Laputa: Castle In The Sky – A young girl with a mysterious past finds herself being pursued by all manner of people, from shadowy government agents, the army, and air pirates. But when she falls from the sky only to float into the arms of an astonished miner’s son they both soon realise that she has more to do with the mythical flying castle of Laputa than she realises. With so many factions battling to get to Laputa, will the island be the harbinger of wonder, or the beginning of unimaginable destruction?

Laputa: Castle In The Sky (1986) – Director: Hayao Miyazaki

laputa: castle in the sky suitable for children

Rating: PG

Running Length: 125 mins

Starring (English Dub): Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Mark Hamill

Genre: Animated, Science-Fiction

‘LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY’ REVIEW

Films by the Japanese animation powerhouse, Studio Ghibli, come in many shapes and sizes. There are ‘down the rabbit hole’ tales of wonder (‘Spirited Away’), stylised re-telling of Japanese folklore (‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’), heart warming fun tales for young children (‘My Neighbour Totoro’), whimsical tales of lands dominated by cats (‘The Cat Returns‘) and mature fantastical battles (‘Princess Mononoke’). But what makes ‘Laputa: Castle In The Sky’ stand out is that it lands smack bang in the action / adventure category designed to tick virtually every box you could want from a kids film.

The core of the movie is the relationship between Sheeta and Pazu. Although this is the typical ‘in danger’ and ‘protector’ tropes respectively, the connection between them is sweet and honest (and never romantic) which acts as the central dynamic around which spins a whole host of delightful others. Whether it be stereotypically gung-ho army types, shady ‘men in black’ secret agents, or larger than life burly sky pirates led by a cackling and battle tough matriarch – this movie has character by the bucket load.

The central plot is that each and every character is in pursuit of the mythical flying island, Laputa. A steampunk aesthetic infuses the movie with delightfully quaint flying machines leading all the way up to the ancient but devastating powerful Laputa itself. And among all this is the ying and yang of high action excitement versus charming character fuelled down time. You can enjoy the movie equally whether through the controlled movements of centuries old giant robots are wreaking havoc, or if a bunch of boyishly excitable pirates are squabbling over chores. With ‘Laputa: Castle In The Sky’ Studio Ghibli released their first movie proper (after the success of truly beautiful ‘Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind’) and established themselves as a force to be reckoned with to delight adults and children alike.

CONTENT – IS ‘LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

An airship is attacked by air pirates. There are lots of firing guns and shouting during this scene. No-one is visibly shot and there is no blood. One character, who it is clear is being held against their will, uses a distraction to hit another character over the back of the head with a bottle. We don’t see the impact. One character tries to escape by climbing out of the airship only to slip and plummet. Another, unconcerned by the fact someone has fallen from a great height, simply shouts in irritation, “there goes my crystal!” When we return to the pirates we get more context as to their personalities where it is clear that there is a strong matriarch leader. The pirates may be large muscle-men but they all refer to her as ‘mom’ and act more like excitable children, so later appearances from the pirates are more comical than threatening.

One character steps off a roof believing they will be safe. However, they drop hard and smash through some roofing to end up in a heap in the room below. They wince in pain. This behaviour could be imitable considering the character isn’t seriously hurt.

When the pirates face off against a town of miners there is a moment where both are threatening the other. They flex muscles and make aggressive noises and gestures. However this is a comical moment and although things do descend into violence it isn’t a scene that encourages it. There are a lot of explosions shortly after though!

Pazu and Sheeta find themselves underground and have a conversation about both of them being orphans. They talk sadly about the death of their parents. The moment is short but may upset children who are emotive or have gone through something similar.

One character is knocked unconscious due to a violent blow to the head from behind.

A large robot activates and proceeds to destroy much of its surroundings. It fires a laser beam from its eye which then causes anything it touches to bulge and explode. After a short while everything is consumed in fire. The robot has damaged limbs and struggles to move around. It slowly but purposefully scrabbles around and soldiers flee from it in fear. It has no expression but is completely intent on getting to one particular character. This character is frightened at first and tries to flee, although it becomes clear that the robot has no intention of harming them. In fact, the robot seems quite sympathetic. However, the army counter attacks and as soon as one character begins to realise the robot means no harm it is struck hard by tank fire, struggles, and ‘dies’. The character then sobs on the arm of another. This whole section is packed full of exciting action with lots of explosions and also has high emotional moments, and so it may be too much for some children sensitive to such things, especially as they happen all at once.

One character is piloting a flying machine but they are hit in the face with a brick. It smashes one of their goggle glasses and knocks them out so that the machine veers upwards before stalling and plummeting. There is another character in the machine that desperately tries to take control. The pilot regains consciousness at the last second and pulls them up safely.

The previously ‘scary’ pirates are very happy when a female character joins them. They are all sweet and excited, and although it is mildly sexist that they are all immediately happy that they won’t have to do the chores or cook any more (therefore assuming that she will do it all!) they are also shown to be very respectful and a little intimidated by her. The boss pirate is a woman who initially resists letting the other female character join by exclaiming, “you’re a girl!” to which she replies, “so are you!”. They are then shown to respect each other.

An air attack causes an explosion in the pirate airship which bursts into flames. It isn’t clear for 10 – 15 minutes what has happened to them which could be upsetting for children.

When Pazu and Sheeta fly into a large storm there is a short sequence of strobe-like lighting flashes against a pitch black background. Each lightning flash illuminates their faces for a short period and they are gritting their teeth in the strain. This is a scary and intense scene but quickly over and followed by a long section of calm.

One character threatens others by saying, “hang them from the yardarm,” and, “I’ve got a different necklace for you.” (implying a noose). Shortly after a shot is fired and grazes the face of a character. They wince in pain but otherwise are unharmed.

Several characters are thrown to their apparent deaths. Two ‘men in black’ style characters are dislodged from a wall and plummet, not to be seen again. Many other characters are gathered in a room before another character intentionally makes the floor fall away and they all drop out of shot – again they aren’t seen again and so presumably drop to their deaths. This is shown from a relative distance and the men yell in fear. The moment is over quickly.

A female character is punched. She flees and is pursued by a man who slowly gets angrier. She gets help from a friend and there is a tense ‘cat and mouse’ sequence as they all chase around dark corridors.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT – IS ‘LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY’ FOR KIDS?

‘Laputa: Castle In The Sky’ is a great example of an all-round entertaining action / adventure movie that really ticks all the boxes. It’s funny, scary, exciting, serene, full of character and full of spectacle. It never slows the pace too much and it never keeps up the action to the point of lessening the impact. An all together superb film bound to be enjoyed by all ages. However, due to some scary moments and intense action scenes, we would recommend this movie for ages 6 and up.

  • Violence: 3/5 – (some comical fighting, bullets fired, minor injury detail, implied deaths)
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (Sheeta is in constant serious danger and Pazu is often fighting to help her)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (the ‘robot’ attack sequence could be scary)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (general verbal threats, talk of being orphaned)
  • Other Notes: Contains themes of destiny, piracy, matriarchs, doomsday devices, dictatorships, pacifism, naturalism, being part of a team, ancient civilisations, power-hungry madness, and protective love.

Words by Michael Record

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