Laputa: Castle in the Sky Blu-ray Review
|REVIEWS - BLU-RAY REVIEWS|
Beautiful cinema is given the visual makeover it deserves...
Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki has made enough of an impact over the past few decades that you needn’t be a film connoisseur to spot a Studio Ghibli movie. Studio Ghibli has slowly made its way into the public eye with its unique storytelling and style, and has even helped bridge the gap between Eastern and Western audiences. Spirited Away (2001) was incredibly successful over here, giving way for further release opportunities such as the recent Blu-ray edition of Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
First released in 1986, Laputa: Castle in the Sky has all the hallmarks of a great Studio Ghibli production. Two young heroes, Pazu and Sheeta, childlike in their innocence and belief in love over all other things, make their way across stunning landscapes to overcome various evils, both magical and political, on a journey to find the answer to a burning question: where is Laputa?
What is so phenomenal about Studio Ghibli is that Miyazaki presents all his stories with such dedicated enthusiasm and playfulness that no matter what your age, you cannot help but get caught up in the captivating fantasy of it all. What powers this film in particular is the overwhelming love for nature, and a wariness of man’s power to use technology for both good and bad purposes. Miyazaki’s passion for balancing innocent humour with perilous threat - and creating animated stories that have meaning - truly shows through in Laputa, making it (along with most Studio Ghibli productions) a great film for parents to watch with children. Every Studio Ghibli film has a central message to the story, and Laputa is no exception with its themes of science and technology, contrasted with nature and love.
As far as story goes, Laputa is slightly generic when it comes to Ghibli; I believe Miyazaki’s golden years have been more recent as he has crafted his style over time, but his early work such as Laputa is still worth watching for its wondrous stories and frankly breath-taking artwork. Miyazaki has a rare talent for making everything in his world appear beautiful and, by involving his intricate artistic detail within his work, can make even an industrial environment of muddy old machines pleasing to the eye.
There is an irresistible atmosphere of exploration through the whole film as Miyazaki’s infectious enthusiasm bleeds through the carefully crafted artwork on screen. As long as you can ignore the ever-present effect of happy coincidence, and enjoy the film for the fantasy that it is, you won’t be disappointed. Admittedly, there are points at which the film loses some of its momentum, but being one of Miyazaki’s early films, that was always going to be the case.
As for Blu-ray, it really is the perfect format for an older animated film like Laputa, as the image has been improved immensely with crisp visuals and mind-blowing colours. The film could easily be a new release rather than a 25 year-old re-release and because Miyazaki is famous for his stunning backgrounds, Blu-ray has helped to bring that closer to the limelight. Some of the best Blu-rays to date have been animations, and watching Laputa makes it easy to see why.
Overall, Laputa: Castle in the Sky is a visually stimulating and beautiful film, made much more so by the quality of Blu-ray. In terms of plot, it can occasionally lose focus and spend too much time in one place, but ultimately it is an enjoyable and entertaining film with a good moral message that pales ever so slightly in comparison to more recent Studio Ghibli creations. In terms of picture and sound, Blu-ray edition is absolutely the way to go with this film, and has allowed me to see Miyazaki’s work in a completely new light. The extras are informative and often interesting; or surprisingly comical. It is a shame you don’t get more extras considering the capacity of a Blu-ray disc, but what is there is of high quality.
In Laputa, Studio Ghibli has produced a consistent quality of film, meaning that, if you love one of them, you will most likely love them all (with varying levels of preference). I wouldn’t recommend this being your first viewing of a Studio Ghibli film (incidentally I would recommend Spirited Away (2001) or Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)), but for an ongoing fan of Studio Ghibli’s work, this Blu-ray would be a welcome addition to any collection.
As with most Studio Ghibli DVD's, this comes with the option of watching the film in plain English, or in Japanese with English subtitles. I often enjoy the latter option, but with the chance to hear Mark Hamill voicing the main villain of the film, I chose to watch it in English (a good choice considering the talent on the cast). Furthermore, the option to watch the entire film with each frame’s original storyboard counterpart appearing in the bottom right hand corner would is a welcome addition, especially for fans interested in how Miyazaki’s original sketches are translated to screen.
In addition to these visual and audio options, there are several recent interviews with Miyazaki and the producer (all in beautiful high definition), along with keen insight into the making of Laputa, and why certain choices were made by Miyazaki with regard to the themes and characters of the film. Miyazaki speaks eloquently on Modernism and how he makes the films he loves. While a joy to fans, this is a must watch for anyone interested in learning more about film creation and Miyazaki’s process.
Finally, there are a number of original, Japanese trailers for the film; which, while encapsulating, serve little purpose apart from providing a contrast to standard definition. As well as this, Studio Ghibli has cleverly included a number of trailers for their other productions - both old and recent - to appeal to those who’ve not seen them before.
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