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Review of Howl's Moving Castle

Published July 5, 2005 in Movie Reviews
By Vince Palomarez | Images property of Walt Disney Pictures
Howls Moving Castle Howl's Moving Castle
When it comes to animation films in America, few people have heard of Hayao Miyazaki. One of Japan's greatest animation directors, Miyazaki has been directing films for over 30 years. But due to American's unfamiliarity with Japanese animation it wasn't until last years Oscar win for Spirited Away that people began to take notice of his work. Miyazaki has been labeled the "Walt Disney of Japan" due to his knack for making films that are beyond most peoples imagination all the while giving his characters (no matter how outrageous they are) a human element that we can all identify with.

Howl's Moving Castle Review

Together with his animation studio, Studio Ghibli, they have created some of the greatest animation films of our generation. Films like the previously mentioned Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro and Castle in the Sky have the same type of attributes that made the early Disney films so attractive to both young and older audiences. While not as strong as his previous work, Miyazaki's latest film, Howl's Moving Castle, is still better than most animation films out today.

Howl's Moving Castle centers on the story of Sophie, an 18 year old hat maker whose insecurities about herself force her to live a lonely life in her father's shop. Sophie's life changes the moment she has a random encounter with Howl (voiced by Christian Bale), a powerful wizard who travels around in a moving castle powered by a fire demon (Billy Crystal). After her encounter with Howl, Sophie is cursed by a jealous witch (Lauren Becall) who turns Sophie into an 80 year old woman. Sophie decides to seek out Howl and to try and find the cure for curse as well as a cure for loneliness she has felt her whole life.

From the plotline alone you can tell this isn't your average cartoon. The thing about Miyazaki's movies is that he creates his own world of spirits, magic and mythology and places them as normal everyday events. While most of the characters in Howl's Moving Castle are magically powered beings they all retain flaws that every person deals with in order to make them more accessible. Howl may be a powerful wizard who is above everyone else, but deep down he is nothing more than a scared teen running away from all his problems with every chance he has. This is what makes Miyazaki's films so special. Every character goes through some type of spiritual journey that forces them to deal with their problems in the most imaginative and surreal way possible. Studio Ghibli deserves so much credit in creating a world of magic and technology that is so beautiful you can't look away fro the screen because you might miss something. All of the characters are so vivid and alive with personality you instantly find an attachment with at least one if not all of them.

Howls Moving Castle Howl's Moving Castle
While the imagery and animation are up to standards with Miyazaki's previous work the story does fall a little flat at times. Adapted from a novel by Diana Wynne Jones the film feels a little weak in the story department. Maybe it's because Miyazaki is adapting from someone else's material, but the story does drag during certain moments as well as some plot points that are never fully fleshed out. For instance, a war between two countries who have enlisted wizards and witches has some symbolism to what's going on in Iraq, but the lack of emphasis on it leaves that plotline as more of a confusing distraction than a key part to the story.

Howl's Moving Castle may not be Miyazki's best film, but it is a great starting point for people curious of his work and another pleasing effort for hardcore fans. People looking for a better introduction to Miyazaki's work should check out the more polished Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke, but any fan will not be disappointed at Miyazaki's latest look into his surreal imagination.


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Compiled By (Sources)
Vince Palomarez
Sources: Images property of Walt Disney Pictures

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