One more movie can be checked off in my Great Studio Ghibli Watch Through! (See, I have a name for it now. It’s kinda wordy, but it will work.) This time around, I watched Castle in the Sky. . .which was not quite what I expected it to be.
I actually think it might be about time for me to start reading up on these movies before I watch them. I go in about 97% blind and hope for the best. That’s not always the greatest strategy I’m finding— especially when deciding what movies to watch back to back. I’m going to be better about it though. I just need to find the balance between knowing what I’m getting into and not getting spoiled for the whole movie. Part of my new strategy will be watching the trailers first. Mind-blowing, right?
Now, onto the movie!
In Castle in the Sky, Pazu (our hero) sees a girl falling through the air above the mine where he works. He rescues her and learns that she’s being chased by pirates and a mysterious man in a suit. These would-be kidnappers all want the stone she wears around her neck. Pazu makes it his mission to protect her from them and discover the land of Laputa—the place where the stone originated.
It was strange watching Castle in the Sky right after Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind because I couldn’t help but compare Sheeta, the falling girl, to Nausicaä—which doesn’t work out so great for Sheeta. While Nausicaä was a tough and interesting princess, Sheeta’s a damsel-in-distress. She’s not the star of the film—that would be Pazu—but I was still disappointed that she spends most of her time running away from villains or being rescued. I did like that she finally stood up to the villain, Musko, at the end of the film. It was brave of her to risk her life (and get her pigtails shot off), but I wanted her to have a bit more gumption throughout the film. I’m sorry to say that Sheeta’s probably my least favorite Studio Ghibli heroine to date because she shows such a lack of agency in the film.
The other female character, Dola, was actually a very neat in comparison. She was an older pirate woman who ran an airship filled with her sons and crew. I couldn’t actually stand her for the first hour of the film, but somewhere around halfway through she started growing on me. I liked that she was harsh and loud and not someone to be messed with. At the beginning, I thought she was just going to be an object of fun, but she turned out to be much more than that.
As for the star of the show, Pazu, he was funny, brave, and got to have all kinds of adventures. I liked him well enough, but he was your standard farmboy-becomes-hero-type-character—which I truthfully find a little boring at this point. (I’ve read a lot of Fantasy novels and seen Star Wars.) Nothing made him stand out and he was easily overshadowed by the other, louder characters. (He was also voiced by James Van Der Beek which I found really distracting because of Dawson Leary feelings.) I wish I cared about him becoming a man by the end of the film, but I just wasn’t that invested in him.
My favorite thing about Castle in the Sky wasn’t the characters—thankfully. Instead, I found myself far more fascinated by the world-creation. Between the Steampunk version of Earth and Laputa in the sky, there was just a brilliant Scifi setting created for this film. I always find airships cool, but Castle in the Sky had floating cities and a nifty pirate airship going for it. I loved the detail and variety in all of the places Sheeta and Pazu visited. The far future look of Laputa was especially awesome. It would be so neat to see a world like that in a live-action film now, although it’s funny to think that when this was made (1986) such an intricate and beautiful, floating world would have been impossible to create in live-action. I think that makes what Castle in the Sky accomplishes even more impressive.
Overall, I enjoyed watching Castle in the Sky, but it probably won’t be a film I’ll ever watch again. After watching Nausicaä, I think my expectations were just too high for another Scifi Studio Ghibli film. I need to watch something totally different next time around.
Maybe, I’ll actually get to Pom Poko now.
My Current Studio Ghibli Movie Rankings
- Howl’s Moving Castle (Review)
- The Cat Returns (Review)
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Review)
- Castle in the Sky
- My Neighbor Totoro
Who’s your favorite farmboy-becomes-the-chosen-one character? Luke Skywalker? Frodo?