At this point, we all know that Hayao Miyazaki is a genius. So I’ll begin harshly given his reputation. Howl’s Moving Castle comes close to being another masterpiece, but ultimately falls a little short of that distinction. The film’s story is told from the viewpoint of a 18-year-old girl Sophie, who is working at a milliner’s shop every day. But she can hear the sound of bloody battles from the distance, and it is clear that this beautiful country, where witches and wizards live among humans, is going to see another war sooner or later. The movie begins when the curse of an evil witch turns Sophie, a lonely hat shop girl, into a 90-year-old woman. Wandering the waste land, she encounters the title-giving, four-legged fortress and its inhabitants: Howl, a dashing wizard with rock-star good looks and a dark secret.
Set within an imaginary 19th century European setting where magic and science combine which reminded me a lot of the setting in Steamboy. Howl’s Moving Castle moves on a little too fast in places, but it’s still a breathtaking, romantic, colorful ride. However, the story seemed arbitrary and I couldn’t connect the pieces together. 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. He made a decision to break with his own storytelling tradition of using adolescent girls as protagonists.
The American voice actors did exceptional work. Especially Christian Bale who did a fine job with what he was given. Pixar’s Pete Docter and Rick Dempsey directed the English voice cast, and did a bang up job. This is really the only aspect of the film that I didn’t have a problem with, coincidentally. This all may generally sound pretty harsh, but Miyazaki’s creations have a way of speaking so strongly through their means that their actual content often is not necessary to capture the spiritual essence of the work. At times, it seems too rushed with little explanation to what had just happened, leaving an incredible amount up to your own imagination.
If nothing else, it proves to Hollywood that its recent failure in the animated realm comes not from old-fashioned hand-drawn animation but from its severe lack of imagination. At points it does show the film’s length, but overall this is a very good film. If you love animated movies, or looking for a good family film, then look no further, Howl’s does not disappoint in those categories. It’s a shame that real life can’t be as exciting as the world Miyazaki creates. But then again, that’s why we go to the movies.
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