SJ’s review published on Letterboxd:
Castle in the Sky is exactly the type of film I’ve come to expect from something directed by Hayao Miyazaki. When I say that I don’t mean that it gives nothing new. What I mean is that it’s everything I associate with him based on the films I’ve seen from him previously. Like Porco Rosso, this is a really fun and enjoyable film with good worldbuilding, writing, and characters.
I really liked this film’s score. It transported me from my seemlingly mundane surroundings to a place full of excitement and whimsy. Of course, the visuals helped do that too, but the score alone takes me on an adventure. Anyone who hasn’t seen the film can listen to the tracks and know they’re in for something otherwordly.
I found this film to be very well paced. It’s a two hour film, but it was over before I knew it. It’s a very fun adventure film that takes place in a somewhat familiar and they don’t do as much as they could gave with it, but it still immerses you like all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films do.
The animation is always worth mentioning in a Miyazaki film. Even though this was one of his earlier films, the animation has not aged one bit. Some of the character designs here look very similar to designs that were used in subsequent Miyazaki films. Like Porco Rosso, the designs of the characters say a lot about who the characters are and how they act.
The voice acting is a bit hit or miss for me. I know it’s not a fault of the original film, which was in Japanese, but I watched the English dub. Anna Paquin was okay as Sheeta, but her accent seemed inconsistent. It can be distracting, sometimes it sounds like she has an American accent, other times it sounds English, and then it will sound like a Kiwi accent. James Van Der Beek sounds too old to be playing a 13 year old. He sounds no younger than the adult characters in the film. Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill are quite good as Dola and Muska respectively.
I wish they had made Sheeta a better character. She often feels more like a plot device than an actual character. Probably the weakest protagonist I’ve seen from a Hayao Miyazaki film so far. She’s not bad, but not that interesting. She is very likable, however, and her relationship with Pazu is cute. I actually think Pazu could have been a better protagonist, they give more to do and more characterization. The side characters are really good. Dola and her sons are funny and bring a lot of humor and personality.
Muska is a pretty generic villain. Nothing about him stands out really. He’s just there to be a threat and make you feel bad for the heroes. Again, he’s not a bad villain, just not that interesting or memorable. He works perfectly well in the story but he doesn’t leave much of an impact. Mark Hamill does the best he can with him.
Castle in the Sky is a good film, but not my favorite from Hayao Miyazaki. It lacks the depth that it would propel it to a classic in my eyes. It’s a really entertaining adventure film and it has a lot of really endearing moments. I’m sure I’ll check it out again, but not before some of the other Ghibli films.