26 April 2013

#2LR Too Late Reviews - Castle in the Sky

I love our local (now, Chicagoland) library.  Not that our previous Wisconsin library was bad, but there's just so much more selection here.  On our first trip there, we borrowed a copy of one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies,Castle in the Sky.  I realized as I went through some of my previous articles that I hadn't written a review of this movie, so I made sure to watch the movie closely so that I could put up a Too Late Review and a few comments.

Not that this really needs Spoiler Space, but here's the warning nonetheless.

This is the story of Sheeta and Pazu.  Sheeta is the long-lost princess of a magical floating city in the sky, Laputa.  In the very first scene of the movie, Sheeta is being held on a airship.  Suddenly, air pirates led by the matronly Dola arrive to attack the ship.  She tries to hide outside the airship, but accidentally lets go.  After a couple seconds, the necklace that she took from the guy inside the ship glows, and she floats to the ground unharmed.

At this point, we meet Pazu.  He's an eager sort who wants nothing more to help... he goes to help Sheeta while on an errand to help his boss.  He manages to catch Sheeta before harm comes to her, and after his shift is done he takes her back home for her to continue to rest.

In the morning, he plays the trumpet as the day starts.  I mention this because the soundtrack rocks, and there'll be more at the bottom about this.  The pirates have figured out where Sheeta landed, and the army has too.  In a rather wild piece, Pazu and Sheeta run and run and run from everyone and both end up falling... so that Pazu can experience the power of Sheeta's amulet.

More plot is revealed in the mineshaft through Pazu's hermit uncle.  When they escape, they're instantly corralled by the army as the pirates look on in fright.  Pazu and Sheeta are imprisoned in a fort, but Sheeta arranges for Pazu's release.  Pazu goes back home dejectedly... and meets the pirates.

At this point, the pirates now are on the side of "good", or at least have a similar goal to Pazu as both want to find the Floating City, Laputa.  While in the fort, Sheeta uses the power of the amulet to accidentally wake up a robot.  The robot looks frightening, even scaring my seven-year-old son, but as the sequence goes on you can find the heart contained in the metal shell... as the movie shows that this robot has more feelings, paradoxically, than the entire army who is more than happy to shoot at it and doesn't care if Sheeta gets hurt.

Sheeta drops her amulet but is saved by the team of Dola and Pazu.  The three of them join up with the rest of the pirates to follow the army to the city of Laputa.  Sheeta and Pazu manage to get there first, and the stillness of the city is broken by robots and the occasional small scurrying animal... this structure is a city in ruin, choked and overrun with plants and animals, and very much looks the part.

The army and the pirates arrive.  Sheeta is taken while Pazu escapes to try to figure out a way to save her.  The leader of the army then backstabs the rest of the army, as we find out that all he wanted was to control the flying city and its amazing contraptions.  Pazu, through his determination, reaches Sheeta.  Sheeta, for her part, manages to free herself and obtain the pendant back, and through the power of the pendant manages to self-destruct the city.  The tree in the middle of the city saves them, as they manage to entangle themselves in the roots and float away.  We also see the pirates at the end, who managed to still walk away with a sizable amount of booty.

Spoiler space completed.

I absolutely love Ghibli characters.  Dola is definitely one of my favorite characters in this movie... she takes absolute pleasure in what she does and brings that joy into every scene.  Cloris Leachman provided the voice, and seemed to have such enjoyment through the role, matched by the animation, that it's hard to dislike her after the pirates' conversion.  Pazu and Sheeta as the lead characters are also very effective and interesting; Pazu's determination seems to see him through every single challenge, and Sheeta is no shrinking flower.  She's willing to get her hands dirty, and while she does end up getting led by Pazu a couple times, she's still willing to carry the action herself, sacrificing herself more than once for the greater good as well.  The robot from the fort gets another mention here, as hopefully the audience learns like Sheeta does that even if the shell looks frightening, it does not automatically mean that the spirit on the inside is frightening too.

The last note here is that I love the soundtrack for this movie.  The theme, as stated by Pazu (in trumpet form!) is a stately cadence, almost as if you can hear the march of time itself as the sun comes up and the people wake up.  There's the promise of a new day, and not knowing where the day may take you.  There are many other moments where the soundtrack is good, but I really thought that it shined brightly when Sheeta and Pazu landed on Laputa; both the uncertainty when they were first discovering the structure and the wonder when they realized what it was and learned of its wonders.

I absolutely recommend this movie, I would give it a 3.9 on my 4.0 scale, with the one-tenth off purely due to the length.  It is a bit longer movie, and if your attention does wander a bit it will do so towards the end.  However, it is a terrific movie, one that will be added to the collection when the opportunity arises.

No comments: