Steve G 🐝’s review published on Letterboxd:
ONE OR TWO MINOR SPOILERS
Can I just say that this film led to me getting this shit song stuck in my head? Thanks a bunch, Miyazaki!
I suppose I'll let him off considering the similarly named film turned out to be quite wonderful. This is my third and a half Hayao Miyazaki after Spirited Away, My Neighbour Totoro, and half a viewing of Porco Rosso that was abandoned years ago when the VHS tape I was watching it on conked out.
For sheer scope and vision, Laputa: Castle In The Sky is a good distance ahead of these films and is a quite astounding achievement on numerous levels, some of which I'm not even sure I can get my head round just yet. I think in some ways animation directors are always likely to be peddling uphill when it comes to winning over some people when it comes to convincing them of the artistic achievement of what they are putting out there and the difficulty of pulling off their visions.
The fact is that there is no doubt that there are many things that you can do with animation that are far more difficult to do in live action, even in this day and age. As such, animation could be seen in some eyes to be an easier realm in which to convert these ideas. Whether that is or is not the case is going to be open to debate for many decades to come, I would suggest, but anyone daring to question the breadth of the achievement of Miyazaki with this film is nuts.
There are some astonishing scenes in this film even by the standards of animation. One of the final scenes which sees all but the gardens of Laputa crumbling away and the remnants of the guardian robots falling away will stay with me for quite some time. It was breathtaking, beautiful and emotional. Like pretty much the whole of this film, actually.
The beauty that the films of Miyazaki possess is always quite possibly the easiest point to reference in his films as it is always so immediately apparent but his storytelling structure is always extremely thoughtful as well. Here, when Sheeta floats down in to Pazu's arms towards the start of this film, most films would then spend almost their entire first half with Pazu trying to convince his entire town than this girl just floated down to the ground.
This film spends a couple of minutes on that plot point and then just moves on. It REALLY moves on as well. At a breakneck pace as numerous people come looking for Sheeta, turning the film very quickly into a frantic and breathless animated actioner with a couple of brilliant twists. In fact, Castle In The Sky is topped and tailed by two tremendously frantic passages of action yet its slower middle passages are filled by some fascinating characterisation and a real bolstering of a story that initially seems to be pretty simple and straightforward.
It's just absolutely wonderful. I was going to give it four and a half stars but seeing as though I can't think of anything about it that I didn't like or that didn't work for me, I'm left asking myself why I'm not giving it the full five. So I am. I'd also write a lot more about it if I wasn't so damn tired from getting a grand total of five hours of sleep in the last two days because there is so, so much more that could be said about this. It gives me a very good excuse to rewatch this as soon as possible, though.