Howl's Moving Castle

When I first sat down with Émilie to talk about Japanese animated features last September, to my dismay I realized that I had seen one of Hayao Miyazaki's masterpieces. It was also Émilie's favorite Miyazaki film. Indeed, in the summer of 2005, my good friend Géraldine (who went to film school) took me and two other friends to see Howl's Moving Castle. Back then, the movie didn't make that much of an impression on me, and all I could remember was that the film was based on a book by Diana Wynne Jones.

Hence, I was keen to see it again, if only to put it in perspective with the other works by Hayao Miyazaki I've seen so far. And since the tale has been taken from a children's book, I wanted to watch it with my goddaughter. Which we did not too long ago.

Here's the blurb:

Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese animation director who wowed audiences worldwide with his award-winning film Spirited Away, brings another visually spectacular tale of imagination to the screen. Sophie is an 18-year-old girl who toils in the hat shop opened years ago by her late father. Often harassed by local boys, one day Sophie is unexpectedly befriended by Howl, a strange but flamboyant wizard whose large home can travel under its own power. However, the Witch of the Waste is displeased with Sophie and Howl's budding friendship, and turns the pretty young woman into an ugly and aged hag. Sophie takes shelter in Howl's castle, and attempts to find a way to reverse the witch's spell with the help of Calcifer, a subdued but powerful demon who exists in the form of fire, and Markl, who protects the four-way door which can instantly take visitors to other lands and dimensions.

Howl's Moving Castle generated more than 231 million dollars worldwide, and the film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005. But for some reason, this one wasn't enthralling the way Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away were. And though its story was aimed at a younger audience, it failed to capture the imagination the way My Neighbor Totoro did.

Visually, Howl's Moving Castle is grandiose. I thought that Spirited Away could not be beaten in that regard, but Miyazaki's adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones' novel takes the cake. It's a veritable feast for the eyes. And considering Miyazaki's body of work, that's really saying something! The soundtrack was again produced by Joe Hisaishi, and the music is perfect on every level.

Sophie, Calcifer, Howl, Markl, and Turnip Head are endearing characters. It's a pleasure to follow Sophie's attempts to regain her youthful appearance. Once more, Disney did a great job with the English dub.

The main problem with Howl's Moving Castle is that it's overlong. The pace become extremely sluggish in several portions of the movie, and the running time of 120 minutes is simply too much. It doesn't kill the film, mind you, but you are forced to go through a few boring parts along the way. Too bad, as adequate editing would have taken care of that problem and would likely have made Howl's Moving Castle Hayao Miyazaki's signature work.

The good thing is that you can basically find Howl's Moving Castle everywhere. Yet if you are new to Hayao Miyazaki's body of work, I would suggest watching Spirited Away first. . .

Here's the trailer:

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

4 commentaires:

Nick said...

That's an interesting perspective. I personally love the movie, but I can't really disagree with what you're saying. Maybe it's because I had read the book beforehand, though the movie is at best vaguely similar.

If people haven't read Diana Wynne Jones, I for sure recommend anything she has written, including this one.

obclhorn said...

Another strong suggestion to read the book! The movie is good; the book is great.

isis said...

I did not get on too well with the film because it's so different to the book. But I should really try watching it again one day - I've been sitting on my mum's copy of the DVD for years now. I'm sure it deserves another chance.

Ryan said...

I have to say that this movie is one of my favorites from him. I like it better than Princess Mononoke, but Spirited Away is my favorite. I think the imagery and fantastic is a big reason why I love his films, and it's hard to find another one of his which has more of the two.

BTW: I don't get how this film was geared anymore toward younger audiences than, say, Spirited Away. If I were a kid still, I'd have found Howl slightly terrifying.