as Dola and Muska, respectively. Leachman was incredibly enjoyable and hilarious. As for Hamill, good golly, is there anything that he can’t do? Colonel Muska is what you call a power-hungry butthead who is obsessed with finding the secrets of the floating castle and using them for his devious purposes. Mark Hamill is the type of guy who can really bring this character to life, and he did so with incredible results. Can we get him into some more villainous roles please? The animation still looks fantastic to watch on the big screen, and Joe Hisaishi’s riveting musical score makes the experience even better. From the action sequences to its beautiful landscapes, the animators did their part in providing a rip-roaring and detailed adventure for the adults while also providing an imaginable and wondrous world for the little ones. Not only were the characters fun to watch, but I also love the comic relief in the form of Dola’s crew. Like Kiki’s Delivery Service, the film offers a great amount of balance between humor and human drama without relying on one thing over the other.
Overall, “Castle in the Sky” is a beautifully-animated adventure that still soars through the skies with ease. With its brilliant use of animation, enjoyable characters, and a story that is well-told and filled with its usual action adventure tropes, the film is, from my personal perspective, Studio Ghibli’s Indiana Jones. I know it sounds weird, but it almost looks like it is. We just need to add Indiana Jones into the mix, and voila, “Indiana Jones and the Castle in the Sky”. Let that soak in for a minute. With that said, I am halfway done with my series of classic Studio Ghibli reviews, so now I wait for Nausicaä….