Possibly the most quintessential adventure from Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, Castle In The Sky (aka Laputa: Castle in the Sky) distils the artist's key obsessions into a story that takes Swift's Gulliver's Travels as its starting point and then spirals off in all kinds of directions that would leave the eighteenth century satirist reeling in (possibly delighted) shock. With its understated ecological message, asides on the importance of gainful employment, orphaned pre-pubescent hero and heroine and overarching belief in the liberating power of flight, this is the film that sums up the exhaustingly inventive beauty of Miyazaki's work.
Young orphan girl Sheeta (Keiko Yokozawa; or Anna Paquin in the US dub) discovers that she is the heir to the throne of an ancient airborne society. She hooks up with another orphan, a young member of a mining community named Pazu (Mayumi Tanaka; or James Van Der Beek), and together they try to elude the military forces pursuing Sheeta and make their way to the lost kingdom of Laputa.
While story and animation may not be quite as sophisticated as that found in Miyazaki's masterpiece Spirited Away, the seriousness of the underlying themes is often quite surprising. Yet what is really amazing is just how much imagination Miyazaki expends on filling in the details of this strange new world, sketching away at airships, rampaging robots and cloud-covered floating cities with a visionary flourish that's frequently astonishing. Like Leonardo Da Vinci sketches come to life, Miyazaki's flying contraptions are a sight to behold, rivalled only by the film's epic sweep and non-stop parade of action set-pieces.
In a nutshell: A sprawling airborne adventure, this is one of Hayao Miyazaki's most characteristic films with an action-packed storyline and a range of quite remarkable visual flourishes bolstering his customary thematic concerns.