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Castle in the Sky
DVD + Blu-ray
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Castle in the Sky is a timeless story of courage and friendship, with stunning animation from acclaimed Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki.
This high-flying adventure begins when Pazu, an engineers apprentice, spies a young girl, Sheeta, floating down from the sky, held aloft by a glowing pendant. Both Sheeta and Pazu are searching for the legendary floating castle, Laputa, and they vow to travel there together to unravel the mystery of the luminous crystal. But their quest wont be easy, as soon they are being pursued by greedy air pirates, the military, and secret government agents, who all seek the power Sheeta alone can control. Featuring the voices of Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, and Mark Hamill.
• Feature-Length Storyboards
• Original Theatrical Trailers
• Promotional Video
• Behind the Microphone
• Scoring Miyazaki
• Producer's Perspective: Meeting Miyazaki
• Creating Castle in the Sky
• Textless Opening and End Credits
• Character Sketches
• Additional English Mix of Film
• 12-pg Booklet w/ Statements from Producers and Director
Top customer reviews
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Also disclaimer: This review contains complaints galore so if you're not in the mood, it's best you pass this one by.
I love Studio Ghibli movies. There's a magical element of adventure and heart that are hard to find elsewhere. And Laputa is by far my favorite movie of all Ghibli movies I've seen (seen most of them). I think the English release unfortunately killed it. Note: The 2003 and the newer 2010 DVD versions both point to the same reviews. This review is based on the 2003 Disney American DVD release. It appears that the 2010 version reverts back to the original Japanese soundtrack, extra filler dialogue not present in the Japanese version have been removed. That said, the main points in the review - the choice of voice actors and change in dialogue - still apply. Also, below the title on the Amazon page, you'll see the list of actors as: Barbara Goodson (Actor), James Van Der Beek (Actor) - this is completely confusing as Barbara Goodson is not in the Disney version (read about that in the updated section of this review at the end). I wish Amazon wouldn't blindly combine different versions of this movie onto one page with shared reviews...
I won't focus on the story since many others have done so (it's amazing) but more on the audio, the dub and the translation. First is the dub. It's atrocious. It's horrid. It's painfully subpar. And I cannot help but be overwhelmed with utter frustration that I must accept this as the final product. It's been released. It's done. There's not a do-over. We're unfortunately stuck with this.
I'm a native Japanese speaker so I can tell how well things get translated... in this case, the dub's translation in itself is acceptable for the most part but there are many parts of the movie where the dialog has changed altogether (more on that later). There are also plenty of extra filler dialog added for reasons I can't quite figure out. Example - when Dola and her sons are driving away from Pazu's townfolks after the fight involving Pazu's boss, Dola comments to the sons "I don't think they like you boys much!" This is harmless, but nonetheless, added in. One of Miyazaki's terms for releasing his movies abroad was that there would be no altercation to the movie... they seemed to have focused solely on preserving the video portion and completely slipped on the audio. There are scenes where the translation is changed altogether. When Pazu and Sheeta run and aboard the coal locomotive, the operator asks in English with his Micky Mouse voice (awful), "heeeey Pazu, who's your friend there?" In the original version, the train operator instead teases Pazu in his appropriately raspy, weathered voice, "Pazu, slacking off from work and out on a date?" to which Pazu urgently responds "No! We're being chased by pirates!"
The real downfall is the choice of actors! James Van Der Beek is just not Pazu. The original Pazu has a really strong, brave voice (albeit a kid's voice) - a very admirable performance by the female voice actress, Mayumi Tanaka. Van Der Beek performance instead leaves us with a soft, whimpy, clumsy voice which sounds like Pazu just fumbles his way throughout the entire movie and this is really the total opposite of the character Pazu is supposed to be. I also agree with many others that Van Der Beek sounds too old as Pazu. Bottom line, it's a miscast. Anna Paquin IMO might have been acceptable but the more I listened to her, the more I started getting annoyed with Paquin's performance and the inaccuracy to portray Sheeta's character correctly. There were just too many grunts (i.e., trying to get on the coal locomotive) that only made the Sheeta character appear weak and, well, for lack of a better word, too "girly". When Sheeta first meets Pazu, she explains how she lost her parents and had to take care of herself... Sheeta is a *strong* girl and her behavior and actions show this throughout the movie - an example is when she agrees to be detained by Muska in exchange for Pazu's freedom. And then there are numerous occasions with the emotional raising of voice that made Sheeta appear bratty, which is far from her character. I think Disney totally missed these points with their interpretation of the two main characters. It seems to me that Disney looked at the two main characters as just little kids. To Miyazaki, they are brave and courageous youngsters that defy fear, endure pain, and display honorable characteristics well beyond their years of being just kids. Back to the English language Sheeta - I completely wrote her off after the tower scene where Pazu attempts to rescue Sheeta. As the loyal robot falls to its death with its arm reaching out to Sheeta, Sheeta desperately grabs its fintertips, then turns around and in Japanese screams out to Pazu with all her soul, "PAH-ZOOOO!!!!!", yet in the same scene, Anna Paquin bleeps out to Pazu in this weak, dead voice, "he-lp". This to me was criminal. It completely destroyed the intensity and the mood of the scene. Switch back and forth from English to Japanese and you'll see what I mean.
Towards the climax, it gets worse. Muska's chasing Sheeta into the throne room and Sheeta falls pretending to be shot. Muska comments: "How appropriate we end up in the throne room. Now get over here!" Sheeta gets up and immediately responds in an emotionless tone of voice that's so disjointed from where Muska left off... she's (Paquin's) so emotionless and lifeless, it sounds as though she's staring at a wall while reciting the line. In the original, Sheeta gets up and challenges Muska in a stern and convicting voice, "You call this a throne room?! This is a grave. Yours and mine..."
And in what are probably Sheeta's most important lines in the movie, the dialog has changed. Sheeta quotes a song in the Valley of Gondoa to explain to Muska that now she understands why Laputa was destroyed in the first place. 'We need roots in the Earth; Let's live with the wind; With seeds, let's pass the winter; With the birds, let's sing of spring.' The message here is that humans weren't meant to exist as some select god-like royalties in the clouds. After quoting the song Sheeta proclaims in the English version: "No matter how many weapons you have, no matter how great your technology might be, the world cannot live without love."
Here's the original: "No matter how many terrifying weapons you have or how many poor robots you control, [we/humans] cannot live separated from the ground!" ("ground" as in earth, what is natural) Now where does the English translation's theme about not being able to live without love fit in?! Not only does it make any sense, it's just plain cheesy. Just baffling why they might change this.
Since the dub is so bad, I'd like to just suggest viewers read the sub. However the quality of subtitles has much to be desired. Staccato translations with truncated sentences galore...the details of the original dialog is easy to get lost.
It's really too bad because I thought the dub for Spirited Away was truly excellent. I just wish Disney gave it as much attention to Laputa in that regard.
Finally, I do not like the re-recorded sountrack. It's way too overpowering and for those that appreciate the original version, it's a distraction. Speaking of distraction, call it Hollywood-izing, there are parts of the movie where music has been added in whereas in the Japanese original remains music-less. Start from the very beginning of the movie where you see Muska's airship. The original version has no music. The added music is just too much. Pazu's daily trumpet solo has been replaced by a guitar added duet... it's a solo! Sometimes less is more and in this case, they shouldn't have added the extra music. And as another reviewer pointed out, the music is loud yet the sound effects seems muffled. The gunshots and explosions are lacking the intensity and fidelity. I could only guess that it was Disney's attempt to de-violence the movie since kids are after all the target audience??
Sorry I'm doing nothing but complaining... but because I regard the original Japanese release to be near perfection and I love this movie, I just can't help but to cringe, for all the reasons stated above, when I see the Disney version released for the American audience. Even though I commented that the subs are not great, I still think as long as you're watching this spectacular movie, your best bet is to watch it with the original Japanese soundtrack with subtitles (there are two Eng subs, English 1 is dubtitles, pick English 2).
My main concern with this the English release is that what's lost (or altered) in translation might end up taking too much away from the movie. I'd give it 1 star for the American release; the original movie in itself is undoubtedly 5 stars. I settled for 3.
[Update 11/2012]: I recently came across another English-language dub which apparently turned out to be the "JAL" dub, created before the Disney version, released for viewing during int'l flights back in the day. All the voice actors are different than Disney's. Pazu is played by Barbara Goodson, who sounds much more like Mayumi Tanaka, with a little bit of the pre-teen rasp in the throat. Not perfect but better than the Disney Pazu. I found Sheeta to be better and thankfully, her "love" line in the Disney version is not there; instead she proclaims "... All men must depend on Mother Earth!"... it's okay, but absolutely better than "The world cannot live without love!"
I also liked the JAL Muska better b/c his voice was more subdued, monotone, and stoic, which is like the Japanese-version Muska. Mark Hamill has certainly established himself has a veteran actor in many anime and video games but for Laputa, I thought he had a tendency to overact and raise his voice and tone where the Japanese Muska is quite controlled and monotone in a cold, calculating way. Neither are perfect so I'm not going to worry too much about this one.
If watching in English language, check out the JAL version and see which one you prefer.
Supposedly, the reason Disney remastered it like this was to make the English dub more similar to the original Japanese version, and I probably wouldn't mind it (too much) if the cuts weren't so awkward and noticeable, but they are. While the visuals are as stunning as ever, especially in the Blu-Ray version, to me the movie feels silent in comparison to the 2003 English dub that I'm used to -- and there's no option to switch to the old audio track.
Long story short, if you were introduced to this film at a young age, like I was, and you're looking to relive the nostalgia of the audio as well as the visuals, go for the 2003 DVD with the original cover rather than the remastered Blu-Ray/DVD copy. Had I known, I would have bought the 2003 version.