Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Dir: Hayao Miyazaki 1986
The first official Ghibli film. It is usually recognized as one of their stronger works. At over 2 hours it is a little bloated, you may find yourself wishing they’d get to the titular castle in the sky a bit sooner. The attempts at humour translate a little awkwardly as well with some strange bits of slapstick.
It also feels the age it’s being aimed at feels a little more awkward. Tonally it can feel very much like a children’s film, and at other times seem to be well above the heads of a younger audience. Other films by Ghibli have managed to strike a better balance. That said it does create a vibrant, exciting and charming world, but if there’s an overarching theme and moral to the story it’s not expressed very clearly. But I’m probably being harder on it than it deserves. It’s an important one to see in the Ghibli collection.
Tales from Earthsea
Dir: Gorō Miyazaki 2006
A rare case of a Ghibli film that disappointed me. Slightly odd, unsatisfying structure that doesn’t have the usual charm of other Ghibli work. It’s much more black and white in its depiction of Good and Evil. Lots of their works have been adapted from Manga series, but this is a rare case where it feels as if there’s an established world that hasn’t been explored properly. The film seems obliged to make some nods to the series but doesn’t really focus on them. My research tells me it focused on a story from the middle of the series, which would account for why it feels a bit disjointed. Another issue is a very strange decision was made in English dubbing. I vary in whether I choose to watch these films in English or Japanese, but this is one where despite some good acting. The slightly transgender main character has a creepy male voice where in the Japanese dub it has a seductive female voice. Very odd decision.