Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle is a movie filled with characters with deep feelings of love and loyalty who are thrust into a story about war and conflict. The main character, 18 year old Sophie Hatter, is seemingly destined to lead a boring and simply life making hats when she is rescued from over interested soldiers by Howl. Her saviour, Howl, is an extremely vain, self-confident and womanizing wizard who lives his moving castle powered by Calcifer.
Sophie ends up offending Howl's rival, the Witch of the Waste, and gets turned in a 90 year old women for her offence. Devastated, Sophie packs up her stuff and heads away from her home to seek a way to return to normal. And that's the end of the simple life for Sophie.
This is legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki's most adult centric film. It retains his flare for amusing and cute side characters but the story is quite dark at its heart. The movie earned $14.2 million (US) on it's first two days and broke the Japanese records for an opening held by his last feature film. 40 million tickets are expected to be sold in Japan.
Is this Mr. Miyazaki's last film? Who knows! He's come out of retirement before. This would however be an incredible way to end a remarkable career.
Initial Viewing - November 28, 2004
I have watched practically every Hayao Miyazaki's film and I'm a regular at the all the local Ghibili Donguri stores in Hiroshima-ken. I think I even read the book it is based on when I was a child. So, I was unbelievably giddy about getting to watch it 8 days after it's debut in Japan. I watched in Hiroshima at Diamond City Soleil's Wald Cinema (or in Japanese 'Vault 11' - Don't ask why). They sold out two theaters worth of tickets for a 3 o'clock afternoon showing.
What did I think? The movie has almost all the imaginative spirit of Spirited Away packaged in a much darker and complex plot. The movie's traditional animation and 3D effects are both well above average. From simple scenes and through to battles, the pen strokes of the animators' capture the emotional state of the characters and display it. I was actually disappointed when expressive old wrinkly face rejuvenated to it's former youthful beauty.
My Japanese may not be prefect, but, I enjoyed the much darker and complex plot. After all the conflict and strife, I was quite disappointed with the final scene of the movie. A war has happened and cities have been bombed and somehow a Cinderella-style happy and blue skies ending is inserted. It was a compromise, perhaps, to balance the film's darker moments.
I give it a very solid 4.5 out of 5. Many people may find they want to watch it twice to understand and see everything.
Second Viewing - January 4, 2005
I watched it for a second time out in Higashi Hiroshima at the Fuji Grand. Watching it again didn't really change my opinion of the movie or the ending in particular. The ending's sudden reverse in fortune for the better is, in my opinion, only partly justified by the rest of the movie. It is a shallow ending to an otherwise fantastic movie.
North American Distribution:
Check out Nausicaa.net for the latest information.
Back: Spirited Away / Next: Tales from Earthsea (2006)