Amid somewhat murky plot workings, a moral theme emerges of compassion over corrupting power, of humble closeness to the earth. Miyazaki’s penchant for animist allusiveness is at a minimum in this comparatively accessible film, making Laputa one of the director’s easiest films to recommend, especially to newcomers.
As usual, Miyazaki festoons his work with odd, gratuitous flourishes of beauty. Pazu’s strange house, with its brickwork, roof-top trap door and tower with spiral treads, is a joy, as is his curious morning ritual of climbing to the roof to release the pigeons and trumpet the dawn. I get a kick out of the brick on the pulley that pulls Pazu’s door shut. Another brilliant touch: the crow’s nest on Dola’s ship that converts into a kite-like glider.
The crowning glory, though, is Laputa itself, a half-ruinous ghost city, with gardens still tended by decrepit robots, crumbling stonework, flooded shafts, and that one titanic tree that ages ago shattered the dome above with its branches, and whose roots reach into the deepest bowels of the city. If Miyazaki’s previous film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, ideally showcases the epic scope of the director’s imagination on an evolutionary scale, Laputa does the same on a civilizational scale. Laputa is one of the great places of the movies.
Castle in the Sky has been recently re-released on DVD by Disney, along with several of Miyazaki’s other movies. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for the Blu-ray release.