I am a huge fan of films that feature scenes depicting flight or flying. That’s probably another reason why I love Hayao Miyazaki’s films: with the exception of Princess Mononoke and Ponyo, many of his films feature a flying machine or a flying creature of some sort. It didn’t take long for me to find and watch Miyazaki’s 1986 film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Let’s just say that I quickly fell in love with this film.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky tells the story of a young girl named Sheeta who possesses a crystal necklace that’s a key to a mysterious island in the sky called Laputa. Colonel Muska, the film’s antagonist, kidnaps Sheeta so that he can find out about the whereabouts of the island. Another person on Sheeta’s tail is Dola, the captain and “mother” of a gang of sky pirates. They also have eyes on Sheeta’s necklace. After a harrowing experience in Muska’s airship and escaping from Dola’s crew, Sheeta literally lands in the arms of Pazu, a boy who works in the mines of a small town. Even though he met Sheeta briefly, Pazu tries to protect Sheeta from the sky pirates and Muska.
Any newcomer to the film might notice how the sky pirates stray away from the usual portrayal of pirates. The gang doesn’t really invoke the Pirates of the Caribbean. They’re goofy and aren’t very intimidating. They constantly disobey their captain when she tells them to stop calling her “mom.” While they’re airship is sturdy, it’s definitely not a new model. They’re in stark contrast to Muska. He runs an extremely tight ship and has the military to back him up.
Some of my favorite scenes in the film involve Pazu and Sheeta’s interactions with Dola’s crew. It’s during these moments the audience finds out that Dola and her boys aren’t completely bad. Despite their motivations to seize the crystal necklace, the sky pirates and Pazu team up to break Sheeta out of Muska’s headquarters. Even though Sheeta didn’t have the necklace by this point, the pirates still take the children in, albeit that the children help around the ship. At one point, Pazu discovers that Dola’s softer than what she pretends to be.
In the end, the sky pirates show that they care for the children as well. During her time helping in the ship’s kitchen, Sheeta was assisted by Dola’s sons. While setting Dola free when the gang was captured by Muska and the military at Laputa, Dola gives Pazu her gun so that he can go after Muska who’s chasing after Sheeta.
Starting out as antagonists in the beginning, the sky pirates prove that even a gang who disobey their maternal captain can step up and be the hero.
Janelle Smith is a TV & Film Writer at Girls in Capes. She is a rising senior at Ohio State University majoring in film studies and minoring in studio art.