Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

Rating: A+

Dir: Hayao Miyazaki
Star: (voice) Mayumi Tanaka, Keiko Yokozawa, Minori Terada, Kotoe Hatsui

This is not quite a full review, as the DVD player, literally, ate the disc. I had to watch this in two halves, a week apart, but when I went back, the disc was missing. We have a 300-disc jukebox and I suspect that the disc fell off the carousel and is somewhere inside the machine – without major surgery, it’s not going to surface anytime soon. Still, I’ve seen this one often enough, I feel that will not really hamper things. Miyazaki is a god among animators, quite possibly the best of all time, and this is his greatest work, a sweeping epic which creates an entire world adjacent to our own.

In it, mankind is just getting into the air, but legends of a lost, flying island live on in the dreams of Pazu, a young boy, the memories and family stories of Sheeta, a young girl – and the ambitions of Colonel Muska, a soldier intent on claiming the technomagical powers it contains, for his own ends. Normally, films with children as the central characters are difficult for me to watch; they either seem overly-precocious or irritatingly simplistic. But Miyazaki has such a good understanding of what it’s like to be young, and have dreams, that it resonates perfectly. But he also has an equally-fine grasp of all the other aspects, not just of animation, but film-making as a whole.

Witness the amazing action scene where a robot soldier, fallen from Laputa, returns to life to defend Sheeta; it’s a set-piece that would drive Michael Bay to tears of jealous admiration. Things escalate from there to a climax inside the flying island where everything is lost, and yet, everything is gained at the same time. It’s sublime stuff, that engages the viewer on just about every level from intellectual to spiritual. Dammit, I’m going to go get my screwdriver and dismantle that frickin’ DVD carousel. I want my Miyazaki back.

[See also an article on The Feature Films of Hayao Miyazaki, from Trash City #14/15]