As is often the case with Miyazaki movies, I had mixed feelings about Castle in the Sky. As always, the attention to detail in the animation was breathtaking, but some of the story elements seemed out of left field, like when the characters fell into an underground tunnel and ran into their wacky uncle who apparently lives below the ground and talks to rocks. (After he delivers some exposition he wanders away and is never mentioned again.) Some of the more whimsical choices – like the flaptor vehicles, which are tiny planes shaped like dragonflies – seem perfect for kids, but then there’s also a lot of stuff that’s inappropriate for kids, like a young girl who gets her braids shot off her head.
For me the ultimate contrast between this movie’s good taste and bad taste might be between the guardkeeper robots and the kitchen scene. The flying city they are trying to find is protected by winged robots with uneven eyes who seem like they would be too scary for kids; they shoot lasers out of their eyes and are bulky beasts with metal spikes coming out of their arms. These robots ultimately turn out to be noble creatures who tend to gardens and protect bird’s nests, however, so there’s something sweet about them.
On the other hand, there’s a scene where the eight year old princess who is the key to the floating city is forced to cook dinner for the pirates she has been semi-kidnapped by. Six or seven of the adult male pirates sneak into the kitchen while she’s cooking to “see if she needs help”, and it’s treated as if it’s a comic scene because these bumblers came to flirt but got stuck peeling potatoes! The reality is that the little girl is just too young and too unprotected for that to be funny. There’s something noxious about treating something that’s actually scary as if it was a gag in a movie aimed at children.
So which of those matters more to me, the scenes that impressed me or the scenes that repulsed me? It’s hard to say. Miyazaki is enough of a craftsman that it’s hard for me to write him off, but he’s also not really my cup of tea.