In Laputa: Castle in the Sky, a pair of children (Keiko Yokozawa and Mayumi Tanaka) are being chased for their magic amulet that holds the key to a floating fortress. Imagine Pixar’s Up, but 20 years earlier and 20 times as good.
When it comes to fantasy films, no country can hold a candle to Japan. Except maybe New Zealand. Made in 1986, this is the first movie produced by Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli.
Just as one expects from visionary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, every frame is awash with colour and imagination. There are sky pirates, giant robots and flying islands based on Gulliver’s Travels (where Laputa gets its name) and clearly influencing the video for Feel Good Inc. by virtual pop band Gorillaz. It could almost be the same island.
In the case of the mining town, Miyazaki was inspired by witnessing the miners’ strike in Wales. This is a great mining movie to rank alongside Pride and A View to a Kill. Plus, it features the immortal line: “I grow tired of your stupid face.” That alone is worth the price of admission.
Admittedly, the film could stand to lose 20 minutes and these kids aren’t the most interesting protagonists. But although it may lack Spirited Away‘s dark undercurrent and striking variety of creatures, it shares its theme of flight, hero children and menacing matriarchs.
The pirate Dola (Kotoe Hatsui) and her sons could easily share DNA with Mom and her imbecilic offspring from Futurama, while the robot might be a distant relative of Bender. There’s a chilling thought.
With its enchanting music and wondrous visuals, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a fantastic flight of escapism for those of us longing to fly away to a floating castle and leave this sorry place behind.