I don't know if its an issue with the Disney dub, but parts of the film genuinely enchanted me, while other parts alienated and outright angered me with its insincerity.
The animation is gorgeous, the environment, the settings, from the Welsh valley-esque mining town to the natural and technological wonders of the city in the sky, serving as a surreal 'Tower of Babel' if you will is all very well done and very clever.
The musical score and composition is splendidly done. Its breath-taking in parts. I kid you not.
Then unfortunately, we have the plot, which seems to be the bane and Achilles' heel of most talented Japanese artists and directors.
Why do you do this to me Studio Ghibli? Why can't we have great art AND BOTH a great story? Why can't you get the balance right? To recap for those who don't already know: Before he matured into the animation GOD (the anime equivalent of Don Bluth, in the 80s) with works such as Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki's earlier works were...sigh... preachy. Very preachy. Environmentalist trash basically.
The story panders to "the message", which apparently in this film can be summarized as: Man is evil. Don't build anything that's a sin. Don't go into the sky, that's wrong. Consumerism is bad. Nature rules, even though technically man is part of nature, but shut up, environmentalists wanna have their cake and eat it. Trees are perfection. Trees are not bound by the laws of physics.
For another human to tell me I'm wrong for simply trying to survive and strive on this harsh planet, while he cuts down thousands of trees to make his lengthy feature presentation IS HYPOCRITICAL.
Sadly, I couldn't relate to the characters and their problems, and their attempts to weave story exposition into the narrative just confused me more than anything.
That the army knows there's a floating city when those who come close to finding it are ridiculed? That Muska suddenly knows how to control ancient technology without prior instruction? That Sheeta just KNOWS the spell of destruction that her ancestors never bothered to use, but should have to avoid the whole plot of corrupt people getting their hands on their dangerous technology? Everyone KNOWS except us, the audience. That's not good storytelling guys.
Enjoy it for the spectacle, not the message.