I happened to look at my corkboard this morning where I have a tiny list of things to review tacked up there. Suddenly I realized (*gasp!*) I hadnt ever done my review of Howls Moving Castle! What a tragedy! So I decided to plop down, get out the movie, and bring you my review.
Sophie is an average girl. She makes hats, she doesnt believe shes pretty, and in general, just doesnt lead the most exciting life. Even with a war going on, things are pretty normal around where she lives.
That is, until one day shes walking home and meets Howl. The stories say that Howl takes beautiful women and steals their hearts (and not in a good way). But Sophie decides Howl seems like any other guy, aside from the fact that hes a wizard and being chased by the Witch of the Waste. The problem is that the Witch knows Sophie has met Howl and puts a curse on her. Sophie is now an old woman and must break the spell herself. Knowing her family wouldnt be too excited with her new self, Sophie goes out to the Wastes and, after being assisted by a scarecrow with a turnip for a head, she climbs aboard Howls moving castle and meets Calcifer, a little fire demon, and Markl, a young boy. She hires herself as their cleaning lady and from there learns all about Howl and his doings including why dousing Calcifer with water could kill Howl too and just why Howl happens to be transforming into a feathered demon himself.
Suddenly Sophie finds herself in the middle of a conflict she never expected, and must find a way to break more curses than just her own.
I initially saw this movie in my foreign film class (and simply didnt review it because I hadnt heard it in English yet and always like to compare). I cant tell you how refreshed I was sitting amongst people who probably had never seen a flicker of anime before on the big screen, even if I knew beforehand that it was going to be a pretty odd movie with a lot of things no one ever sees or thinks of when it comes to an animated movie. After I read an article, there was and still is no doubt in my mind that Hayao Miyazaki loves children and revels in imagination and creativity. Miyazakis use of color and style are simply fantastic and I wonder now, with a smile on my face, how I would have reacted to this movie if I were younger. I always have had a colorful imagination
Warning! Contains Some Spoilers!
I guess things. That is probably my downfall. Im sure if I were younger I might not have as many questions I notice things today that I didnt notice years ago. I can sort of remember when I began putting movies together because I was older enough to understand them more completely. Here, as an adult, I was first left with questions I mildly wished I had the answers to: Why did Howl give his heart to Calcifer in the first place? Why did the Witch of the West want it so badly? Why did Sophie take Calicfer and let the castle collapse, only to go back in and start it up again? I can make guesses to some of these, but Ill never know for sure. I dont bother asking what the war was about because it isnt necessary. Do we always know fully why someone starts a war? Isnt it usually the same thing anyway? Who knows; the reason behind it isnt an integral part of the movie. But after seeing the movie again, it seemed to make more sense, so my suggestion to you if you miss a few things the first time around, just watch it again and youll be good as gold.
I recommend seeing this in Japanese. Though I liked the English version, theres one large reason why I prefer the Japanese instead.
Calcifer. Billy Crystal is the voice actor for the dubbed version, and though I have nothing against Billy Crystal at all (I absolutely loved him in Monsters Inc.), he just wasnt the right voice for Calcifer. It seems like the character doesnt allow for Crystal to show his true potential the way Mike did in Monsters Inc.. In the Japanese version, Calcifers voice is totally cute. It makes you want a little fire demon of your own. Crystal does a fair job, to be sure, but it just didnt quite seem to fit.
The rest of the voices work out very nicely. The difference between Howl in Japanese and English are large Japanese hes lighter whereas Christian Bale (of Batman Begins) is darker, deeper. Almost like hes got a little more sex appeal to him. I know, that sounds weird, but he does have that sort of voice. It was strange at first, but now either Howl works out well. Sophie in English is voiced by Emily Mortimer (young Sophie) and Jean Simmons (old Sophie) and both do the character justice in her respective states. Interesting to note is Chieko Baisho does the voice for Sophie both young and old. But she does it so well you dont notice unless youre paying close attention. Very nice. Others, such as Markl, the Witch, and Madam Suliman are all well done and I have no preference (well, maybe the Witch in Japanese). The casting get a cookie simply because they left Hin alone.
This is my favorite Miyazaki film out of the 4 total that Ive seen. I just absolutely love the color, the detail, and did I mention the color? Everything is so crisp and clear and vibrant. Howls room alone is utter eye candy with all those little trinkets and sparkly things hanging around. The music is wonderful and a few times Ive slipped on the movie simply to turn on the credits and listen to the tripping circus-like style (or maybe more like a bubbly waltz). Its enough to make me think seriously about looking into the soundtrack. And speaking of music, the end song is very sweet and goes so well with the movie, though I did have problems with the location of the subtitles of the lyrics sort of at the top but not quite. Annoying placement, but oh well.
I do highly recommend this movie. Its a lovely unique little fairy tale (based off the book by Diana Wynne Jones) and works for all ages. Enjoy!
Actual rating: 4.5 stars
Viewing Format: DVD
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