Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Castle in the Sky

Film #281


A young boy and a girl with a magic crystal must race against pirates and foreign agents in a search for a legendary floating castle.

Year 1, Day 285

BEFORE: It’s a bit past the original start date but it is time for the Hayao Miyazaki portion of the movie marathon. Miyazaki has many fans and is renowned as one of the best animators producing a bunch of Japanese films which Disney distributes here in America. Looking at his list of films, most of which are on my list here (I’ll be going in chronological order) some strike me as very surprising. Not only are the films quite long compared to other animated films (most are 2+ hours), but there’s also a PG-13 film in the mix as well.

All this is to say that I’m quite interested with what’s in store for this first film, Castle in the Sky, Miyazaki’s first film from 1986.

AFTER: Miyazaki certainly has a style both in terms of visuals and story elements. While normally I would wait to reserve judgement on saying whether or not a director has a distinct style (because it’s reliant on seeing more than one example of their work), I think I can safely make that assumption here. This is not just a good thing for Castle in the Sky, but is also a good sign for things to come. Let me explain.

So far, pretty much the only thing I’ve said about this film is style. Style this, style that. But that’s not a good reason why the film is good. For that a description is necessary. Visually, I would describe this as flat and mute, yet expressive and detailed. Sounds a bit contradictory but the bottom line is that this look is effective at telling the story. It’s a fantasy story (it includes a floating castle in the sky with magical crystals) but also based in realism (it’s primarily set on Earth). Keep in mind though, while the American release is distributed by Disney, don’t think of it as a typical Disney film. The story is quite adult (even with a PG rating) and has a lot of death and destruction. Overall it’s well developed and shows great growth in the characters combined with a very interesting premise (read: that floating castle thing).

However, Castle in the Sky has a handful of not-so-stellar portions, mostly falling on the characters. The main people, like Sheeta (Anna Paquin) and Pazu (James Van Der Beek), are strong and integrate into the film well, but the supporting characters weren’t as great. For example, some of the pirates and the military men (not all, but most) who have fairly big roles, for supporting characters, don’t demand the level of attention and respect they should.

There’s still much to like about Castle in the Sky with it opening up a new area of animation for me. Miyazaki’s combination of visuals and stories made for a new style of film that I’d never seen before. It’s just the right amount of interest, development/growth, and excitement. Castle in the Sky will draw you in with it’s story and keep you with the look. Referencing back to my intro where all I talked about was style, is where things get really interesting. Assuming this quality is consistent throughout all of Miyazaki’s work, which I have every reason to believe, the upcoming films this week should deliver on, and hopefully expand, what was started in Castle in the Sky. Bottom line: definitely look into these films and watch a few. So far, I’ve seen only good things.

RATING: 4 out of 5