Laputa - Castle in the Sky was the first film to be created by the Japanese animation studio and production company Studio Ghibli. The famous studio behind more recent successes Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) released the original version of this film back in 1986 and it won the Anime Grand Prix 1st prize that year. It was written and directed by the prominent and influential film director Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli.
Laputa follows a young girl called Sheeta who is voiced by Anna Paquin (X-Men, True Blood) in this English dubbed version. Sheeta wears a mysterious crystal as a necklace, which lots of people want to get their hands on. An exciting pre-credits sequence culminates in her falling from an airship after being tracked down by sky pirates, the crystal starts to glow and enables her to float safely into the arms of a young boy called Pazu (James Van Der Beek; Dawson’s Creek, The Rules of Attraction).
Hunted by the pirates, the army and some secret agents, Sheeta and Pazu go on the run and join in the search for a legendary floating castle that many believe to be a myth. The crystal has been in Sheeta’s family for years, passed down by her grandmother, and the different groups that want to claim it believe it holds the key to finding the castle of Laputa and unlocking its secrets.
'Laputa - Castle in the Sky' is a reference from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, which features a hovering castle called Laputa. This imaginative extrapolation of that small idea is a very strong first outing from the studio responsible for a number of enjoyable animations that have become popular not just in Japan, but across the world. It is a fun adventure story with many selling points; pirates, conspiracies, robots, airships, magic crystals and a beautiful floating castle. The familiar visual style is seen in many Ghibli films, it is colourful and well-drawn. The supporting cast of voice actors includes Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, along with Cloris Leachman, Jim Cummings, Richard Dysart and others.
The film reverses audiences’ opinions about the different types of people we are introduced to. The pirates who at first (and often in films) seem to be the bad guys, later join forces with Sheeta and Pazu to try and find the floating castle. The men who work for the government should be agents for good but they have sinister ulterior motives.
Laputa - Castle in the Sky is a very engaging fantasy adventure. There are moments of action, comedy, coming-of-age drama, suspense and thrills that keep you hooked. The film also boasts great visuals and impressive animation. Although it lasts two hours, it successfully fills its runtime and maintains a high level of interest and excitement so you won’t be checking the clock. It’s a really fun animated film that will amuse and entertain the whole family.