Howl's Moving Castle (2004) Poster

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A wild and surreal trip into the mind of a master.
surenm20 March 2005
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.
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This is art
soanim8ed6 June 2005
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.
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Try to decode the story ...
kengoogloo5 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Probably many people find the story confusing. I felt the same way when I saw it in the theater for the first time! The story seemed arbitrary and I couldn't connect the pieces together (much like I saw "Ashes of Time" for the first time). But when I watch it again on the DVD, I realize the movie is probably about one thing: personal freedom.

Howl is a free person. He doesn't has a heart and even his home (which is usually characterized as a stable point in one's life) can move :-) He is disguised as different wizards in different counties, and when Sophie asks him how many identities he has, he said "Enough to guarantee my freedom". When Sophie confronts Suliman, she comments Howl as "selfish and cowardly and unpredictable, but he's straight as an arrow. He only wants to be free." But in Miyazaki's world, nothing is black and white. According to Suliman, Howl's power is too great for a person without heart, and he will eventually becomes a monster (some political figures come to my mind).

Sophie, on the other hand, is bounded by responsibilities. She is young, but her heart is old. She refuses the invitation from her friends and keep working at the hat shop. When her sister asks her "Are you going to spend your life in that shop?" She replies "It meant so much to papa. Besides, I'm the eldest.". Even her sister asks her to "look out for yourself". When Sophie is turned to an old lady, it actually set her free because the good thing of being old is that one has "so little to lose" She becomes more adventurous and takes control of her life. She is very assertive as being the cleaning lady in Howl's castle and even tames Calcifer to cook her food. For Howl, his turning point comes when he refuses to move his castle anymore (I'll leave it to the reader as why he does that) By the end of movie, he regains his heart. He feels terrible because it is like "trapped under a stone". And Sophie says, "Yes, a heart is a heavy burden".

There are other wonderful things in the movie. For example, this is probably one of the few movies that tell me what it is really like to be old. But I do want to highlight the thread about personal freedom as it will help you to tie up the pieces of the story.

Since there are 1000 words limit in the comment system, I'll write more in by blog:
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interesting world
SnoopyStyle31 October 2016
Sophie is a young shy hat maker working for her mother in an alternate-world turn-of-the-century European town. A wizard named Howl rescues her from a couple of lascivious soldiers only to be chased by a horde of waste demons. They escape to her sister Lettie's place. She is later visited by the Witch of the Waste and turned into an old woman. She runs away and encounters scarecrow Turnip-Head. After helping it, it leads her to Howl's Moving Castle. There she encounters the fire demon Calcifer who Howl uses to power the castle. Calcifer offers to break her curse if she could end his servitude. Sophie pretends to be new cleaning lady Grandma Sophie. The Mayor arrives at the Great Wizard Jenkins with a request from the King to fight in the war. Howl's apprentice Markl is able to switch between various exits and with various disguises. Then the other king invites Great Wizard Pendragon to join in the war. Howl is known as both wizards and unwilling to help either side. Madame Suliman threatens to take away his powers before he is lost after losing his heart.

This is an interesting world. The start sets up an easy fantasy with an evil witch and a haunted hero. The twist is the heroine gets turned into an old hag. About midway, the movie takes an odd turn that deviates from that easy formula. The evil witch becomes powerless. There is a new villain but she's not really a villain. This is an anti-war movie but it isn't so straight forward. Even the simple love story gets a last-minute true love detour. While the world is amazing, the story seems to delight in odd diversions from the formula.
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For those who love the book – or wondered about it
cornishogre-110 July 2005
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.)

And enjoy!
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Howl's Moving Castle is an imaginative and delightful Miyazaki film
TheLittleSongbird3 April 2010
I love anime, and when I noticed that Howl's Moving Castle was showing today, I knew I had to see it. And you know what, I wasn't disappointed. I admit I haven't read the book by Diana Wynne Jones, but this film is so imaginative and delightful I doubt I would have cared if it was unfaithful to the book or not. The animation here is amazing, the backgrounds are gorgeous and the colours so bright. Plus the castle itself was a wonder to behold. The visual style here also has a certain elegance about it, and the atmosphere the visuals create is somewhat meticulous. I also have to mention the score, it was absolutely stunning. Beautiful, magical and poignant themes that caressed my ears, like a Mozart opera would. The characters are engaging and are beautifully voiced by a terrific voice cast. Christian Bale's(not a stranger to voice work, he voiced Thomas in Disney's Pocahontas as well) seductive and silky voice brings vain wizard Howl to vivid life, and Sophie is a very lovable and beautiful character, whether in her younger form or her older form. Her younger form is sensitively voiced by Emily Mortimer and her older self is voiced by the late Jean Simmons with real sincerity. The Witch of the Waste is a character consumed by jealousy, so much so it results in Sophie's transformation from a young 18 year old girl to a pensioner. This character is perfectly voiced by screen legend Lauren Bacall. Billy Crystal is a joy to behold as Calcifer, one of my favourite characters in the film, and Turniphead was very intriguing as well. The story is a sweet, timeless imaginative one, not the best written one by all means, but it did touch me a lot. Did I notice anything wrong? Yes, but these flaws are minor compared to the overall beauty of the film. The final third is a little too rushed, and the ending is a little over-surreal. But overall, Howl's Moving Castle is an enchanting and delightful work from Miyazaki. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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My favourite Miyazaki!
WritelySo23 February 2005
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!
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Great provided you are not a huge Diana Wynne Jones fan or watch the film with one!
planktonrules11 June 2007
I went to see this film with my anime and Diana Wynne Jones-loving teenage daughter. And while I enjoyed the film immensely due to its excellent animation, story and overall sense of fun, it was also interesting to see how much my daughter hated it! It was as if we saw two entirely different films. Why? Well, she is a huge Diana Wynne Jones fan and has read and re-read just about everything she ever wrote. And, according to her, the story was so different and so inferior to the book that she disliked the film and said some very nasty things about director Miyazaki. However, my advice is DON'T read the book and just go and see the movie. Then, after enjoying it, read the book ONLY if you are 100% sure you can do this without freaking out because they are so different!! I didn't know the difference and had a great time seeing the film!
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Hayao Miyazaki casts his spell on us
jotix1002 July 2005
The genius of Anime films, Hayao Miyazaki, shows why he is one of an absolute masters of the genre. Taking Diana Wynne Jones' story "Howl's Moving Castle" and creating the magnificent film for our delight, is something that no other man could have accomplished with as much flair and panache as Mr. Miyazaki has done.

The film has such a great look that at times we wonder if one is really seeing an animated film, or not. The images we watch on the screen have such detailed and rich look that we wonder how did Mr. Miyasaki could have accomplished it.

Not having seen the Japanese version, the English one that was released here offers great voices to go along with the many characters in the film. The big surprise was Jean Simmons, an actress we haven't see much lately who does a great job with the older Sophie. As the young Sophie, Emily Mortimes is wonderful and her voice suits the character so well. It was also a stroke of genius to have cast Lauren Bacall as the Witch of the Waste, as she seems to be having a great time acting her. Billy Crystal was delightful as Calcifer and Josh Hutcherson is perfect as Markl. Christian Bale is an amazing Howl. In minor roles we hear the voices of Blythe Danner, Crisping Freeman and Jena Malone, among others.

This Anime film will delight young and old fans of Hayao Miyazaki who can look forward to a great time at the movies with this film.
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Terrific Miyazaki, although not his best
life_on_screen12 January 2005
"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.
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Original and Thoughtful
jdesando17 June 2005
Now I know why everyone was excited about Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar winning animation, because his new Howl's Moving Castle, adapted from a British novel by Diana Wynne Jones, is more original and thoughtful than any American entry in that genre. The visuals of flat, classic animation with slow-moving characters and painterly backgrounds are alone worth the experience, the castle itself an imaginative hodgepodge of chicken-legged monsters from Russian folklore and cumbersome war machines from Star Wars. As the director has said, "I've told the people on my CGI staff not to be accurate, not to be true. We're making a mystery here, so make it mysterious."

The plot is almost inscrutable as it depicts a kind of late nineteenth-century European city in which hat shop girl Sophie alternately is wooed by a cute wizard, Howl, and cursed by a witch to be shifted into an old crone's body. Her Dorothy-like wandering with, among others, a pogo-sticked scarecrow, takes her to the titular castle of Howl, where she cleans, keeps order, and longs for Howl. Ultimately she confronts a sorceress, Madam Suliman. War ensues but can't defeat the power of love.

The real strength of Howl's Moving Castle is in character diversity and development with a vain, kind, and immature hero; villains morphing into lovable friends and a fire that talks like Billy Crystal and surpasses Eddie Murphy's wisecracking donkey. These are just some of the touches of this hip Asian anime that comments on the folly of war promoted by very neocon-like leaders and the endlessly interesting conflicts between the good and bad angels of each character. Shape-shifting heroine Sophie says, "I don't want to live if I can't be beautiful!" Now there's my kind of self-centered lady, heroic and callow in the same film.

No one-dimensional characters for this director, perhaps the most gifted animator in the world.
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kbowes-2339923 September 2018
A very cinematically beautiful film with characters you just fall in love with. I won't lie, the plot is very hard to follow. If you've read the book, you can tell that miyazaki focused less on following the plot, more on making the film beautiful to watch, and as a result we are left with a story that has huge chunks missing and frankly doesn't make a lot of sense in places. But I'm not mad, because it is very, very beautiful to watch.
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Loose Ends Ruined It For Me
fwomp5 June 2006
Having little experience in the Anime realm, I have to admit I'm probably not the most knowledgeable reviewer to examine a film such as this. But what I DO feel I'm fairly qualified to do is to evaluate stories. Animated or not, films are a valued method of reaching out to viewers and creating entertainment.

Although HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE had some great animation and interesting concepts, the story was so nonsensical in so many places that I found myself shaking my head wondering why I was watching it.

The story (if I'm not mistaken) is about Sophie, a young milliner (hatmaker) who lives a mundane life until she's afflicted by a curse put upon her by the (initially) evil Witch of the Waste. The curse comes in the form of age, turning Sophie instantly from a vibrant young girl into a ancient old hag. In order to break the spell, she must find Howl and his moving castle. But with the curse comes the added insult that she cannot tell anyone about it. So once our heroine meets up with Howl, she's unable to tell him what she needs and instead becomes the moving castle's housekeeper.

Within the house she finds a young boy who wants to be just like Howl. She also meets and befriends the power that helps keep Howl's castle constantly on the go: a type of fire called Calcifer. And with the castle comes a multitude of problems: Howl's carelessness and difficulties of "the heart", a war against outside forces, and the threat of the Witch of the Waste.

Again, the animation in the film was great. It was excellently colored and moved in an almost Van Goghish fashion across the screen. But oh the story! There's never an explanation given as to the war that is constantly circling this strange land. Why and how it got started are never fully explained, even though much screen time is given to the machines of war. Why and how the young boy who lives in Howl's castle came to be there are never explained either. Nor is any explanation given to the powers of Calcifer, the fire that drives the castle (the ending touches on it slightly but very ineffectually.) There are plenty of other non-sequiturs but those are the biggest. Too bad, really, as there were some great voices amongst the cast ...from Christian Bale, Billy Crystal and Lauren Bacall just to name a few.

I don't mind films that leave a certain amount of exposition up to the viewers interpretation, but there needs to be some rhyme and/or reason for the basic constructs of a movie. HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE left me howling for too many explanations.
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hauru no ugoku shiro
auuwws25 February 2021
The most beautiful anime film I have ever seen, Studio Ghibli proved to me that it is the undisputed best anime studio, the story of the film was very beautiful and the projections of the film were excellent, the characters of the film were beautifully written, especially the character of Hauru, it started narcissistic and ended completely differently, I liked the romantic relationship between Sophie and Hauru were awesome, and the film ending was so beautiful, I highly recommend watching it
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loaded with enough imagination and sweet vibes for three movies!
Quinoa198430 December 2006
I can't say for certain, especially after only seeing the English-language dub of the film in the theater (and seeing bits of it again on TV)- that Howl's Moving Castle is one of the very best of the great Hayao Miyazaki's feature films. But I didn't leave it feeling un-happy in the slightest, and if anything I remember most the feeling of uplift, which is what the best fairy tales try to accomplish. It follows the strand left by Spirited Away (though also trailing off from other Miyazaki films to be sure) where a female character is the protagonist thrust into strange circumstances, really around a curse.

Sophie (voiced by Emily Mortimer and the great Jean Simmons in the English dub) gets cursed by an evil witch, and then meets up at Howl's castle (Howl, by the way, is a slightly melancholy and quirky wizard, voiced in a fun way by Christian Bale), and sets about to make herself useful, however to also keep order in the guide of her now old-lady persona (and, more importantly, to free herself from the curse). She also has to contend with an overly cautious flame (Billy Crystal, odd choice for a talking fire, but it works better than I expected), and a scarecrow who sometimes just can't sit still.

Soon Sophie becomes the unwitting assistant to Howl, as she goes in partial disguise to help him be present instead of him before his former tutor, Madame Suliman. And, of course, in the meantime, a love story unfolds. Although I could argue that Howl's Moving Castle begins to stray a little from the completely satisfying world portrayed in Spirited Away or particularly in Princess Mononoke- and that the story is given way, frustrations and all, for the visual wonderment- it's still a delight from start to finish. While I wondered when I first saw it if the Japanese dialog would make a difference by much, seeing the American voices didn't detract much at all, and if anything the cast fulfills the story more than one could hope for.

And, of course, those visual inventions are never to be taken for granted in Miyazaki's world (more than likely attributable to the source from Diana Wynne Jones and leaning more to Western influence then the decidedly awesomely Eastern Mononoke). If anything individual moments, like when Howl almost melts away from not having certain powers, is really intriguing, or in just seeing the castle itself, with all of the little parts and spindles a marvel in and of itself (Ebert's not far off from saying that it's one of the great unique places of the movies, and for me almost resides on the other industrial side of the cutesy wonderment of Totoro).

I definitely need to watch it again, as Miyazaki's worlds usually do, but for now I do recommend it, even if you've never seen one of his films. Little girls too, I'd imagine, might get an extra kick out of the strong-willed female lead and the strong romantic interests in the storyline (and having a handsome leading man voiced by Bale doesn't hurt either).
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jessup-8644625 June 2020
Maybe the only way to enjoy this movie is to think of it more as a visual symphony than a cohesive narrative? Like fantasia or something? I had soooo many questions I needed answers for, and while I got some of them from the ending, for the most part I'm just left scratching my head and wondering what the heck I just watched. Seriously, not even plot holes, just missing pieces of plot; so much information is never given and its absence is felt. Is the war somehow Howl's fault? Where the heck did Sophie's mom come from? Who was the witch? Who was the other witch? Is Sophie a witch? Why did the first witch curse Sophie? Why was the second witch so mad? Was she mad or am I projecting? On and on it goes. Sigh. 6/10 Stars. All in all I think that it's a very pretty movie, with decent animation, but there are better Ghibli films for both animation and story.
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Fire, Magic and a boy's heart
thinker16913 May 2007
From the Island of Japan comes this incredible story of an enchanted and magical castle. A young girl, named Sophi is bewitched and accidentally encapsulated into a traveling fortress. Unaware her brief meeting with a handsome and powerful wizard prince, will enrage the Witch of the Waste, Sophie is thus drawn into the struggle to find a lasting peace to a ongoing war. The story is interesting to be sure, but the animation and picturesque scenery add more than enough action and drama to offset traditional venues. Within the film are the talented voices of Jean Simmons and Emily Mortimer as the voice of Sophie, Christian Bale as Howl, the Bird Prince, Lauren Bacall as the Witch of the Waste, Blythe Danner as Madame Suliman, the Sourceress. Josh Hutcherson as Markl and of course Billy Crystal is terrific as Calcifer, the Fire Demon. This fine cast adds resilience to the inspirational tale as does the colorful and touching film. To anyone who enjoys children's stories which endure the test of time and mesmerize modern audiences, this is one for the complete library. A classic in the making. ****
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Another wonderful movie from Miyazaki
whitetigah6 September 2004
(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.
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Visually Stunning with Complex Themes
Movi3DO8 March 2021
Moving castles and witches. A young but shy girl got cursed into an old woman. Now she accompanied Howl and his moving castle and they went through a journey to help each other during the midst of a war.

What I liked about the movie was the stunning visuals. The color and dynamic objects burst life into the movie. However, among the spectacle lied the changes in the two main characters who matured and changed their outlooks on life.

The main female character, Sophie, got turned into an old woman, and this sudden leap transformed her character to becoming more confident. This reflects the theme of old age. Miyazaki showed that being old is not bad. Instead, it makes a person more mature, confident, and compassionate.

The main male character, Howl, also matured as he remembered his identity and understood responsibility.

An obvious theme is the anti-war sentiment. The visual, with its glorious spectacle, also showed the ugly side of war where bombs destroyed houses and people. This is a strong over-arching theme.

My main problem with the movie was its fairly fast pace. As the beautiful visuals assaulted my eyes, there were a lot of things going on, and I got a bit confused on couple of scenes.

Overall, a beautiful fantasy with complex characters. 8/10
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Ghibli's messiest, most nonsensical movie is pretty good
mahmus27 July 2020
This is a very good movie, but I have a lot of issues with it.

This movie, espcially its messy third act, feels like sensory overload. Everything is happening so fast and so loud and the quiet moments of rest (which are always the best parts of every Ghibli film) are very few and far between compared to other Ghibli films. It feels very rushed and overwhelming and it gives me a headache.

Also, the exact nature of Sophie's curse (and the movie's world in general) is never really explained. I like how her age changes, but it would be good to know what exactly triggers those changes. A lot in this film is unexplained and it's very frustrating. This is probably Ghibli's most nonsensical movie.

With that said, I do like it. While I think that the second half is kind of a mess, the first half is really good. It's a lot slower and more focused. There are less characters and there's actual moments to rest and contemplate the beautiful scenery. The ending is also really nice.

The best things about this movie are the visuals (obviously) and Howl, especially when he's being a total drama queen. I want more dramatic Howl please.

Overall, this is far from being one of my favorite Ghibli movies, but I think the good outweighs the bad just enough. I know it's really beloved, but I will still take Spirited Away or Whisper of the Heart over this anytime.
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Another classic from Studio Ghibli
Tweekums9 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Once again Hayao Miyazaki has provided us with a beautifully animated film which can be enjoyed by people of most ages; very young children might find one or two scenes a little scary though.

As with all of his films the animation is stunning and the characters are interesting. Once again the main character is a girl, in this case Sophie a young hat maker. One day when she is out she gets slightly harassed by two soldiers but is rescued from this predicament by the wizard Howl who it turns out is fleeing from strange blob-like creatures sent after him by the Witch of the Waste. They escape by flying away from them but soon after the witch visits Sophie in her shop and turns her into an old woman.

After being cursed she heads out in to the wastes where she finds a scarecrow who brings the moving castle of the title to her. The castle is a wonderful creation that is hard to describe, it is a bit like a building that has been constructed by lumping several other buildings together and putting them on legs so it can walk about.

Once inside sits by the fire to get warm and discovers it is no ordinary fire but a fire demon called Calcifer and that it is he who powers the castle after being trapped by Howl in exchange for his heart. Calcifer recognises that Sophie is cursed and offers to beak her spell if she can break his and thus free him.

The castle has a strange door that opens into a variety of places including two cities that are in countries that are at war. In one city they think the wizard Jenkins lives behind the door and in the other they think it is the wizard Pendragon, of course both these are in fact aliases of Howl. Rather awkwardly for Howl both "Jenkins" and "Pendragon" are summoned by the kings of the respective countries to help with the war effort. Obviously there are plenty more things that happen but I don't want to spoiler the whole film.

Howl isn't the standard cartoon hero, in fact he isn't that heroic at all, he is incredibly vain and he wants nothing to do with the war apart from to end it although he does fight against attacking planes.

As one would expect from Hayao Miyazaki there are plenty of exciting flying scenes involving aircraft that could only work in an animated film. I can't really comment on the English voices as I haven't seen the whole film in English, I did however watch a few scenes out of curiosity and they sounded pretty good.
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glorious visuals
Buddy-5127 August 2006
What do you get when you combine the master Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki ("My Neighbor Totoro," "Spirited Away") with the British sci-fi novelist Diana Wynne Jones? The answer is "Howl's Moving Castle," an enchanting (if not altogether understandable) animated feature, filled with beauty, imagination and magic.

Sophie is a shy young girl, working in her family's hat shop, who falls under the spell of a witch who turns her into a decrepit old woman. At a loss as to what to do, Sophie decides to leave home and try to find a cure for her condition in the mysterious land of wizards and witches that lies just outside her city. Not long after she arrives, she encounters the mysterious "moving castle," owned by the enigmatic wizard known as Howl, that not only roams freely around the countryside but seems to exist in any number of different dimensions at the same time. It's when she passes through the castle door and discovers what awaits her inside that the really surreal adventure begins.

There's little point in trying to figure out all the fine details of the story, which often feels as if it is being made up as it goes along - and not always in a way that is completely satisfying to those of us who are trying desperately to understand it. Yet, there is a certain fascination in the way the film chooses to defy all the rules of time and space and feels no real compunction to explain how all of it is supposed to work. The movie asks us to merely accept what we are seeing at face value and to go along wherever it is it wants to take us. This is an easy thing to do, primarily because the film's incredible beauty seduces us into accepting the slightly weird alternate reality the movie has set up for us. Although the animators are all Japanese, the characters themselves are Occidental and the film appears to be set sometime in the late Victorian or early Edwardian era of a century ago. The visuals are so exquisite in every detail that it is virtually impossible for us to turn our eyes from the screen even for a split second. Like the best animated films, it transports us to a world that is both utterly fantastic and strangely familiar at the same time.

In bringing the characters to life, the English-language version employs an impressive cast of voices, including veterans Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall and Blythe Danner, along with Billy Crystal, Emily Mortimer and Christian Bale.

With its occasionally incoherent storyline and deliberate pacing, "Howl's Moving Castle" may disappoint and frustrate those accustomed to the more simple, hectic and frenetic animated films churned out regularly by Hollywood. But if you're in the mood for a calmer, more relaxing trip to a world not your own, "Howl's Moving Castle" provides just the right vehicle to take you there.
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They tried to save each other ...
chsorley27 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this twice, because there was no way I could understand the plot (especially in the second half) after only seeing it once. The first time around I got too carried away watching the animation, but the second viewing helped me understand the story a lot better, as I managed to pay more attention to all the dialogues.

Honestly though I still don't know exactly what happened in the last half an hour or so. I'm going to read the book, and I'm sure I will enjoy it but don't know how useful it's going to be. The film's said to be wildly different from the original setting.

It really doesn't matter, because I don't seem to mind seeing the film once again (& again). The animation is so beautiful & I find the characters cute gorgeous, funny & very heart-warming.


I figure that the face of the old Sophie changes & she instantly looks younger when she feels excited / happy / alive, even as a very old woman (she looks young when asleep, but I wonder if it's only in Howl's vision).

It breaks my heart that she looks sad & immediately turns back into the old Sophie when Howl tries to tell her sincerely "you are beautiful". But then both Howl & Sophie must fight the war to save each other & the rest of their newly-formed family incl. their old enemy & the dog. The curse is already gone by the time Sophie comes back to present from the past through the door, finds the wounded Bird Howl & kisses him. She won't look old any more.

Still, I also like the fact that earlier in the film, after the initial shock, Sophie was clearly able to enjoy herself being old. Think she was already in love with Howl when he came back to the Castle & found her, but she didn't have to be nervous or anything because she knew she was no longer a shy 18-year-old.

And Sophie's first encounter with Howl in the back street ... did he say "There you are, SWEETHEART"? Has he actually been looking for Sophie ever since he (as a still very young boy) saw her & heard her cry FIND ME IN THE FUTURE. That's clever, and most romantic.
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Howl if you like Howl's Moving Castle!! WOOOOO!!!
ironhorse_iv9 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I like the movie, but the film is way too different than the book to the point that it was a bit annoying. They change too many things. The story becomes something utterly unrecognizable from the original, several key characters are lumped together most confusingly, and others lose all their complex charm. It's like taking 1939's Wizard of Oz and turning it into turning it into Sci-Fi's Tin Man (2007). It's a re-imagining of Dianne Wynne Jones's classic novel. Don't get me wrong, I love Hayao Miyazaki's vision of the book, Howl's Moving castle; I just wish it would had stay more true to Diana Wynne Jones's novel. This movie marks the first time Miyazaki has adapted another writer's work since Kiki's Delivery Service (1989). It is a really fascinating work with lively characters and incredible imagination through out the film. Sophie (Emily Mortimer/Chieko Baisho), a 19-year-old hat maker who is taking away by the charm of a Wizard name Howl (Takuya Kimura/ Christian Bale) when she was rescue by him when she was trying to visit her sister. For punishment for trying to steal her favorite's wizard's heart, The Witch of the Waste (Akihiro Miwa/ Lauren Bacall) transforms her into a 90-year-old woman. In her old, Sophie (Jean Simmons) must searches for a way to break the Witch's spell. On the way, she makes some new friends: Markl (Ryunosuke Kamiki/Josh Hutcherson), Howl's young apprentice, a scarecrow nickname Turliphead, and last Calcifer (Tatsuya Gashun/ Billy Crystal). The visuals in the movie are amazing. It's a steam punk fan's favorite, the way, Miyazaki use CG to creates a ramshackle structure that looks like it might disintegrate at any moment, but held together by the burning heart of magic is interesting. The film is overflows with eclipsing visuals that range from frightening aerial battles to serene landscapes, and interesting details of everything around. There is also the major themes that Miyazaki's works been known for such as such as environmentalism, pacifism, feminism, and the absence of villains. Miyazaki's Howl has a very strong female protagonist that go against gender roles common in Japanese animation and fiction. Both old and young Sophie were very interesting. I love Jean Simmon's voice as old Sophie. She gives some charm and funny moments. I love the stairs scene. I was laughing my head off. The dubbing by English actors match pretty damn good. Good job, Pixar. I love the English dub more than the Japanese since it's based on a English novel. The Japanese just looks a bit odd with the European themes in this film. The plot in the film is secondary, as it's nearly makes no sense and full of plot-holes. Things are mention at the last moment or not fully disclosure toward the end. There is nothing about Wales, no reference, no mention, no allusion to the place where the novel came from. The fate of a lost prince sub-plot comes nowhere in left field toward the end. Miyazaki turned the the story into a protest against the war in Iraq. I have nothing against anti-war propaganda, believe me, but let's call it what it is, and not try to trick people into pulling out cash from their pockets for what they assume is a film version of one of their favorite books. The story is utterly unrecognizable from the original. Several key characters are lumped together most confusingly, and others lose all their complex charm. Sophie doesn't have her sorceress powers that allow her to turn things into living objects. While the Witch of the Waste is the villain in the book; the movie instead made her, into a weak, harmless woman. Then it made the male Suliman (Haruko Kato/ Blythe Danner) a alley in the novel into a female enemy in the film. Still, there are some changes I do like. I like Howl portrayed as a deep troubled hero rather than the arrogant self-centered wizard he is in the book. Still there is a bit of that self-centered narcissism attitude in him in the film. Reminds me a lot of the story Beauty and the Beast. I like how Calcifer is a cute cheeky little orange flame instead of an evil menacing fire demon. Overall: You have never read the book and are a fan of Miyazaki, by all means buy this. You're very likely to enjoy the excellent animation and yet another unusual story from him. If you are a fan of the book, steer well clear.
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Thank you so much for this movie Mr. Miyazaki
Andrea_R1 October 2004
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!

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