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I think this is possibly Miyazaki's most intriguing movie. All of his
other films are very linear and even though their highly varied worlds
may be visually stunning and highly creative, I feel the dreamy world
of Howls Moving Castle is by far the most captivating, bizarre, and
imaginative of all the worlds Miyazaki has ever envisioned.
What I love about this movie is that it's highly emotional without a great deal of logic or plot or story to get in the way. In this way the film is simple, pure, and extremely beautiful. It is as if the characters go from one emotion to the next, in a world that is as random as one's own dreams. Some people have complained about the lack of plot or story or serious character development, but even though the characters are fairly static, their emotions and the physical changes they undergo as they go through these emotions brings out a higher truth that is seldom given such artistic and natural freedom.
I think this is a very smart movie in many subtle ways and it's one that I look forward to watching again on the big screen and then on DVD. Although it flirts from theme to theme to theme with a kind of animated attention deficit disorder, the landscapes and utter unabated surrealism left me stunned and never bored.
Also, from a quizzical character design perspective, Howl is certainly one of if not the most beautiful characters that Miyazaki has ever created. Howl is an interesting departure from Miyazaki's more classical wabi-sabi anime style that most of his heroes and heroines are drawn in as Howl is definitely a very contemporary bishonen.
If you're looking for quaint settings, dynamic characters and a very involving character or plot driven story, you're not going to necessarily find them here, but you will find an equally stunning and pleasing movie if you let yourself go and enjoy this passionate, heartfelt and surreal Miyazaki dream.
Howl's Moving Castle is as marvelous and magical as Miyazaki's other
great work. Something in Disney's advertising or the description I read
gave the false impression that it was going to be sub-standard work
meaning it was still going to be better than anything DreamWorks
Animation was doing (Madagascar was sooo pedestrian).
While not as awe-inspiring as Spirited Away or action-packed as Mononoke, it does work on the level of Kiki's Delivery Service as a girl is forced to be better than she thinks she can be (well, that's not a big surprise, that's all his films). And as with all Miyazaki stories, the story teaches without being preachy. And the lessons learned are represented in character changes and in the character's physical appearance as well. It's that same attention to detail that has made Pixar so great.
The animation is wonderful. The castle is itself is a mesh-mash of so many haphazardly arranged pieces that an engineer would have an aneurysm just sorting them all out and yet it works. Through magic, of course. The magic being Howl's and the authoritative hand of Miyazaki's direction. The airships (wow, airships in a Miyazaki film? Who would have thunk?) are great variations of one's he's used before and there are some rather dark and beautiful scenes of a world at war.
Most of the voice work was very strong including Christian Bale (Howl) and Emily Mortimer (as the young version of the heroine, Sophie). The voice that surprised me was Billy Crystal as Calcifer, the little flame that could. He's the heart of the castle and only annoyed at his first few scenes then becomes a very likable character.
There a few clunky moments in the plot line where transitions between story points weren't very strong, but overall it's another outstanding film from Studio Ghibli. Even my 40 year old partner, who had spent the day mountain biking, was dead tired and had never seen a Miyazaki film stayed awake for the entire 2 hours. When we left at 3:30 in the morning still jabbering away about all the imagery and meaning, we realized we had seen true art.
"Howl's Moving Castle" opened here in France on Jan. 12th (as "Le
Château Ambulant," natch), and I saw it at an avant-première. As a
raving fan of Miyazaki and of Diana Wynne Jones, I feel lucky to be an
American living in France -- I see there's no release date announced
yet for the U.S. Sorry, folks, and blame Disney!
I understand the feelings of viewers who have criticized the movie as trite. I find it's less imaginative, in terms of character development and emotional profundity, than Miyazaki's best masterpieces. However, even a pedestrian Miyazaki movie is infinitely more rich, frightening, imaginative and humane than any six Disney films put together, and there's a lot to love in "Howl's Moving Castle."
I am glad I didn't reread Jones' book before seeing the film; even going on my six-year-old memory of the novel, I can see the movie's a very loose adaptation, and I think Jones fans would do best to try to take the movie on its own merits instead of looking for a faithful adaptation. That said, Miyazaki is surprisingly successful, at moments, in capturing the richness of the novel's characters: the peculiar co-habitation of charm and terror in Howl the sorcerer and his demon companion Calcifer, and the pragmatic strength of will that makes us love Sophie, the protagonist, who embodies both the fairy-tale archetypes of the young girl and the old woman at once.
Miyazaki's directorial trademarks are here in spades. Most of them lend strength and power to the film: his passion for open landscapes, his vision of the power and horror of war, the uncompromised way his movies work to empower children, and especially girls. A few of them are just Miyazaki quirks that fans will recognize with amusement (walrus mustaches, cobbled European squares, and flying machines for everyone!) Richer and stranger, though, are the very successful integration of two things that Disney animation never even approaches: the way even a children's story can blur lines between an enemy and a friend, and the cohabitation of the monstrous and the sublime. Enemy, ally, monster, beloved: Miyazaki gives both visual and moral weight to these disturbing contradictions, and certain scenes in "Howl's Moving Castle" evoke a frightening sublimity I have never seen elsewhere than in "Princess Mononoke."
I think the film suffers from a slightly hurried pace, especially with respect to the protagonists' character development, and the result is a loss of the subtlety that makes Jones' book such a gripping fairy tale. Her Howl is more ambivalent, and her story is a more complex investigation of adolescent heartlessness and the growth of the heart. The ending, which falls back too much on clichéd imagery and deus-ex-machina, also could have been better handled. All that said, "Howl's Moving Castle" contains lots of treasures and will, I think, stand up to repeated viewings. Miyazaki fans will be delighted, and kids around the world should be given the chance to taste this latest rich, respectful children's tale. (Be warned, though: there are moments as terrifying as those in "Princess Mononoke," and younger kids will need their parents with them.)
On a final note, as few hardcore fans of Japanese anime will need to be reminded, the movie is doubtless best seen in its original version with subtitles. The Japanese voice acting is terrific -- although the voice of "young Sophie" doesn't strike me as anything special, the actors playing the aged Sophie, Howl, and especially Calcifer are fantastic. Calcifer is a magnificent creation and should delight even the most conservative fan of the novel. I have serious doubts that the inevitable English-language dub will do the nuances justice.
About a decade and a half ago, Hayao Miyazaki, the mogul of Japanese
cinema, burst into the Hollywood scene with the delightful 'Castle in
the Sky.' Since then he has been recognized world wide as one of the
globes finest film makers with his most recent successes, 'Princess
Mononoke', and his Oscar winning masterpiece, 'Spirited Away.' I have
always loved Miyazaki, and have seen all of his films, but never one in
the theater. When news of a new Miyazaki film reached my ears I was
delighted to get the chance to see the master's work on the big screen.
Let's just say that 'Howl's Moving Castle' did not disappoint.
'Howl's Moving Castle' was greeted with not so enthusiastic reviews as that of 'Spirited Away,' which is understandable. Miyazaki tells his tale outside the parameters of common western storytelling. He takes liberties with everything, telling it how he wants it to be told, and at first it is a little strange because of the failure of recognition of classic plot points we are so used to seeing, and critics such as Roger Ebert have marked it as below par Miyazaki because of this. I find this ridiculous, and so does Miyazaki. In a recent interview Miyazaki said "The fact that you would expect a story to be told a certain way is ridiculous." I quite agree Mr. Miyazaki. The film is one of his best, abundant in rich imagination and delightful characters set in a world of fantastical sights and sounds, Where everyone has a fly-machine (Miyazaki is an aviation fanatic), and wizards walk among the common folk.
Young Sophie Hatter is cursed by the Witch of the Waste, and turns into an old hag. Ashamed of how she looks, she flees into the hills where a moving castle roams the hills. It is said to belong to the young and handsome wizard Howl, who has a bad reputation. Within the castle, Sophie befriends the fire demon Calcifer who promises to help her become young again. One catch, she must help Calcifer to be free of Howl, and Calcifer cannot tell her how. However, Sophie agrees to stay and try and find out about the contract threw other ways. Still, Howl can see that Sophie is under a spell (like Calcifer can) and falls in love with her for who she is and not what she looks like. Sophie manages to bring life to the moving castle, and help Howl to face his former tutor, Madam Sulimen.
'Howl's Moving Castle' is riddled with classic Miyazaki: strong women characters, open landscapes, flying machines that are so fantastical you don't care whether the make sense or not, and the horridness of war. These add strength to the love story of Howl and Sofi. Miyazaki uses his wonderful power to take classic, almost mythological and fairy tale stories we all know, and archetypal characters and make them his own, until we don't even recognize the stories we have hear a thousand times, and it feels as if we are seeing and hearing them for the first time. He does this with a host of wonderful characters. More strange creatures play prominent role here then any other Miyazaki film.
The film surpasses even 'Spirited Away' in sheer scope and majesty. There is Calcifer, the wonderfully comic fire demon, on Turniphead, the Scarecrow that leads Sofi to Howl's magical moving castle. The castle itself is one reason to see the film. Miyazaki succeeds in giving the castle personality. It lumbers along on its thin chicken-like legs, everything pushing, pulling, pumping and gyrating in perfect synchronization.
What is truly amazing about 'Howl's Moving Castle' is how it reaches the imagination and delightfulness of 'Spirited Away' with the sublimity of 'Princess Mononoke,' while standing on its own, perfectly unique. There have been complaints of lack of proper character development, but like the point before this is no ordinary story. The characters are thrust into a world they do not know, and there they must adapt, and live outside what they have known all their lives. It is not a story of who they were, but what they have become, or what they must become. It does not dwell on the past, and gets right into the story, not pausing for cheesy back stories we have come to get used to. It is like nothing I have ever seen before.
On a final note: the American voice casting is brilliant, possibly the best ever on a Miyazakie film, which is saying quite a lot. Billy Crystal, Christian Bale, and others provide perfect performances. Also I encourage you to see this film on the big screen before it leaves, this may be the master of animations last film, and seeing this film in the theater, or any Miyazaki film is a wonderful experience, and not to be missed. I hope it is not Miyazaki's last, for that would be a true lost to cinema, but even if he does leave, 'Howl's Moving Castle' is a wonderful parting film.
I Don't get words to express what I felt when coming out of the cinema,
Howl's Moving Castle is an absolutely fantastic film and has even out
Laputa and Totoro as my favourite Miyazaki film.
The story is amazing and the characters and creatures are as excellently crafted and fun to watch as ever. The voice actors and music are perfect Joe Hisaishi in my opinion is the best contemporary composer.
My only criticism (very little) is maybe the ending (last minutes) that rises suddenly, far from the habitual perfection of the catharsis final of the Miyazaki's films but nothing important
The movie has a really bad thing of the film: THE LONG WAITING TO SEE IT AGAIN!
What an amazing achievement! This is by far the best example I have
ever seen of animated characterization. The expressions and the nuances
and the emotion captured in this film are truly breathtaking. I love
all of Miyazaki's work, but in Howl's Moving Castle he has managed to
take it to a level that to me sets the standard.
It has all of the classic stunning Miyazaki panoramas, rich settings, exciting and unusual machinery, and brilliantly conceived creatures that are often humorous and fanciful. The characters are all very expertly crafted and developed, but what really enchanted me were their expressions and the subtle but powerful ways that he chose to elaborate on their connections and emotions. It is very difficult to describe, but they come to life in such a powerful way as to seem entirely real and unique.
He achieves this within the medium - not by really imitating or parroting film or live action, but by artfully exploiting the medium to enhance and capture the subtle interactions that make up relationships. He shows his audience what his characters are thinking and feeling by carefully chosen gestures and facial expressions, rather than relying always on dialog, etc. I was completely swept away by this skillful use of animation - I have never anywhere else seen anything that begins to come close to it.
The story is fantastic - I haven't read the novel, but it had all of the elements I have come to enjoy in Miyazaki's work - there is the humour, the lighthearted moments, the strong, insightful, loyal, and honourable characters, the lyrical drama and action sequences. The pace is perfect - it flows nicely and is always exciting, suspenseful - I got very caught up in the characters and their struggles and hopes. The themes were expertly handled with Miyazaki flair - and always richly meaningful and perceptive.
I can hardly wait to see what this brilliant artist creates next!
(first of all: sorry if my English is not the best out there, but it's
not my native language)
I was lucky enough to see the world premiere (at Venice Film Festival, September 5, 2004).
Not only the art and animation is breathtaking (with almost no CGI), but the story is also above Miyazaki standards.
The characters are wonderful, each one with his (or her) own personality. Among them the best is for sure Calcifer, the Fire Demon, who is actually an almost all-powerful being, but is often underestimated by the other characters ("If you don't obey, I'll pour water on you!").
The music is one of the best parts of the movie. Even if you don't notice it, it is always there, always conveying the right feeling.
Bottom line: this is an excellent movie. If you liked other movies by Miyazaki (such as Mononoke Hime, Spirited Away, Laputa Castle in the Sky...) you cannot miss it.
When I read some four years ago that Diana Wynne Jones had sold the
rights for Howl's Moving Castle to a Japanese animator, I wondered. The
book (one of my very favorites, which I re-read at least once a year)
takes several fairy-tale conventions and merrily turns them upside
down. Ms Jones refuses to allow her imagination be neatly pigeonholed
as hard sci-fi or straight fantasy, juvenile or adult. This story (as
all of her stories) revels in word play. I really wondered how it would
all come out translated into Japanese.
I'd never heard of Miyazaki. Then I saw Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, The Cat Returns, and Kiki's Delivery Service. Wow. I think Ms Jones and Mr. Miyazaki must be kindred souls. His movies share a lot with her novels a whimsical sense of humor, impossible to pigeonhole into a category, magic and mischief, and a firm respect for the audience's intelligence. I began to pace the floor in anticipation of the movie.
I saw the movie today. I was not disappointed. The soul of the story is intact, Sophie and Howl and Calcifer are nearly as I imagined them. Yes, there are some plot adjustments. Think of it as the Series 12C version (for those who have read Ms Jones' Chrestomanci books.) The main elements are there, some re-arranged, some changed, yet with a full understanding of the original. Much like the 2004 version of Peter Pan much was changed, but the soul is the same.
For those who wonder, here are the differences between the movie and the novel. I've tried to phrase them carefully to avoid spoilers for either fans of Ms Jones's work who have yet to see the movie, and those who have seen the movie and have yet to read the book:
Why the witch bespells Sophie
Where the door opens when the dial points to black
Sophie's sister Martha, and the plot line involving sister Lettie are not in the movie Mrs. Pentstemmon, Miss Angorian, Mrs. Fairfax are also missing, but elements of each are woven into other characters in the movie Michael (Markl) is a different age The battles magical and military are quite different (but equally spectacular) The dog appears at a different time, with a different, yet just as mysterious, agenda The scarecrow's relationship with Sophie is different Thelevel of technology is different. (I did miss the 7-league boots)
My advice: go see the movie. It's magical and beautiful and funny. Then, if you are a Diana Wynne Jones fan, check out the rest of Miyazaki's films. Now is a great time, as many of his films are available on home DVD. If you are a Miyazaki fan, hie thee to a library or bookstore try Ms Jones' books. (There is a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle Castle in the Air.)
In a time of war and falsity here it is a dancing poetry from Japan against all the cruelty and pain. The moving castle leads us to a magic place where life has a strong value and elderly people have an important role to play. Also in an apparent hostility or in a scarecrow, Hayao Miyazaki gives us the chance of finding a friend and not letting the dream go down. The perfect technique and the emotional stream are in complete harmony. If the jury of the Venice Film Festival had been more far-seeing, it would have given a more prestigious prize to this masterpiece.
It's hard to make any movie that follow after 'Spirited Away' So, when
you watch, you have to try and keep an open mind....which is hard to do
since the characters, and the whole feel of the film seems so much like
his previous works.
But what fun this film is! And interestingly beautiful. I could watch most any of his movies, just to look at the beautiful scenery. I love some of the incredible imagination that goes into his works.
I could easily recommend this film. No, it's not the better than the rest, but I feel it's definitely worth your time.
I look forward to seeing the film again, maybe I will understand some things a bit better.
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