Laputa: Castle in the Sky (UK - BD RB)
Marcus goes in search of a flying island with a girl who just fell out of the sky...
Escaping from a skyship, Sheeta (Anna Paquin) is on the run from the sky pirates and after meeting Pazu (James Van Der Beek) the pair struggle to stay ahead of their pursuers and begin to learn the secrets about Sheeta’s mysterious necklace and the mysteries of Laptua the castle in the sky.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky is one of those animated titles that looks and feels exactly like the sort of stuff I picture in my head whenever I think about classic anime. The approach to characters and adventure this movie has is precisely what makes Miyazaki’s work so timeless and his approach to the world of Laputa is Miyazaki fully unleashed.
Not only is the world fully established very early on, what with its flying contraptions and the steam driven mining town, but the magical element and the legend of Laputa the flying island feels perfectly rounded and offers up the kind of adventure that we don’t really see on our screens anymore. I suppose the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are still waving the flag for good ol’ adventure tales but Castle in the Sky offers up the kind of adventure I want to revisit (sorry Pirates sequels, but you killed that desire), which seems to be a rarity on our screens nowadays.
The action sequences are also top notch. The stuff on the rail tracks, with the pirates chasing down the small train and the tracks getting destroyed behind them is an absolute thrill ride. The animation sells every energetic beat, the pacing is absolutely perfect and the pure sense of fun with every chaotic turn is yet another thing Studio Ghibli does better than most.
On a personal note, I’ve always got a little disconnected from Laputa around about the time Colonel Muska (voiced by a very Joker-esq sounding Mark Hamill) turns up. The journey to find Laputa feels a little over long for me but watching the movie again I got the same reconnection as soon as Sheeta and Pazu arrive at their destination and everything finds its feet again as we head into the last half an hour and the sense of wonder and grand adventure returns.
This is certainly the best I’ve ever seen Laputa look and despite slightly showing its age animation wise the presentation here is almost perfect. The image is fantastically clean and colours have never looked so bold. Reds are especially vibrant, with Sheeta’s headband always popping off the screen and the colours in the daytime chase scenes are all particularly impressive. Of course the turquoise glow of Sheeta’s necklace was also a real highlight and in my experience of viewing the movie over the years, it’s never looked that bright and alive.
There’s an ever so slight wobble to the image that I think is inbuilt into the cell animation, but there were only a small number of times it was really noticeable without purposely looking for it. It’s not enough to distract from rest of the fantastic presentation and when the movie reaches the castle in the sky in the finale the presentation of the exquisite artistry on show here really does look fantastic. The Miyazaki visuals really come to life and the twenty five year old animation looks like it has a whole new life in HD.
The fairly confined track can still feel quite energetic in places. The mix of score, dialogue and sound effects feels effectively layered and lively and despite not playing in a wider field the action sequences in Laputa can still feel pretty dynamic. A stronger level of bass is really the only thing missing here. Some of the explosions can sometimes feel a little too weak without a separate bass element but really that’s about it.
The best part of the track for me has to be the score and Joe Hisaishi’s work here is absolute class and really is the emotional core of Laputa. The English track presents it very well but on a side note, I checked out the original Japanese track from time to time while watching and I have to say it sounded much stronger and noticeable better.
The storyboards are presented picture-in-picture and every one of them is great. The ‘Promotional Video’ (12:38 SD) is a sort of original making of if not a brief introduction to the film and seeing a younger Miyzaki really made me realise just how old Laputa is now.
‘Behind the Microphone’ (04:09 SD) is the Disney voice work video with the redub done for the 2003 US re-release.
‘Behind the Studio’ is split into four sections, ‘The World of Laputa’ (02:18 SD) which has Miyazaki telling us his inspiration for the movie (and its English/Welsh roots), ‘Creating Castle in the Sky’ (03:40 SD) expands on Miyzaki’s childhood fascination with flying, ‘Character Sketches’ (02:39 SD) has Miyazaki talk us through the characters and shows off some original designs and finally ‘Producers Perspective: Meeting Miyazaki’ (03:14 SD) has Toshio Suzuki telling us the story of when he first met Miyzaki. Incidentally these featurettes show the movie in uncleaned standard definition and it all makes the new HD presentation looks even better.
The ‘Textless Opening and Ending Credits’ (04:45 HD) has those old worldly book illustrations from the film presented without text all over them. Good stuff, especially with the movie's themes playing over the top.
The ‘Original Japanese trailers’ (04:05) are so much fun in their oddness and the Studio Ghibli trailers comprise of Nausicaa, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, Earthsea, My Neighbours the Yamadas and Spirited Away.
Lastly there's a DVD copy included with the release.
Without taking anything away from the fantastic movie itself, I have to admit Laputa: Castle in the Sky isn’t a personal favourite of mine in the Ghibli movie line up (mainly due to its slightly over long runtime I think) but it is certainly one Ghibli movie that shows just how good the studio can be. The sense of adventure is up there with the best and as always, Miyazaki’s characters are just great to be around (especially the cool Laputa robots). As for the animation, nobody does it better and some of the location artwork here is simply stunning and has to be considering as some of Ghibli’s best.
The transfer here is a delight and makes Laputa look brand new, so in that regard the HD upgrade is a must for fans. The audio is also good but could have done with a bit more bass in places. As for the extras, there’s some good stuff here but not a lot that hasn’t been available elsewhere. Still this is another great Ghibli release and what with this and recently reviewing My Neighbours the Yamadas I am itching for stuff like Spirited Away, Monoke, The Cat Returns and even more so My Neighbour Totoro to arrive on Blu-ray soon!
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 9th May 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Japanese
Extras: Storyboards (PiP), Promotional Video, Behind the Microphone, Behind the Studio, Textless Opening and End credits, TV Spots, Original Japanese Theatrical Trailers , Studio Ghibli Collection Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: James Van Der Beek, Anna Paquin, Mark Hamill
Genre: Adventure, Animation, Drama, Family and Fantasy
Length: 124 minutes
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