Possibly not Miyazaki's best, but it's still a great film (especially on Blu-ray). The opening credits set the scene beautifully with shots of strange steampunk type machines drawn in ye olde Victorian style. This is accompanied by some of the most gorgeous music to grace the beginning of a film (not quite as good as Bay of Blood though).
The story is fairly standard issue. A princess, Sheeta, needs to return to her kingdom to reclaim her throne. Other naughty people including pirates and the military try to stop her. To help her in her quest is Pazu, a little fella who normally works in a mine. Together they try to find Laputa, a city in the sky.
So, if the stories not up to much, why have I given it a good rating. It's all in the atmosphere and the world building. The details, normally accompanied by great sounding effects,in the film are stunning. Simple things like frying an egg or a bubbling pot of stew all ground the film in an anime reality. Yes, the sky is the usual anime blue, but who wouldn't want to walk into that world. When they finally reach Laputa - no spoilers there, really - you are greeted by an ancient crumbling city that reeks of history. Gorgeous.
There are some great action scenes: a train/car chase with pirates, Pazu flying over a landscape to rescue Sheeta from the top of a burning building and the final scenes in Laputa. Although these scenes inject pace, one problem with the film is a slow middle third. It is basically a build up for the big reveal of Laputa.
All in all then, not as good as Nausicaa, but then, what is? Look out for some nods to Nausicaa: the little evil Pikachu creatures that Nausicaa befriends make an appearance and the design of the robots looks suspiciously like the Giant Warriors. For some reason, if watched at Christmas with a cup of tea and a pack of biscuits you can add another point to the review score.
If you like this you could try:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, The Castle of Cagliostro, Howl's Moving Castle.