Castle in the Sky (PG)
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Also known as "Laputa: Castle in the Sky". This is the third film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and the first film produced by Studio Ghibli. It came out in 1986 (in Japan), and an English dubbed version was released a few years later in the U.S. Then in 1998, Disney did a new dub, which wasn't released until 2003. That was reissued in 2010, and I think there were some changes. It was later reissued by GKIDS in 2017, which is the version I have, though I didn't see it until 2022. So anyway, I'm not sure how close the version I have is to the original, Japanese version of the movie (or to any specific English dub). Whatever the case, I liked it well enough. I was a bit disappointed in myself for not loving the movie, because I always have this sense of myself loving all Ghibli movies, which isn't actually the case. (Sometimes I worry that my sense of Ghiblian wonderment has diminished, but it's probably about as strong as it ever was. I just don't like all films equally, which is fine.)
So. It begins with an airship being attacked by sky pirates, led by Captain Dola (Cloris Leachman, in the dub I watched). At least three of the pirates are Dola's sons, I guess (and one of them is voiced by Mandy Patinkin), but none of them were really important to me. I will say that as Wikipedia mentions, the dub at one point has one of the pirates (I have no idea which one, they were all interchangeable to me) declare love for one of the main characters, a young girl named Sheeta (Anna Paquin), instead of the original dialogue treating her as a mother figure. I think either way it's weird and kind of disturbing, but especially with the dialogue as a declaration of love for a girl who's obviously much too young for the pirate. (In fact, all the pirates obviously take a keen interest in Sheeta, though whether it's all for the same reasons or not, I have no idea.) Wikipedia also says the dub makes the characters of Sheeta and Pazu (James Van Der Beek) sound a few years older than they're meant to, in their mid-teens instead of pre-teens, which makes the declaration of love only slightly less creepy. But I digress (a lot). During the pirates' attack on the airship, Sheeta escapes, but ends up falling from the ship. Later, Pazu (who works in a mine) sees her falling, and catches her. Which was kind of easy, because she was actually just gently floating down (unconscious). This was because of some sort of magical power of the Aetherium crystal that her pendant was made of. We eventually learn that it has a number of magical powers, depending on the spell invoked, but we don't actually see all of the powers. But I'm getting ahead of myself (again).
The next day, Sheeta and Pazu end up being chased by the Dola pirates, as well as by the military, which is led by General Muoro (Jim Cummings). But he answers to a government agent named Colonel Muska (Mark Hamill), whom Muoro can't stand. Everyone wants to obtain Sheeta's crystal, which could point the way to a floating island in the sky called Laputa, which has a castle built upon it that houses some advanced technology and treasure. (Actually, I'm not sure if it's the island or the castle that's called Laputa, but it doesn't really matter.) Pazu wants to find the island to prove his late father hadn't lied about the existence of Laputa, which he had seen (and photographed) while flying his own airship, years ago, but which most people consider just a legend (in spite of the photograph). Muska wants to find the island for its technology, while the military and the pirates are more interested in the treasure. And we eventually learn a bit more about the backstories of both Sheeta and Muska, and their ties to Laputa. Anyway, the story gets pretty thrilling, filled with adventure and danger. And there are some cool robots. And stuff. But I don't want to reveal too many specific details of what happens. I'll just say that there's a fairly happy ending. And I feel like I've left out some important bits that I should have explained better. But that's probably okay.
Well, it's certainly a fun and interesting movie, even if I couldn't manage to find it quite as fun and interesting as I wanted to. I'm definitely glad to have finally seen it.